In an attempt to illustrate a deep truth regarding the Jew’s journey toward closeness with Hashem, the Baal Shem Tov taught the following, well-known, parable. When a father is teaching his little toddler to walk, he must crouch a few feet away, creating a distance for his son to cross. If the father does not set any goal as well as create necessary distance which serves as the premise for the goal, the child will never learn to walk. It is the same with avodas Hashem. Like the moon, our brightness waxes and wanes; we experience times of great inspiration only to then fall into spiritual numbness once more. “And the Chayos were running and returning”, our lives are lived in a perpetual state of motion, back and forth; full, and then empty, and then full yet again. The secret of life is realizing that this is the way it needs to be. If we are to learn how to walk, it is imperative that we experience Hashem’s distance, which is meant not to discourage us ch”v, but rather to allow us to strive toward a goal and express the true extent of our commitment and desire.
In this week’s parsha, the Torah teaches “Al pi Hashem yisa’u v’al pi Hashem yachanu”, both the traveling and the resting of the B’nei Yisrael on their journey through the desert were in accordance with the divine decree. The Degel Machaneh Ephraim explains that each and every Jew in his or her life must experience the long and difficult journey in the desert reaching the Promised Land of spiritual fulfillment. Like the Jewish nation, there are times that we “travel”, progressing with excitement and clarity, and other times that we “rest”, experiencing apathy and a lack of desire. The pasuk of “Al pi Hashem yisa’u v’al pi Hashem yachanu” teaches that both of these stages are “Al pi Hashem”; the feeling of distance and failure is also in accordance in with the will of Hashem. Keeping this in mind will enable us to view these stages of “resting” as Hashem’s way of teaching us to walk by challenging us to strive toward a brand-new goal.