We ought to remember that the journey is, in and of itself, also a destination; that the results are also in the labor itself; that light can be found within the walls of our life's tunnels too - not just at their end.Rabbi Allouche
Following the failure of a project that I had launched a few years ago, I called my beloved mentor, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz of blessed memory, to express my frustration and seek his advice.
After listening carefully, he replied with his characteristic smile:
“Pinny, you focus too much on the results. But you forget that you were appointed to work; not to reap the fruits of your work. It sounds like you put in the right amount of work, and that you did what you could. Now, let G-d take care of the results…”
In that unforgettable conversation, he also lamented that our generation is so focused on “reaching destinations,” that we forget that “the journey itself is just as important, if not more, than the destinations we set for ourselves.”
“It’s like planting trees,” he said. “Sometimes, we plant a tree, and we think that we’ll be able to enjoy its fruits within a year or two. But some trees, like the olive tree, take a few years to grow and produce fruits. Yet, once those trees grow, they turn into very strong trees that then never stop producing an abundance of fruits…”
As we read Moses’ heartfelt plea to G-d in this week’s portion, to appoint for the Jewish People a leader, Rabbi Steinsaltz’s advice re-appeared in my mind. Moses knew that he wouldn’t live to see the ultimate “results” of his painstaking labor of leading the Jewish people for 40 years in a barren desert. He knew that the delicious fruits of his labor, soon to be enjoyed by all in our holy land that flows with milk and honey, would be left for others to enjoy.
Yet he remained as devoted as ever to his work, to his journey, to his calling. And he continued to devote himself to G-d, and to His people – with equal passion and enthusiasm – until his very last breath.
The lesson is clear and powerful. For how many times do we sink into the traps of self-blame, just because we can’t see the fruits of our labor? How many times do we fall into the abyss of despair, just because we were so consumed by our expectations to see results?
Don’t get me wrong: results are important, and setting goals and ‘destinations’ are a vital part of almost every endeavor. But we ought to remember that the journey is, in and of itself, also a destination; that the results are also in the labor itself; that light can be found within the walls of our life’s tunnels too – not just at their end.
And we ought to know that each of us too was appointed to work and partner with G-d daily in making our world better, each in our own way, each with our own Mitzvahs.
This type of work will undoubtedly prove itself to be more precious and more valuable than any “result” that any human being can ever produce. For, as the Sages teaches us in the Ethics of our Fathers, “the best reward for a Mitzvah – is the Mitzvah itself.”