|The following incident about the unique training required by the Army’s most elite special forces unit was recorded by Eric Haney in his book Inside Delta Force.
I had covered just slightly over thirty miles by now, but still had more than twenty to go. It was getting more and more difficult to do speed computations in my head. My hands were tingling from the rucksack straps cutting into my shoulders, pinching the nerves and arteries, and restricting the blood flow to my arms.
I was bent forward against the weight of the rucksack. It felt like I was dragging a train behind me, and my feet hurt all the way up to my knees. I don’t mean they were just sore; I mean they felt like I had been strapped to the rack and someone had beaten the balls of my feet with a bat. I tried to calculate the foot-pounds of energy my feet had absorbed so far today, but I had to give up the effort. I only knew that the accumulated tonnage of all those thousands of steps was immense. And it was only going to get worse.
There’s no doubt in our mind that he never asked the following question, “why is this happening to me?” When you are in Delta training you understand that not only is this to be expected, you trust that it has been carefully calculated. And this leads us into the saga of the Jews traveling in the desert, where each stop was carefully recorded by Moses.
Moses recorded their goings out according to their journeys (מוֹצָאֵיהֶם לְמַסְעֵיהֶם) by G-d’s bidding and these were their journeys according to their goings out (מַסְעֵיהֶם לְמוֹצָאֵיהֶם). (Numbers 33:2)
There’s an inconsistency between the beginning and end of this verse. First it describes the goings out according to their journeys but then it describes their journeys according to their going’s out. Well, which is it?
One approach is to understand that “their journeys” refers to each actual journey from one place to the next, but their “goings out” refers to what they went out with, i.e., their experiences. Each time they trekked onward, they remained for a while and had new encounters and events, and dealt with the challenges resulting from them. In life, we typically see the cause-and-effect relationship between two things as the experience being a function of the journey. “I saw the accident because I happened to be at the street corner when it occurred.” Or, “I don’t like dogs because when I was growing up, we had a neighbor with a frightening dog.”
We look at life as well as the desirable or undesirable consequences accompanying personal history and think, “because I was there, I experienced such and such.” But is this an accurate way to access life’s encounters? By doing so we fail to consider that sometimes, the relationship is reversed: it was in order for me to have that experience that G-d arranged for me to be there.
Moses documents the forty-eight places where the Jewish nation set up camp in the desert. In some places, there wasn’t water, in others, there were different complications. Some thought the traveling caused the circumstances, but it was actually the opposite. When the Almighty wanted to test them with thirst, they were brought to a place devoid of water. So, it wasn’t the place that caused the challenge, rather, G-d had a reason for them to be there and consequently, they came to that destination. Similar things happen to us, too. We go someplace and have a bad experience. We think, “I wish I didn’t go there. If I hadn’t gone there, I wouldn’t have suffered the shame or the loss of money.” Actually, it is precisely because we needed that experience that we went there and it is precisely that challenge that will help us to accomplish what our souls were meant to. The Almighty put into our heart to go there because we needed to endure that hardship.
Eric Haney never asked, “why is this happening to me,” because he understood it had a purpose and that the hike, the rucksack, and the rest of what he was carrying were all there to make him the special forces soldier he was meant to be. It was obvious to him and it is obvious to us and when we understand that each of us was placed in the world to fulfill a purpose that no one else can, we will understand that each hardship, each unpleasant feeling or suffering due to emotional pain we endure, has a purpose because every single person’s life has a purpose. No matter how far you think you messed things up for you and those in your life, if you’re still around, it means you still have a job to do that no one else can.
This was this perspective Moses sought to impart when relating their experiences. When people realize that the journeys and their hardships were by G-d’s bidding, they will understand that those journeys occurred so that they would have the experiences required to enable them to fulfill their life’s purpose.
The next time you wonder, “what am I doing here” or “how did I get into this situation” or “how did I miss such an obvious thing,” stop wondering and start accepting that you are to become your own special forces soldier in the battle and struggles of life. Good Shabbos [based on Divrei Mahari”a, by R’ Yehuda Aszod (Hungary, 1796-1866) Parshat Masei]