The Journey of Life

Written by Rabbi Stephen Baars on . Posted in Torah

“For the cloud of the Lord was upon the Mishkan [Tabernacle] by day, and there was fire within it at night, before the eyes of the entire house of Israel in all their journeys” (Exodus: 40, 38).

“Journeys” is the last word of this week’s parsha, and the last word in the entire book of Exodus. What is the significance of this?

I have been involved in marriage counseling for nearly 30 years now, and despite what you may have seen in the daytime soaps, very few couples are unhappily married.

Every couple who comes to see me for counseling has a home and eats three meals a day. They have, thank G-d, healthy children. They reap many of the benefits of living at the epitome of human civilization.

Can anyone possibly be unhappy while sipping on a Starbucks special latte?

Most married people who complain about their marriage, claiming to be unhappy, are misdiagnosing themselves. They are not unhappy at all; they are really disappointed.

Expectations can enable or destroy a relationship. The reason you can tolerate so much abuse from your kids — when the baby spits up on your new dress, or your child scratches your new flat screen TV with a projectile — is because you expected it. The reason we have a hard time living with the equivalent of just 10 percent of what our children dish out when it is coming from our spouse is because we are not expecting that.

Take two buckets, one labeled marriage and the other labeled parenting. If you put all the misery your children give you in the parenting bucket, and all the misery your spouse gives you in the marriage bucket, the parenting bucket would be overflowing and the marriage bucket would be nearly empty. The opposite is true if you filled each with the benefits.

You see, you can live and be happy with anything in life, as long as it’s what you were expecting.

As the last word in the parsha, “journeys,” serves as a reminder of all the trials and tribulations the Jewish people experienced in the book of Exodus — and that they were nevertheless manageable, because the trials were part of their journey. We too, have many things in our lives that make up our journey, and the same life can be viewed as either a misery or a joy: If you thought this moment was a destination, then it will be misery, but when you are just travelling through, you know that whatever issues you are having, they are not the end, but rather just a pebble underfoot along the journey.

By Rabbi Stephen Baars

 Originally from London, Rabbi Stephen Baars resides in Rockville, Maryland, and serves as executive director of Aish Seminars. An educator and marriage counselor for the past 25 years, Rabbi Baars and his wife, Ruth, are blessed with seven children. Learn more about Rabbi Baars at and