Rav Miller gleans this interpretation from Rabbeinu Yonah.
You can even write your journeys down.
Or you can go over them in your head, which could make a nice Shabbat activity.
And from this aspect of the parsha, we learn to look at our own journeys and say, "Things worked out like so — but really, it could have been much worse. MUCH worse."
Just as someone somewhere should've been stung by a scorpion while traipsing through the Midbar — but it never happened, baruch Hashem! — we also have aspects of our life journeys in which the worst should have happened...but didn't.
I can definitely think of times in my life where, according to the natural & most expected way of the world, very bad things should have happened:
- Maybe I should've died...but didn't, baruch Hashem.
- Maybe I should've been scarred for life...but wasn't, baruch Hashem.
- Maybe I should've remained a fully assimilated numskull Leftist...but didn't, baruch Hashem.
- Maybe I was about to innocently commit a particularly severe sin...but didn't.
Why? Because Hashem tweaked things so that the natural, expected outcome never came to full fruition — or never happened at all.
Just a little tweak in the journey was all I needed to avoid disaster.
(Okay, and not always just a little tweak. Let's be honest: Sometimes, I needed a great massive shove to catapult me out of harm's way. But the point is, the really bad thing that should have happened...didn't.)
Likewise, in the Midbar, people were not stung by scorpions nor did they suffer epidemics. (Plagues of Punishment, yes. Smallpox or measles? No.)
No dehydration or heatstroke.
Thanking Hashem for What DIDN'T Happen
My great-grandmother looked for an abortionist, but he was out of town. By the time, the abortionist came back, it was too late.
And Grandpa was born, baruch Hashem.
(For more on the benefit of Grandpa's existence, please see: The Abortion Stories You Never Hear.)
Rav Miller goes through conception, babyhood, childhood, and more.
He recalls the time in his own childhood when he found a bullet, stuck it into some wood, pounded its back with a hammer...and it exploded in his face. There was lots of blood. Rav Miller says he should've lost an eye, but he didn't. Baruch Hashem!
We all have stories like that. (In fact, it definitely sounds like something my own kids would do.)
Anyway, Rav Miller goes through the many things that COULD happen and DO happen to some people, but DIDN'T happen to him. (Nor to you or me. That's right. If you're reading this, then that's a sure sign you're still alive and the examples he gave did NOT happen to you...baruch Hashem!!!)
"Boring days are a blessing!"
Baruch Hashem! You were able to work.
What about failures?
Rav Miller mentions 4 big failures he endured, all of which turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to him, only he didn't perceive it that way at the time.
And haven't we all had "fabulous" failures like that?
Thanks for the Nervous Breakdown!
While hospitalized, someone handed him a copy of Rejoice, O Youth! and it changed his life.
Now he's a talmid chacham with a big beard and a big family in Yerushalayim — all thanks to a nervous breakdown.
Thanks for the Targeted Bombing!
Then he unknowingly "stole" a customer from the Mafia, so the Mafia bombed his store.
Rav Miller gave the terrorized man helpful advice to preserve his life, and the man ended up at a new job, which enabled him to live a MUCH better frum life — meaning, a better & vastly improved life overall.
"It’s not what I say – that’s what the Chovos Halevavos says: that remembering all of the chasdei Hashem is fundamental for anyone who wants to be an eved Hashem."
The One-Minute Appreciator
He says you can even do this while walking down the street.
Who is the True Oved Hashem?
It could easily be the cheerful-looking guy who walks happily down the street because he's remembering the Kindnesses of Hashem.
Ultimately, the point of all this is to feel such gratitude to Hashem, you serve him from that place of joyous gratitude.
This is a true oved Hashem.