The Journey or the Destination?
Life’s like a road that you travel on
When there’s one day here and the next day gone . . .
Life is a highway
I want to ride it all night long
If you’re going my way
I want to drive it all night long
Through all the cities and all these towns
It’s in my blood and it’s all around . . .
I love you now like I loved you then
This is the road and these are the hands
From Mozambique to those Memphis nights
The Khyber Pass to Vancouver’s lights
—Tom Cochrane, “Life Is a Highway” (1991)
Is life about the journey, as suggested by the title of Tom Cochrane’s song, or the destination? Because of the Torah’s promise of a “land flowing with milk and honey,” one might think that, for the Torah, it is all about the destination, as the Israelites flee Egypt, a place of slavery, for Canaan, the Promised Land.
However, in this week’s parashah, every single stop on the journey between Egypt and Canaan is listed. All 42 encampments are named, and some are even described, a remarkable reminder that the journey itself is essential. Just as the Israelites prepare to enter the Land, they take a moment to recount each step of their journey. With that recollection, they can enter the Land with all that they have experienced, ready to appreciate their new beginning.
“There’s one day here and the next day gone,” the lyrics say. This is very much the case for the Israelites on each of their many stops in the desert. So too, life is not about the destination. Ultimately, we want to enjoy the journey “all night long.” As Tom Cochrane sang, “It’s in my blood, and it’s all around.” In other words, the journey becomes part of us. So too, in our parashah, it is not just about reaching Canaan; the journey becomes part of the Israelites, makes them unique, and defines them as a people.