These are the journeys of the children of Israel (33:1)

Our chapter opens, "These are the journeys of the children of Israel." However, it then proceeds to recount the 42 encampments at which they stopped during their wanderings in the Sinai Desert!

But these encampments were not ends unto themselves - only way-stations and stepping stones to advance the nation of Israel in their goal of attaining the Promised Land. So the stops themselves are referred to as "journeys".

- Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory

Once Rabbi Hillel of Paritch was struck with an immense longing to spend Shabbos with his Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch. But to realize this desire was quite another matter: it was already late in the week, and the distance from Babroisk (where Reb Hillel lived at the time) to Lubavitch formidable. There seemed no way to make it to the Rebbe in time for Shabbos.

But then a young chassid offered to make the trip. His sleek new coach and superb horses could do the job, he insisted. However, time was of supreme essence. So Reb Hillel must agree to two condition: they would take the highway (as a rule, Reb Hillel refused to make use of the paved roadway constructed by the wicked czar Nikolai) and Rabbi Hillel would not take too much time with his prayers. Under the circumstances, Reb Hillel agreed.

That night they slept at a wayside inn. In the morning, the young fellow prayed and breakfasted and then looked in on Reb Hillel. Still praying. After a while he checked again - same story. Hours went by, and still the elder chassid continued to pour out his heart before his Creator.

When Reb Hillel finally finished, his companion was quite upset: "I don't understand - you wanted to spend Shabbos with the Rebbe, and you promised to hurry with your prayers. Now you've ruined all our chances of reaching Lubavitch on time!"

Answered Reb Hillel: "Say you wished to journey to the Leipzig fair to purchase some rare merchandise, available nowhere else. But on the way you met another merchant, who is offering the very same wares at a good price. Only a fool would say: 'But I must go to Leipzig!' The purpose of the journey is not some town or another, but the sought-after merchandise.

"Why does one go to the Rebbe, if to not seek his counsel concerning the 'service of the heart', if not to learn how to arouse oneself to the love and awe of G‑d in prayer? So if on the way to Lubavitch my praying goes well, should I dump the merchandise and run to Leipzig?"