Let My People Know

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz: “The proper path.”

The Jewish people’s excellence lies precisely in this quality:

Israel demonstrated real greatness… For they did not say to Moses, “How can we go out into the wilderness without having provisions for the journey?”

Rather, they had faith and followed Moses.

Of them it is stated in the traditional sacred writings: “Go and cry in the ears of Jerusalem, saying, ‘I remember for you the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown’ ’’ (Jer. 2:2). (.Mekhilta DeRabbi Yishmael, Beshallah)

They simply went.

The Jewish people traveled in the wilderness without a known destination, a fact that, in the end, drove them crazy.

After all, they were eating manna, drinking well water and, outside of their internal quarrels, had no serious problems.

So what was bothering them?

The major trial over the course of forty years was the feeling that they were going around in circles: “And we circled Mount Seir for a long time” (Deut. 2:1).

They were frustrated by the seemingly endless nature of their journey.

They were driven mad by the lack of a point, an address, some kind of structure in their circuitous path.

The command to “go forth” is not only an instruction, but a description of how a person should go forward in life.

We learn from Abraham that this is the way one must proceed, as Rabbi Judah HaLevi put it, “I will not question, I will not test” (Reshuyot 22).

That is how one follows God: without a destination and without an aim.

God’s great call to man, the first call and the last, is a call without a destination.

God says, “go forth,” and one must get up and go, without knowing where one will arrive, without knowing one’s objective, and without knowing one’s aim.

This path, with all its difficulties, is the proper path for the beginning of a person’s life.

–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

From Talks on the Parasha