The Journey

Life is a journey with stations along the way, some more comfortable than others. But when we settle in to those more comfortable stations, we may forget that we haven’t yet reached our destination.

G‑d placed us on earth for a purpose. He brought our souls down from on high, and when our journey is complete He will return our souls to that celestial place. During this journey our souls are meant to accomplish something – something they can bring back to their heavenly home.

This accomplishment cannot possibly be measurable in temporal terms because temporal achievements don’t make the return trip with us.

Three Friends

An old parable teaches that the human has three friends, and it is only at our funeral that we can truly appreciate which among them is most important.

This first friend doesn’t bother attending at our funeral. The second attends the funeral, but stops at the grave and goes no further. The third friend accompanies us on the last leg of our journey and is at our side when we return to heaven.

The only friends that truly stay with us are our good deeds.

By now I am sure you imagine that the first of these friends are our material accomplishments, our homes, cars, bank accounts, wardrobes and estates. These things serve us in this life, but don’t come with us when we depart. They don’t come to the cemetery to bid us farewell. Instead they stay behind and serve their new masters.

The second of these friends are our family and close friends. These are the people we have touched and who have touched us during the course of our lives. These people love us and accompany us to the grave, but they cannot go beyond. This is where we part company. We go to heaven and our loved ones remain behind.

The only friends that truly stay with us are our good deeds. The charity we gave, the honor and respect we showed our parents and the Torah we learned all stand us in good stead when we return to heaven.


Yet in life we spend far more time and expend much more energy amassing the first category of friend and far less time and effort on the second and third. This is because we forget we are on a journey. We become so comfortable with our particular station in life that we grow myopic and see only the needs and interests of the current station.

Suppose you are traveling to visit your mother and stop overnight at a beautiful hotel overlooking a picturesque lake with a perfect view of the sunset. You are so enchanted by the location that you decide to stay another day. A day becomes a week and before long you rent an apartment, get a job, build a home and settle in this roadside location by the lake.

One day your mother calls and asks why you never arrived for your visit. At that point you finally realize that you got carried away.

Stations In Life

Life has many stations. Childhood, adulthood, parenthood and grandparenthood, each with its own set of joys, challenges and responsibilities. But the common thread is that they are mere stations on the journey from birth to death and beyond. The wise remember the journey and refuse to get carried away by the stations’ allure.

The wise remember the journey and refuse to get carried away by the stations’ allure.

The wise remember that the reason we stop at any particular station is to collect a mitzvah, not available at any of life’s other stations. We can serve G‑d as adults in ways that are impossible for children and vice versa. We don’t arrive to parenthood because we crave the joys of raising children; we become parents to serve G‑d in new ways. These forms of service accumulate through the course of life and ultimately coalesce to become the sum total of our achievement. This total is brought along on our final journey when we present our offering to G‑d.

A Name

This kind of forgetfulness never occurred to our ancestors as they journeyed from Egypt to Israel. Though they spent forty years traveling across the desert and though they made camp at certain stations for extended periods of time, they never took their eyes off the goal; they always remembered that their travels were a means to an end. Even when stationed in one place for twenty-one years, they continued to view themselves as en-route. In their minds they were constantly and always on the road.

This is why the name of the Torah portion that describes the forty-two places in which our ancestors made camp in the desert, is Masai, “journeys.”1 It is not called “stations,” “settlements” or “camps” because in their minds, they were never settled, not until they arrived at their destination— the land of Israel. It was a constant journey, and they were constantly en-route.

We too are en-route. The luxuries, pleasures and joys of the journey are not important. That we arrive at our destination, enriched by our journey, is.

A Story

The story is told of a wealthy merchant traveling through the town of Mezritch. Not having arranged lodgings for the evening, the man accepted an invitation from the famed Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch. Appalled at the terrible poverty he saw in the Maggid’s home, he asked how the Maggid could live this way. The Maggid exclaimed, why I have more than you do, if I hadn’t invited you in tonight, you wouldn’t even have a roof over your head. The traveler replied that at home he had a beautiful and well-appointed residence, but here he was merely en-route, where he could make do with less.

The Maggid’s reply: I too am en-route - for life is a journey from earth to heaven.

This reply echoes across the generations and reaches directly into our hearts.2