The dyslexic paranoid is someone who is always wondering whether he’s following somebody.
--The Pretty Good Joke Book by Garrison Keillor
As we approach the end of the book of Numbers with the enumeration of the ‘Stations in the Wilderness’ traversed by the Israelites on their way to the promised land, there is a kind of dyslexic ‘covering the bases’ that occurs. In Numbers 33:2, we’re told that “Moses recorded the starting points of their marches as directed by God. Their marches, by starting points as follows:”
Many commentators wonder why ‘starting points’ מוצאיהם and ‘marches’ מסעיהם are in opposite order at the beginning of the verse from the end. There is little in classic rabbinic commentary to allow for stylistic nuance so sometimes they tell stories about these linguistic niceties.
A young man who had been raised in large part by his step-mother who didn’t show him the love he had received from his birth mother was traveling with his father to meet his intended bride. The young man kept asking the carriage driver how far they had gone from home. At some point, after three or four of these queries, his father asked said driver, how far until we arrive? The young man noticed the difference. His father sympathetically noted his wife’s ill treatment of his son and explained how his son is glad to farther from home. On the other hand, his father knew the parents of the bride and the young woman herself and was eager for his son to begin his future.Similarly, the Israelites keep looking behind them at the slavery they left behind whereas Moses, who, ironically won’t be joining them, is looking forward to the final leg of the journey, into the promised land.
I just returned from a great vacation when I read in a Canadian newspaper about a scientific study that showed people don’t enjoy their vacations as much as they enjoy anticipating them!
Each shabbat, we should review where we came from for lessons on how to make the next week better, but, in addition to anticipating the joy of shabbat each week, we should also eagerly anticipate the opportunities and possibilities of the week to come.