By Rav David Silverberg
[W]e noted Yosef’s vague final instruction to his brothers as they prepared to travel from Egypt to Canaan in order to bring Yaakov and their families to Egypt, where they would settle to escape the famine in Canaan. Yosef told his brothers, “Al tirgezu ba-darekh” (45:24), which appears to mean, “Do not be angry along the way.” The Gemara in Masekhet Ta’anit (10b) cites different interpretations to this verse, one of which explains it to mean, “Al tafsi’u pesi’a gasa” – “Do not take big steps.” In other words, although Yosef had earlier urged his brothers to quickly return to Canaan to bring Yaakov and their families (“Maharu va-alu el avi” – 45:9), he now warns against journeying too quickly, and urges them to travel at a reasonable, measured pace.
The question arises as to how this interpretation accommodates the text. How did Chazal arrive at this reading based on the words “al tirgezu ba-darekh”?
An enlightening answer to this question is offered by Rav Chaim Yirmiyahu Plansberg, in his Divrei Yirmiyahu commentary. He writes that this Midrashic interpretation of the verse reads the words “al tirgezu ba-darekh” in a purely literal fashion, to mean, “Do not be angry at the road.” When a person rushes hurriedly and frantically to his destination, he shows that he affords importance only to the destination, to his goal and objective, and looks askance upon, and even feels “anger” towards, the road he needs to travel to reach his destination. When we rush, we naturally feel embittered by the time and effort required to reach our goal, as we are interested solely in achieving the final objective. In interpreting Yosef’s admonition to mean, “Do not be angry at the road,” Chazal urge us to recognize the value and significance of the derekh, of the process, the journey we need to take in pursuing our goals. We should not look disdainfully upon the road, with our eyes turned solely to the finish line, but should instead try to appreciate and capitalize on the process we must undergo to get there. We should embrace, rather than feel contempt for, the derekh, the many journeys we need to take and achieve our goals, and we will then be able to find meaning and joy in every station at which we arrive over the course of our lives.
Originally appears on VBM