The journey of the Jewish people in the desert, the Torah relates in this week's reading, Behaalotecha, was guided by G‑d. A cloud hovered over the portable sanctuary built in the desert:

"Whenever the cloud lifted from the Tent, the Israelites would set out accordingly; and at the spot where the cloud settled, there the Israelites would encamp" (Num. 9:17).

The message is quite clear: The Jewish journey through the wilderness - their movement as well as their sojourn - was determined by G‑d.

But then, in the very next verse, the Torah repeats this idea: "They thus camped at G‑d's word and moved on at G‑d's word," [ibid. 18] and then a few verses later repeats the exact same phrase yet another time: "They thus camped at G‑d's word and moved on at G‑d's word" [ibid. 23] — a total of three times!

This is strange. Why say the same thing three times?

Three Attitudes

The thrice repeated declaration of the same fact --"They thus camped at G‑d's word and moved on at G‑d's word"--represents three states of consciousness relating to G‑d guiding the Israelite journey through the desert. The cloud may have determined their trek, but there were three ways to relate to this truth. was the GPS — G‑d's Positioning System — that guided them in the wilderness.

The first time the Torah makes the declaration it is merely stating the objective fact: The Jewish people moved at G‑d's word and camped at G‑d's word. Some of them may have not paid attention to the cloud or even thought its changing positions were random. Yet their lack of awareness did not alter the truth: it was the GPS — G‑d's Positioning System — that guided them in the wilderness.

The second declaration informs us of a deeper consciousness that pervaded the Jewish people at the time. In the words of medieval Spanish commentator Ramban1 "Even though they may have been exhausted (and wanted to stay longer) or even if they were displeased with the place and wanted to proceed further, they disregarded their own wishes and guided their movements by the cloud." In other words, they were fully cognizant of the fact that they ought to subordinate their preferences to the will of G‑d dictating their journey.

The third declaration takes it to a new level. The Jewish people, the Torah is telling us, did not have their own preferences. They did not care to camp out, nor were they compelled to move on. Their exclusive desire was to serve as conduits for the course G‑d charted out for them, to embrace the destinations the Almighty prepared for them. Their personal vision was seamlessly aligned with G‑d's vision for them [Ohr Hachaim commentary on the above verses2].

Bubble or Symphony?

This Israelite trek through the desert is a vivid metaphor for our own journeys today...

This Israelite trek through the desert is a vivid metaphor for our own journeys today, both as individuals and as part of a people.

A cloud hovers above each of us, guiding our individual and collective voyages in life. The Baal Shem Tov (1698-1740), founder of the Chassidic movement, taught that there is a "Divine GPS" instilled in the soul of every creature, guiding it through the winding pathways of life's wilderness.

Now, it is up to us to choose from among the three perspectives mentioned above.

In the first state of consciousness, you are detached from the "bigger picture" of your life. Your journey is still determined by G‑d, but that truth eludes you. In your imagination you are an isolated bubble in a vast and meaningless universe; reality at its core is indifferent to your struggles and triumphs. Your life lacks a narrative.

Yet unlike your earthly GPS which you have the choice to ignore, get angry at, or turn off, your heavenly GPS still guides you even if its voice remains inaudible.

In the second and higher state of consciousness, you become aware of an unavoidable truth-that life presents us each with a particular set of challenges and opportunities. Each of us has a mission for which our soul was sent down on earth, so that every encounter and experience is an indispensable component of a grand cosmic symphony that spans the entire universe. You are aware of it and you surrender to it, often begrudgingly, subduing your own dreams to G‑d's.

In the third and deepest state of consciousness, you align your ambitions, dreams and goals with those of G‑d. To use the lingo of yesteryear, you HotSync your personal Palm with the Cosmic Palm. You go beyond your narrow perception of where your life must take you, and you allow the core of reality — G‑d — to set the course.

Instead of resisting, escaping and ducking — you embrace life...

Instead of resisting, escaping and ducking — you embrace life, every moment of it, with a bear hug. Each morning you awake and say: G‑d! I'm ready to rock and roll! Wherever You wish to go today, I'm in. You do the steering and I will press the pedal for full speed. Bon voyage!

Sure, sometimes we'd prefer other routes and alternate destinations. G‑d's GPS leads us at times through strange and complex highways; it often prefers dirt roads over paved ones. But will you spend the rest of your life combating reality? Is there even an existence outside of reality? Or will you have the courage to hear the "small silent voice" guiding you through the wilderness to the Promised Land?

[From //]