“Journeys,” the name of the last Torah reading in the Book of Numbers, could well be the title of our people’s history. Wandering through wilderness or civilizations, voluntarily or by expulsion, is part of the biography of virtually every Jew alive today, or of his parents or grandparents. From where do a people derive the stamina of spirit to survive these endless, often tragic, wanderings?

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,” the Torah tells us. Torah teaches the doctrine of individual providence, of G‑d’s interest and concern with every individual. Torah rejects the thought of G‑d’s abandoning anyone to the caprice of an indifferent fate or the hazards of “nature.”

We do not go; we are sent—and He who sends us accompanies usWhether 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 never felt alone, though he was surrounded by enemies. The Jew who kept his soul alive was never dependent on other people’s approval of his religious life, whether those others were coreligionists or non-Jews. His strength came not from men but from G‑d, and He was always there. Certainly, many succumbed, lacked the strength to live as individuals, independent and free. But they were lost to our people; their descendants are not numbered among Jews.

This was always and is today the beauty of Judaism—that life is purposeful, that it has meaning and coherence. It may not always meet with our immediate approval, the vicissitudes of life may be beyond our comprehension, but the assurance is given us that the tragedies are not in vain and the joys are not fortuitous. Israel may travel a long and sometimes difficult road, but always we go “by the word of G‑d” until the wanderings of Israel are ended eternally.