If I were asked by a linguist to give a synonym for the term “marriage,” perhaps the most appropriate one would be the name of this week’s ParshahMassei—journeys. This, in my estimation, is what married life is all about.

We are living in a mobile society. Traveling has become the norm, and everyone is traveling. We travel to work, and we travel home from work. We travel to do our shopping, and we travel with our children to and from school. We travel for business, and we travel for leisure. However, many of our travels we do alone. In marriage, two people unite to travel the journey of life together.

Before one sets out on a trip, one listens to the radio to find out road conditions. Travelers also consult travel agents and travel guides.

The journey through life is a trip through the unknown. Traveling without consulting experts is unwise and risky.

Torah is etymologically related to the word hora’ah—teaching and guiding. It is our most detailed guide for a safe and successful journey through life.

Let us take a look into the biblical portion of Massei—“journeys”—and get some travel tips.

The Torah in this week’s portion summarizes the Jewish people’s entire route, starting with their departure from Egypt until their entry into the Promised Land. Their itinerary consisted of forty-two encampments. Some were very pleasant and comfortable, while others were very trying and difficult. At some rest stops they experienced deprivation, and at others there were ample comforts and amenities. In one they found sweet water and fruit, while at others they suffered from thirst. While the vast majority of the forty-two encampments were on the physical journey forward, strangely enough, some of them were in the opposite direction, back to Egypt.

All this leads us to the understanding of what the “journey of life” is all about. It isn’t all a bed of roses, nor is it always an upward leap. There are times when we may, G‑d forbid, experience unexpected hardships or trials and tribulations. While climbing the mountain of success, one should realistically anticipate the possibility of setbacks. But the bottom line is not to permit disappointments to interfere with our trip. At all times we must recall our goal to go forward.

We must remember that when Israel left Egypt, their forty years in the desert were not spent in aimless wanderings. Their every move was “by the word of G‑d,” as today’s sidra tells us. This brings to mind one of our basic doctrines, Hashgachah Peratit—“individual Divine providence.” We firmly believe that Hashem has concern for every individual, and that He is involved in everything that occurs to us.

Whether we are aware of it or not, we go not by our decision but by G‑d’s will. We do not go; we are sent—and He who sends us accompanies us. The Jew has never felt alone, though he was surrounded by enemies. The Jew who kept his soul alive has never been dependent on other people’s approval of his religious life, whether those others were Jews or non-Jews. His strength has come not from men, but from G‑d, and He has always been there.

This remains the beauty of Judaism—that life is purposeful, it has meaning and coherence. It may not always meet with our immediate approval, and the vicissitudes of life may be beyond our comprehension. The assurance is given us, however, that the tragedies are not in vain and the joys are not merely fortuitous. A couple may travel a long and sometimes difficult road, but also we go “by the word of G‑d.”

Permit me to conclude my charge to you, dear chatan and kallah, with the following story, which illustrates Hashem’s relationship with the Jewish people. A person who returned his soul to his Maker and came up to heaven was shown a replay of all the steps he took during his entire lifetime. In amazement, he asked the angel, “I have only two feet, so why am I seeing four footsteps?” The angel explained him that two were his and the other two were those of Hashem, who accompanied him through life. He then turned to the angel and asked, “If so, why do I only see two footsteps for the difficult times? Where was Hashem then?” With a kind smile, the angel told him, “You are mistaken. The two footsteps you see are actually Hashem’s, and to help you get through the challenging times, He took you on His shoulders.”

My dear chatan and kallah, hopefully throughout your entire journey in life you will conduct yourself al pi Hashem, in accordance with Hashem’s request of the Jewish people. For doing so, you will merit that throughout your journey in life He will take you on His shoulders and assure that at all times you will have a smooth and blissful journey.

"לזאת יקרא אשה כי מאיש לקחה זאת"
“This shall be called woman, for from man she was taken.” (Bereishit 2:23)

QUESTION: The word ish (איש)—“man”—has the numerical value of 311, while the word ishah (אשה)—“woman”—has the numerical value of 306. Why did Adam give her a title with a numerical value less by five than the numerical value of his title?

ANSWER: The Rambam (Hil. Ishut 21:7) says “There are five tasks a woman performs for a husband (as a gesture of affection so as to endear herself to him): 1) spinning (fiber); 2) washing his face, hands and feet; 3) mixing (diluting) a cup of wine for him; 4) making his bed; 5) standing to serve him.”

Alternatively, the Gemara (Kiddushin 29a) enumerates five obligations that are incumbent upon the father to perform for his son, while women are exempt: 1) to circumcise him; 2) to redeem him (if he is a firstborn); 3) to teach him Torah; 4) to help him find a wife and assist in marriage preparations; 5) to teach him a craft.

Perhaps the differentiation of five in the numerology of the titles is an allusion to the above.

(עי' אגרת הטיול לר' חיים אחי המהר"ל זצ"ל מפראג ובספר משוש דודים ח"ה)