They needed shelter, food and water. They needed a sense of security against the fear of the elements or the environment. They needed to feel they were not meandering without aim or goal. No wonder there were times when frustration overtook them and they made Moses’ life a misery.
Yet somehow they survived. Moses was able to keep control, they became a people, and despite the vicissitudes and crises they came through the wilderness and reached their destination. But why did it all take so long? The distance they had to traverse was not so great. Despite their numbers and initial lack of discipline, they could probably have reached Eretz Yisra’el in under two weeks. But it took forty years!
The Torah acknowledges the question when it says, “God led them not by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near” (Ex. 13:17). The fact is that they were not ready for the responsibility of being a people, governing a land and embracing a destiny. It all needed time, growth, maturity and development.
Their problem is often our problem. We too are in a hurry to reach the goal. The university student cannot wait for the years of study to end. The businessperson wants profits overnight. The visionary wants the dream to come true at once. The lesson we have to learn is that results require patience and effort.