One of the viral videos that people were sending me a few years ago was an Israeli advertisement for GPS. The ad was set in the Sinai Desert with thousands of ragtag Jews following Moses and whining about the time they'd spent wandering around in circles on their lonely, 40-year march from Egypt. Suddenly, a miracle! Moses stretches forth his staff, and a GPS device appears in the sky to lead them directly to Israel.

It was reasonably clever and mildly funny, but no more so than any of the hundreds of other must-see YouTube clips that clog my inbox. I definitely wouldn't bother googling it, if I were you, because, besides for being out-of-date, it was also counter-factual.

The truth is that the Jews did not spend all those years traipsing aimlessly around the desert. The Jews did not spend all those years traipsing aimlessly around the desert Throughout the whole 40 years they only made 42 journeys. Eleven of those were during the first year out of Egypt, with a further flurry of 11 journeys over the last year before entering Israel. That leaves a grand total of 19 trips over the intervening 38 years, hardly anyone's idea of a peripatetic existence. In fact, at one location they spent 19 years straight, enough time for an entire generation to be born, marry, and even have their own kids, all without ever needing to leave home.

If that's so, why have the "wandering Jews of the desert" become such an established figure in popular imagination? There are guys in my congregation who travel more often for business every week than the entire nation did on average per year. Footballers expect to play in a different State every week of the season. I've met diplomats and army officers who've been posted to dozens of countries over a three-year tour of duty, and rabbis who've been through more jobs and life upheavals in their careers than Moses had throughout his.

My guess is that stability depends less on how often one is forced to uproot oneself than on one's sense of self-determination – the feeling that one has personal control over one's future. The Jews of the desert may have remained relatively undisturbed for years at a stretch, but they had no way of knowing, from one day to the next, how long they could expect to stay where they were.

At any time, with almost no warning, the Clouds of Glory that accompanied them on their travels could rise into the sky, signifying that they were about to leave. Every single day of their sojourn they would have found themselves staring up into the heavens above, watching and wondering what the morrow would bring.

You can just imagine the sense of impermanence this would have caused. It was a wholly itinerant existence You'd never feel confident enough to set down roots, plant a vegetable patch, or start some home improvements. Here today, where to tomorrow? It was a wholly itinerant existence, one that could produce no guarantees.

And that's precisely the lesson that our time in the desert was meant to teach us: There are no guarantees in life, and nothing is forever. No one ever guaranteed you permanent residence, and past performance is no indication of future returns. The only one constant is that wherever we travel in life, we are led by G‑d. He is directing our footsteps.

Wherever I go, it's at G‑d's say so. How long I stay here depends entirely on Him. The choice left to me is how I utilize the time that I have been allotted, and what inspiration and memories I leave behind me when I'm gone. Life is truly a journey, and it is my responsibility to make sure that my efforts help others enjoy the trip.