There is a certain style of travel that leaves pretty much everything open to chance. When you show up at the train station or the bus station with no real destination in mind and just hop onto the next departure, letting it take you wherever it will. It’s the kind of travel that lets G-d make all the decisions.
But the truth is, most travel isn’t done that way. I look at my parents’ style of travel, for instance. They like to leave on a trip knowing where they are going and when. What buses and trains will they take? What tours? Where will they sleep? It’s the kind of travel where you try to control your destinations.
And then there is the kind of travel that is in between these two – the happy middle road that Rabbi Ben and I generally travel. We usually have an idea where we want to go but we don’t have everything planned down to the last detail. We know our eventual destination is Hampi, but we don’t have a time frame for getting there. We don’t mind the route we take, we don’t have our bus or train tickets, and we definitely don’t have any lodging reserved for when we get there.
If you’re open to it, G-d sends lots of messages as we travel through life. He has many avenues for communicating with us, if only we are open to them. Sometimes they’re subtle and sometimes He beats us over the head with them. And when G-d orchestrates things for us, it is guaranteed to have the very best outcome, since He knows what’s very best for us, even if we don’t see it at the time. (Take the story of how Rabbi Ben and I met, for instance – a true story of divine providence!)
This is what Balaam comes to experience in this week’s parsha. He keeps getting messages from Hashem and he does his very best to ignore them or go against them. G-d even goes as far as having Balaam’s donkey talk to him! If that’s not a clear message from G-d, I don’t know what is! If only Balaam would have heeded these messages, things would have worked out better for him. He wouldn’t have been punished and he wouldn’t be seen as the wicked man he is for having defied G-d. Balaam should have listened to G-d’s messages.
As we travel through life, it would do us much good to put our own desires aside and just trust in G-d. There are so many times when Rabbi Ben and I could have made hotel reservations in advance, but because we waited and trusted in G-d to lead us on the right path, we stayed in nicer places and paid far less.
As we head into a new week, let us all concentrate on opening our minds to the messages G-d is sending us.