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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

The Road Trip

Updated: May 26, 2021

Parshat Behaalotecha can break your heart. In Torah we feel pathos many times for many characters. The books of Breisheet and Shemot are filled with characters who suffer and we suffer along with them. In this parsha, B'haalotecha, we see Moses, the person we depend upon for stability, begin to fall apart. A good amount of text has been devoted to how the Israelites are to prepare for their journey, but as this large group of people begin their trip, everything breaks down quickly. Almost immediately after they begin, a loud protest begins over the food. Moses breaks down from the pressure that the loud, complaining group places upon him. God comes through to help Moses, which is an important step forward in building a leadership team instead of placing all of the burden on Moshe's shoulders.

This poem, entitled The Road Trip, explores the beginning of this period of wandering, and compares it to a family road trip.

The Road Trip

The car is piled high.

Maps, brochures,

bikes stacked on the rack.

Roof piled high,

a household in a minivan.

Inside cool AC

Packed like sardines

leg to leg

Snacks, goody bags, books,

lollipops, wet wipes, diapers.

Smiles all around and optimism.

A road trip is never what it promises to be.

"Are we there yet?"

The car is crowded,

someone is carsick




about the good old days

at home

where everything is

hunky dory.

A road trip is

a microcosm of the world

all around us

compressed into the three rows

of a minivan

Kids sneeze and noses run.

Pitstop after pitstop

Fighting in the back seat.

The navigator is snoring in the passenger seat.

You can't hear the books on tape


you listen to the radio


you can’t

believe what you are hearing.

The rest rooms are dirty.

It’s not quite as you planned.

Smiles turn to frowns

The best intentions are overturned

like the pieces of a puzzle,

their pieces laying face down

on the crummy car floor

alongside a spilled juice box.

Kids will be kids

And adults are just kids

with bigger shoe sizes.

"Are we there yet?"

A brochure is not real life.

The internet shows only sunny skies

The real sky is not as blue

as in the photos.

Sometimes cold wind blow

and you forgot the rain ponchos.

Sometimes it rains.

There are black flies on the mountains.

There are bears at the campsites.

Mosquitoes bite.

Scratching is the new hobby.

Tics crawl up ankles

and lodge behind ears.

Lines snake around

and the wait is more than an hour

to get on the ride.

The coffee is cold.

The food is expensive.

The children whine.

But the road trip goes on.

To turn around and go home

is not part of the playbook.

One day all of you will all look back on this

with a smile.


Long ago thousands embarked upon

a God inspired road trip

The trip planners used no maps,

no Travelocity.

They followed

a cloud by day

and a fire by night.

The trip planners stayed up nights

and organized for the trip.

Everything and everyone had their places.

Their tents were packed up,

directions followed to a tee.

All were alert and ready.

The desert welcomed them.

Heat rose from the ground like waves

and the blue sky beckoned.

Destination "Promised Land."

All were ready for the destination,

but maybe not the ride.

A road trip is never what it is promised to be.

"Are we there yet?"

The complaining started immediately.

When will we get there?

"I'm hungry."

"I'm really hungry."

"These snacks aren't what I wanted."

"I can't wait."

"I won't!"

"I want to go back!"

"I want the good old days.

Those days of

cucumbers and leeks.

Those good old days of

slavery in Egypt."

The organizers were caught off guard.

Hadn't they planned for everything?

Smiles turn upside down to frowns.

The best made plans overturned,

like a complicated puzzle,

their pieces laying face down

on the hot desert floor.

It was just a little too much for the organizer.

It broke him just a little bit.

But he had no choice

but to continue.

The road trip must go on.

Kids will be kids

And adults are just kids

with bigger shoe sizes.

All road trips are different

They never go as it reads in the travel guide.

To turn around and go home

is just not part of the playbook.

You plan and plan

and hope for the best

and know that it's going to be a bumpy ride.

Desert or mini-van.

Somehow you get stronger along the way.

Numbers11:4-6 (Translation from Sefaria)

וְהָֽאסַפְסֻף֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בְּקִרְבּ֔וֹ הִתְאַוּ֖וּ תַּאֲוָ֑ה וַיָּשֻׁ֣בוּ וַיִּבְכּ֗וּ גַּ֚ם בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ מִ֥י יַאֲכִלֵ֖נוּ בָּשָֽׂר׃ The riffraff in their midst felt a gluttonous craving; and then the Israelites wept and said, “If only we had meat to eat!

The riffraff in their midst felt a gluttonous craving; and then the Israelites wept and said, “If only we had meat to eat!

זָכַ֙רְנוּ֙ אֶת־הַדָּגָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר־נֹאכַ֥ל בְּמִצְרַ֖יִם חִנָּ֑ם אֵ֣ת הַקִּשֻּׁאִ֗ים וְאֵת֙ הָֽאֲבַטִּחִ֔ים וְאֶת־הֶחָצִ֥יר וְאֶת־הַבְּצָלִ֖ים וְאֶת־הַשּׁוּמִֽים׃ We remember the fish that we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.

וְעַתָּ֛ה נַפְשֵׁ֥נוּ יְבֵשָׁ֖ה אֵ֣ין כֹּ֑ל בִּלְתִּ֖י אֶל־הַמָּ֥ן עֵינֵֽינוּ׃ Now our gullets are shriveled. There is nothing at all! Nothing but this manna to look to!”

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