Journey of Truth
The prophet Jeremiah brings a harsh message of admonition from God to the Jewish people. “What wrong did your forefathers find in Me that they distanced themselves from Me and went after futility and became futile? And they did not say: Where is the Lord, who brings us out of the land of Egypt, who leads us through the wilderness, through a land of desert and pit, through a land of drought and the shadow of death, in a land through which no man passed and where no person had ever settled?” (Jeremiah 2:5,6).
God reminds Israel of their journey through the desert. How He took them through a land which cannot support life while supplying their every need. Israel should have looked back at those times and learned the lessons of that journey.
Rabbi Mendel Hirsch points out that God is speaking of this trek through the wilderness in the present tense, as if it is taking place here and now. It does not say; “who led us”, but instead it says; “who leads us.” This teaches us that the journey through the desert gave us a true picture of life that cuts through all of the illusions. Our journey through the desert was a true illustration of the journey life.
When we find ourselves in a civilized place, a place that has all the resources and provisions of life, we feel secure. We look at our sources of water, our food supply, the security that is provided by the police force and the absence of wild animals and we breathe easy. When we pray to God we are not desperate, we feel pretty safe and sound. We may perhaps ask God that things shouldn’t go wrong or there may be a particular trouble that we focus on in our prayers. But we feel secure with our general situation.
But this is all an illusion. There is nothing that we “have.” Everything is a constant gift from God and nothing “belongs to us.” Our water, our food supply, the civilization around us, the range of weather that sustains life, the light with which we see and the air we breathe are all here only because God decided that He wants to give them to us here and now.
The journey through the desert taught us how we are completely dependent upon God for every component of life. And when we realize how God is holding our hand every step of the way there is no way that we can rebel against Him. When we realize how He is sustaining us we also come to recognize that when He prohibits us from doing something, He is not withholding anything from us. That which is prohibited is not part of that flow of blessing through which He gives us existence. When God commands us to do something He is not demanding that we give Him something that does not already belong to Him. All the energy and effort that we will pour in to fulfilling His command belongs to Him and to Him alone. His commandments guide us on the path of life.
If we learn the lesson of the desert we will understand why King David constantly refers to himself as poor and impoverished (Psalms 40:18; 70:6; 86:1; 109:22). David realized that success in life is not amassing wealth and power. But rather, true success, is being able to see through all the illusions. Success in life means recognizing our complete and total dependence upon God and enjoying His constant embrace.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal