You stride briskly into the waiting room, fifteen minutes late. This is intentional: you're trying to reduce those wasted waiting-room minutes. But a brief conversation with the receptionist reveals, to your dismay, that you have mistakenly arrived 35 minutes early...

You miss your connection, and the next available flight departs the following morning. As you check into the airport hotel, the thought crosses your mind that you've never been in this city before. What to do now? Do some shopping? Walk around downtown? Spend the evening in your room catching up on work?

You're stuck in a dead-end job. For some time now you've been aware that this is not what you want to do with your life, and it's inevitable that your boss will soon realize this too. You're exploring a number of possibilities, but it will take a while before any of those materialize. So you're looking at a good few months of treading water (and that's the best-case scenario....)

We inhabit two kinds of time: real time and in-between time. In real time we pursue our lives: our careers, our relationships, our family and social interactions. Then there's waiting-room time, airport time, between-jobs time. The trick is to maximize the real time and keep the in-between time to a minimum.

Not so, says the Rebbe. There's only one kind of time. There are long journeys and short journeys, there are large jobs and small jobs, there are obvious opportunities and situations in which we scratch our heads and wonder, "why are we here?" But all of time is real; every moment is crucial. Every segment of our lives, no matter how fleeting or temporary, has a center, a purpose, an objective.

In one of his letters, the Rebbe explains his basis for this view: the story of our ancestors' travels through the Sinai Desert.

The book of Numbers describes how the Children of Israel camped and journeyed in the desert. At the very center of the Israelite camp stood the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary that housed the Divine presence. Surrounding the Mishkan were the tents of the Kohanim and Levites who served in the Sanctuary. And beyond the Levite camp radiated, like the spokes of a wheel, the tent communities of the 12 tribes of Israel — three tribes to the east, three to the south, three to the west and three tribes to the north.

Above the Mishkan hovered a cloud signifying the Divine presence which dwelled within it; when the cloud lifted, that was the sign that it was time to move on. There was no pre-set period for each encampment. Sometimes the cloud—and the people—stayed put for a year, sometimes for but a single night. Whenever the cloud lifted, the people journeyed on.

We said that the Mishkan was portable. But this was no collapsible pup-tent. This fomidable edifice included forty-eight 17-foot-tall wall sections, a hundred 150-pound foundation sockets, more than two dozen huge tapestries, and numerous pillars, fasteners, furnishings and utensils. It required a crew of 8,580 Levites to dismantle, transport and reassemble the Mishkan each time the people moved.

And the Torah emphasizes that the entire process was repeated each time the people journeyed. Including those times that they camped for a single night. Each time, the Mishkan was erected and 600,000 households pitched their tents in the prescribed formation around it.

Thus the people know that they were never simply "passing through" or "biding time" at a particular juncture in their journey. Their every encampment, no matter how short or temporary, was to have its center, its focus, its objective: its own distinct way of making G‑d at home in their lives.