“Can’t we go?” he asks with exasperation as I wait for a light to turn or for the right of way. We have a destination. Why aren’t we getting there?
His frustration came to mind as I reviewed the rules of the Jewish people’s travel through the desert in this week’s portion. A divine cloud accompanied them throughout their journeys. The basic idea was: when the Divine cloud rested, they set up camp. When it moved, they moved. There was no indication of how long it would rest or how long it would move. Adding to the challenge was that they knew there was a destination (Israel), and that the desert wasn’t it.
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch describes this as spiritual grooming. The people were being introduced to something called trust. They could think and evaluate, but they could also set that aside and acknowledge the possibility of an understanding beyond their own. The journey wouldn’t be on their terms. They might need to interrupt a great journey; they might need to interrupt a great encampment. And it would be fine. It would be better – whether they would merit to see it or not.
As I was writing these words late Thursday night, my wife called my cell to ask me to prepare a bottle for the baby.
“She should have it when she wakes up.”
“Right now?” I asked, a trace of annoyance in my voice as I labored to finish my essay.
“Yes,” she said, aware that I’ve forgotten deferred favors in the past.
Then it dawned on me. It was time to interrupt my encampment.