Once upon a time, there was a queen who ruled her country with great wisdom and generosity. She built schools so that people could learn and study a trade of their choice. She erected hospitals so that people would not suffer from sickness more than necessary. This province was peaceful and loving your neighbor was the supreme law of the land.
The queen had one child, a prince ... her prince, raised amongst the children of the province. One day, the queen’s world was shattered – the prince became sick. The queen went to the great hospitals which she built, but the doctors and nurses could not heal him. She went to the brilliant scholars of her schools, but the, too, found no answer
And so, in desperation, the queen and the prince left, venturing into the wilderness which they had never previously traveled. They hiked mountains whose peaks were obscured by clouds. They swam across rivers with unknown depths. They fought off wild beasts, and they slept on the forest floor. The queen and the prince traveled from city to city, until they found what they so desperately sought.
Not long after finding this prized and powerful potion, the queen and the prince began their journey home. They again traveled from city to city sharing their newly discovered treatment. They traversed mountains with boundless joy. They swam across rivers that now seemed calm and picturesque. And on their final night in the wilderness, the queen and the prince sat down and recounted their journey from despair to delight. At one stop, the queen provided an ointment for the prince. In another, the queen and the prince stayed up to watch the stars. At another, the prince consoled his mother so that she could rest. There were 42 stops in total.
These were the travels of the queen and the prince, who went out from their home, stage by stage, under their own power.
In parashat Matot-Massei, Rashi briefly mentions a parable similar to the story above from Midrash Tanchuma. This story is one of the ways that our tradition explains the need for Numbers 33, in which we find a recounting of our ancestors’ 42 stops in the wilderness. This recounting is something that we truly understand. We tell stories from family vacations, we think of loved ones on a yartzheit. This week, I pray that we can take a moment to think back on our own lives and find comfort in recalling all of those who joined us on our sacred journeys.
Rabbi Chase Foster is the rabbi for engagement and learning at jHUB.