42 Stations in the Wilderness - 42 Stages in a Human Life

Using the approach of Mensch-Marks, let's try to recall 42 seminal events in our lives, stepping stones that have helped helped us to become who we are today.  That number parallels the number of number of stops made by the Israelites in the Wilderness, as recorded in Numbers 33.  See this chart of the stations of the Exodus

According to the Baal Shem Tov, these 42 stops correlate to 42 stages of a person's life. (Hebrew readers can find the Baal Shem Tov's commentary here.) At each location, the Israelites were presented with a challenge requiring that they make a moral or spiritual choice.  See how Rabbi Simon Jacobson relates the Torah's stations and Baal Shem Tov's ideas to the psycho-spiritual stages of our lives.  

What would you list as the 42 most important "stepping stones" in a typical human life-span?  What rituals do we enact to mark our arrival at that place and our taking leave for the next stop?

Think about the formative moments that made you "you."  After you've covered the major ones, e.g. a wedding day or the death of a loved one, that's when it gets interesting, because you have to dig deep to remember distant encounters and subtle lessons that ended up making a huge difference. 

Each of these stepping stones can be marked by a Jewish prayer known as "Shehechianu,"  where we thank God for keeping us alive to reach that particular event. Several years ago, in a series of four High Holiday sermons, I analyzed that prayer in detail and explained why it has such resonance for us today.