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    This Shabbos, we say “Chazak” upon completing Parshas Pekudei, the final portion of Shemos.

    “Ki anan HaShem, For the cloud of HaShem was before the eyes of all of Bnei Yisroel, b’chol mas’eihem, throughout their journeys.” (Shemos 40:38)

    A most powerful concluding posuk. A passage that leaves us with a life lesson.

    Rashi comments that HaShem’s guidance was upon the Jewish nation during their entire journey. Be it the actual trek through the wilderness or the people’s multiple encampments.

    Man is called a “holeich” – a being that is always on the go, constantly in motion. In contrast, the melochim, angels are called “omdim” – those who stand still, remaining in one place, without the potential of reaching higher planes.

    Man doesn’t remain stationary. He either rises to greater heights, or sadly, stumbles and falls. Life is one big journey. Even when we think we are at rest, “between trips”, it is actually an opportunity for growth. The posuk tells us, “le’einei, before the eyes” of Bnei Yisroel. We just need to open our eyes, see the opportunities before us, and utilize every moment as a chance for growth.

    My grandmother, Mama a”h, was always doing. She was a woman of action, even well into her eighties. When family members would kindly suggest that she should take it easy, Mama would wave them off, saying “Taking it easy is for after 120. Now, there is work to be done.”

    Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch zt”l notes that when there are similar sounding Hebrew letters in the spelling of two words, we can derive a connection between the words. Rav Hirsch gives as an example the similarity of the sounds of the tzadi (“tz”) in tzomeiach, a growing being, and the sin (“se”) in simcha, happiness. This, he says, teaches us that personal growth enables us to reach an elevated level of simcha in our lives.

    Be a tzomeiach. One who constantly grows and accomplishes. It will lead to a happier, more satisfying life. This is true on both a spiritual level, and bein odom l’chaveiro, in our relationship with our fellow man. One should strive to grow spiritually, connecting to HaShem through observing mitzvos and davening. To grow intellectually, by finding time each day to learn something new and increase our Torah knowledge. We should work on developing positive midos, character traits, and see every day as an opportunity to enhance our relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.

    I am writing these words from Yerushalayim, where I joined my husband and more than two hundred others, who took a week off from work, to participate in a Yarchei Kallah, studying our holy Torah. To be a tzomeiach, a person of growth. To listen to shiurim and be inspired by great Torah teachers.

    How fortunate is the man who views every day as an opportunity to grow.

    Earlier in the week, I had the z’chus to daven at the kever of the Baba Sali in Netivot. As I entered, I was awe-struck by an “only in Israel moment.” There, stood a kallah in her wedding gown. She stopped off on the way to her wedding to daven Mincha in this holy place. What a lesson in spiritual growth. If she could find time on her wedding day to reach out to HaShem in such a beautiful way, surely we can make time in our own lives to increase our davening and concentrate on the holy prayers, despite our hectic routines and schedules.

    The Baal Shem Tov teaches that as Bnei Yisroel experienced forty-two journeys and encampments in the desert, so too, each of us has forty-two journeys in our own life. As they faced challenges at each stop, and had to make moral and ethical decisions, so too, we have our dilemmas and need to make our choices at different life stages.

    Every day and on Friday nights before Lecha Dodi, we say the tefillah “Ana B’Koach, Please, by the strength of Your right hand”, a prayer asking HaShem to use His koach, His strength and might to set us free. To guide us on our personal life journey, to give us understanding and clarity in fulfilling our life mission.

    Ana B’Koach contains forty-two words. Kabballah teaches that when combined, the first letter of these words correspond to the unique forty-two-letter name of HaShem. We can perhaps derive from this, that just as HaShem was with Bnei Yisroel on its forty-two journeys, so too does He remain with us on our life’s forty-two journeys.

    We are all travelers in this world. Pirkei Avos teaches, “This world is a corridor to the World to Come.” (Ethics 4:16). Our life in this world is temporary. We are all just traveling through, on our way to our final destination.

    The Chofetz Chaim lived a most humble life. When a wealthy visitor traveling through Radin, Poland paid a visit to his home, the visitor was struck by his lack of home furnishings and the simplicity of his residence. “Where is all your furniture,” the visitor asked. To which the Chofetz Chaim answered, “And where are your furnishings?” The startled visitor responded that he was only traveling through, just visiting, that his furnishings and decorative pieces were at home.

    “Ah” exclaimed the Chofetz Chaim. “I, too, am just traveling through this world. My furnishings are also in my true home, in the World Above.”

    Let’s internalize this message. Know that every moment we spend doing the right things in this world, prepares us for our ultimate journey and the rewards of the World to Come.

    * * * *

    As I write these words, we are all pained by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We have many brothers and sisters there, in harms way, in need of our tefillos. Someone shared with me a video of children in Uman, Ukraine gathered together, reciting Shema in unison, pleading to HaShem for a yeshuah, a salvation. As we are approaching Purim, it reminded me of Mordechai gathering the children of Shushan, crying out to HaShem for a miracle that would save Klal Yisroel.

    From the children of Persia to the children of Ukraine, “Mipi olilim v’yonkim yosadeta oz, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings You have established strength.” (Tehillim 8:2) May HaShem answer our tefillos as He answered our ancestors’ tefillos during the time of Mordechai and Esther.

    Shabbat Shalom!