Parshas Matos Masei 5770 – Fond Memories

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Rabbi Moshe Eisemann's Shiurim
Rabbi Moshe Eisemann's Shiurim
Parshas Matos Masei 5770 – Fond Memories

I thought that it would be nice for once to think a little bit about Parshas Mas’ei. As it is usually connected to Parshas Matos, a parshah which itself is packed with important yesodos it tends to receive short shrift, but there really is a tremendous amount here that needs our attention. Let us turn our attentions to Rashi here at the beginning of the Parsha (Bamidbar 33:1):

אלה מסעי – למה נכתבו המסעות הללו, להודיע חסדיו של מקום, שאעפ”י שגזר עליהם לטלטלם ולהניעם במדבר, לא תאמר שהיו נעים ומטולטלים ממסע למסע כל ארבעים שנה ולא היתה להם מנוחה, שהרי אין כאן אלא ארבעים ושתים מסעות. צא מהם י”ד, שכולם היו בשנה ראשונה, קודם גזירה, משנסעו מרעמסס עד שבאו לרתמה. שמשם נשתלחו המרגלים, שנאמר (במדבר יב, טז) ואחר נסעו העם מחצרות וגו’ (שם יג, ב) שלח לך אנשים וגו’. וכאן הוא אומר ויסעו מחצרות ויחנו ברתמה, למדת שהיא במדבר פארן. ועוד הוצא משם שמונה מסעות שהיו לאחר מיתת אהרן מהר ההר עד ערבות מואב בשנת הארבעים, נמצא שכל שמנה ושלשים שנה לא נסעו אלא עשרים מסעות. זה מיסודו של רבי משה הדרשן. ורבי תנחומא דרש בו דרשה אחרת משל למלך שהיה בנו חולה והוליכו למקום רחוק לרפאותו, כיון שהיו חוזרין התחיל אביו מונה כל המסעות. אמר לו כאן ישננו,ד כאן הוקרנו,ה כאן חששת את ראשך וכו’:

These are the travels – Why were these travels recorded? To make known the kindnesses of the Ribono Shel Olam, that although He decreed upon them to unsettle them and move them about in the desert, you should not think that they were moved and unsettled, constantly in-route from one journey to the next for forty years and that they had no rest. That is not the case for there are only forty two journeys, fourteen of which were all in the first year before the decree, and took place from the time that they journeyed from Ra’amses until the time that they came to Rismah. It was from there that they sent the Meraglim, as it says (Bamidbar 12:16) “And afterwards the nation traveled from Chatzeiros…” and immediately thereafter it says (ibid 13:2) “Send for yourself men…” and here it says “And they traveled from Chatzeiros and they camped in Rismah.” This teaches that (during their stay in Rismah) they were in Midbar Paran. Furthermore you must remove another eight journeys that all took place after the death of Aharon, from Hor HaHar until Arvos Moav in the fortieth year. We thus find that throughout the entire thirty-eight years they only traveled twenty jouneys. This is from the work of R. Moshe HaDarshan. Rabbi Tanchuma however expounded a different derasha. This is analogous to a King who had an ill child and he took him to a distant place to heal him. Once they were on their way back his father began to count out all of their travels: “Here we slept, here we were cold, here is where you felt pain in your head…”

Says the Maharal on this Rashi:

כאן ישננו כו’. פירוש, כי לפעמים היו ישראל בנחת ובשלוה, וזהו ‘ישננו’. ולפעמים היו ישראל בצער כאשר היה חסר להם דבר, וזהו ‘הוקרנו’. ולפעמים בסכנה היו, וזהו כמו חולה החושש בראשו. ואם תאמר, וכל זה מה נפקא מיניה שהוא מספר בדברים אלו. יש לומר, שכמו שהאב מספר כמה טורח הגיע לו עד בואו למקום הזה, והודיע לו איך היה מטפל עמו משום אהבתו אליו, כך השם יתברך היה מטפל עם ישראל בשביל אהבתו אליהם, ובשביל כך יזכרו ישראל הטובות שעשה להם, ויעבדו אותו בכל לב.

Here we slept – What Rashi means to say here is that there were times when Klal Yisroel were at ease and in peace – they were able to sleep restfully. At other times Klal Yisroel were in pain due to the lack of something – these are times when we were cold, lacking the warmth that we needed. At yet other times they were in danger – much like a sick person whose head hurts him. One might ask, “what difference does this history make to me?” The answer is that Hashem is doing exactly the same thing that a father does with his children. Just as a father will recount to his children all the difficulty they went through until they got to this point, and he lets them know how he cared for them through it all as the result of his great love for them, so too does Hashem do the same for us. Throughout all of our ordeals he cared for us. Through recounting these incidents to us, we the Klal Yisroel will remember all of the good things that He showered upon us and we will be inspired to serve Hashem wholeheartedly.

A Thesis Confirmed:

Upon seeing these words of R. Tanchuma this week, I became so excited. They confirmed for me something that I used to say many years ago. In the years since I have offten thought back to this and wondered whether I was right, but here in these words of Rashi I see my ideas validated! Let me explain.

Back in the day – and still today as well – Torah U’Mesorah had a wonderful program during the summer months where they provided shiurim to mechanchim to help them prepare for the coming school year. For many years they used to ask me to give a shiur to the Nach teachers. I had at the time a little routine that I used for several years which was quite successful, and it went as follows: During the first session, I would ask the attendees to give their particular school’s Tanach program a grade. “Please rank your particular school on how successful it’s Tanach program is.” Usually, the responses ranged anywhere from B- to D. They were not any particular source of great inspiration. “Okay. To what do you attribute the lack of success in your programs?” Here the responses would vary. Some would suggest that it was due to the timing of the Nach classes, that they tended to be slotted in at a time in the day when the students were already tired. Others might blame it on other factors. I would then ask the teachers “So why are you teaching Nach? What do you wish to impart to your students via teaching them the Nevi’im?”

Here I would almost invariably be met at first by silence. Gradually, responses would begin to accumulate. “We are teaching Nach in order to learn lessons in good middos.”

“Really? In every other perek there is another war and another ten thousand people are killed. Is this the best way to teach good middos? Would it not be better to learn Mesillas Yesharim with them, or some other sefer which focuses specifically on developing good middos?”

That ruled out the middos answer. Another response that would usually come would be “We learn about our history through Nach.” That was not a particularly good answer to me either. “If you ask Torah Umesorah, they could provide you with a list of at least ten titles that present our history in a far more orderly fashion.”

A third favorite was “We teach Nach because it is a part of Torah and we have to learn it.” Again, that was hard for me to hear. “Your students are learning Torah the entire day. It is going to be very difficult to inspire them with the fact that they are simply responsible to know yet another area of Torah.”

This would go on for a little bit until finally someone would ask me “Well, please tell us. Why is it that you teach Nach? What do you hope to achieve from the exercise?”

My answer would be along the following lines. I believe that the correct way to learn Tanach is to read it and learn it in very much the same manner as one would read a set of letters that were exchanged between a Chassan and Kallah during their engagement. What does the new couple write about in these first few exchanges? For the most part they review their history together. “Do you remember how we were standing outside the drugstore and…” “I recall how you said that…” “I was thinking about how we went to…” These letters reveal what it is that the young couple consider to be formative to their nascent relationship. They have not yet known each other for very long, and they are setting out together on a lifetime’s journey. What the Chassan shares with his Kallah in writing shows what aspects of himself he considers to be important and significant. In these letters he describes what he wants their life together to look like, and the same goes for the Kallah!

What is Tanach? It is the long letter that the Ribono Shel Olam wrote to us, the nation he betrothed beneath the upheld mountain of Sinai. In it, the Ribono Shel Olam recollects on all of our shared experiences. Through its pesukim and commentators He reveals to us what He considers to be important and what it is that He wants us to know about Him! When Tanach is taught in this way it becomes such an exhilarating and exciting limud! Each pasuk, every diyuk, is so significant because it is something that the Ribono Shel Olam put there with a specific message for me!

In these words of R’ Tanchuma I found my idea confirmed. Why did Hashem recount the masa’os to us? Because each and every one of these place names signifies to us another aspect of Hashem’s great love for us. It was expressed in Rameses in one way, and in Sukkos in a different one. More and more of these expressions followed in Esam, Pi Hachiros, Marah and Eilim, followed by yet thirty-six more. The love Hashem bears for us is born out so vividly in the tone of His letter to us in this parsha that the Maharal tells us that to read it is more than enough to light a roaring fire beneath us and bring us to serve Hashem with all of our hearts! It is a good feeling to find yourself validated in this way!

Colder Feelings:

Having seen Rashi and its attendant Maharal, it is now time to look up Rashi’s sources. Sefer Mima’amakim quotes the Midrash Tanchuma (Mas’ei 3) in its original form which we present here:

אלה מסעי בני ישראל מלה”ד למלך שהיה בנו חולה הוליכו למקום אחר לרפאותו כיון שהיו חוזרין התחיל אביו מונה כל המסעות ואמר ליה כאן ישננו כאן הוקרנו כאן חששת את ראשך, כך אמר ליה הקדוש ברוך הוא משה מנה להם כל המקומות היכן הכעיסוני לכך נאמר אלה מסעי בני ישראל.

These are the journeys of Bnei Yisroel. This parsha is analogous to the case of a King whose son was sick and He took him to a different place to heal him. Once they were on their way back home his father began to count all of their journeys and he told him “Here we slept, here we were cold, here your head hurt you.” So too did HaKadosh Baruch Hu tell Moshe “Count to them all of the places where they angered me. Thus the pasuk says “These are the journeys of the Bnei Yisroel.”

This reading of the Medrash gives off a very different feel. A cold wind blows over the pages of the chumash as we are made to understand that Rismah refers to the smoldering coals of the spies’ Lashon Hara; that Keheilasah is the place where Korach attempted to lead Klal Yisroel in a revolt against Moshe and Aharon. As we strain our minds further and penetrate to the depths of the rest of the names we shudder twice, thrice and a few times more. We now understand that Almon Divlasuyma is a place where the well of Miriam was concealed – mis’alem – on account of their having separated from the Torah which is sweeter than a cake of dates just oozing honey everywhere – a deveila. We could go on, and anyone who cares to have a look at the Targum Yonasan on these place-names should certainly do so, but for our purposes here that is enough. This is very different from the warm fuzzy take that I received from Rashi and the Gur Aryeh. The language of the Medrash is evocative; the purpose of listing off the masa’os does not seem to be the expression of love that the Gur Aryeh proposed but one of reprimand and rebuke. It is true that mussar can only be given out of true love[1], but there seems to be a different tone in the voice of R’ Tanchuma as he expresses himself in the Medrash. The truth is that perhaps this understanding of the Medrash can help us understand the incident of the Pe’or that straddles the past three Parshiyos. I had always understood that nothing much happened during our thirty eight years in the midbar, nothing much other than learning Torah and dying. In such a context it is incredibly difficult to understand how Klal Yisroel were brought to their knees so quickly! But R’ Tanchuma gives us a different understanding. In his reading of the parsha of the masa’os there were at the very least twenty different incidents during that time in which we angered Hashem! If that is the case then it is much easier to understand what happened at the Pe’or. Having angered Hashem so many times over, we were not necessarily at the zenith of perfection and therefore were far more susceptible targets!

Let us take a moment to listen into Rav Shamshon Refael Hirsch in his introduction to this parshah (Bameidbar 33:2). What he says there is illustrative and can help us understand this medrash far better:

וַיִּכְתֹּ֨ב מֹשֶׁ֜ה אֶת־מוֹצָאֵיהֶ֛ם לְמַסְעֵיהֶ֖ם עַל־פִּ֣י יְקֹוָ֑ק וְאֵ֥לֶּה מַסְעֵיהֶ֖ם לְמוֹצָאֵיהֶֽם:

And Moshe recorded their decampments for their journeys at the command of God, and these are their journeys for their decampments.

The change in the order of the words is certainly not without significance. God Regarded their travels as מוצאיהם למסעיהם, whereas Israel regarded them as מסעיהם למוצאיהם.

The journey and the encampment were always at God’s command (above, 9:17ff. and Commentary there). Whenever God ordered them to break camp, His intention was that they should attain a new goal, and God’s educative guidance would seek out for them a new resting place which was suitable for the attainment of that goal. Each מסע entailed progress; the מסע was the purpose of the מוצא (decampment). Thus, all of their decampments were מוצאיהם למסעיהם.

To the people, it was just the opposite. Wherever they stayed, they were dissatisfied. When the time came to leave a place, for them the decampment was the purpose. It did not matter to them where they were going next; the main thing was to leave the place in which they had been staying. They journeyed forth in order to leave their place of encampment. Thus, all their journeys were מסעיהם למוצאיהם.

In this light it is easy to understand the reason that Hashem commanded Moshe to deliver this mussar lesson to us, precisely as we are poised to enter the land. Here we are, on the threshold of Eretz Yisroel and we can certainly say that this last journey was going to be a מוצאיהם למסעיהם. Perhaps Hashem’s desire here is that we not fool ourselves and rewrite the history of the past thirty-eight years! If we are to get anywhere in life – especially in the new life of Eretz Yisroel which will be fraught with so many challenges in the area of dealing with our physicality – it is imperative that we know who we are and what our past experiences have been.

The Rambam’s Take on Things:

Now it is time for us to learn a little bit of Rambam. In the Moreh Nevuchim (III:50) the Rambam discusses many of the different stories of the Torah whose functions are difficult to understand. One of the Parshiyos that he discusses there is our parsha of the masa’os which he explains as follows:

וממה שצריך שתדעהו, כי אין בחינת הספורים הנכתבים כבחינת הענינים הנראים, כי בענינים הנראים פרטים מביאים לדברים צריכים מאד א”א לזכרם מפני האריכות, וכשיתבונן האדם בספורים ההם יחשוב שיש בהם אריכות או כפל דברים, ואילו היה רואה מה שסופר היה יודע צורך מה שנאמר, ומפני זה כשתראה בתורה ספורים בזולת המצות, ותחשוב שהספור ההוא אין צורך לזכרו או שיש בו אריכות, אינו רק להיותך בלתי רואה הפרטים המביאים לזכור מה שנזכר, ומזה סדר זכר המסעות יראה מפשוטו של ענין שזכר מה שאין תועלת בו כלל, ומפני זאת המחשבה העולה על הלב אמר ויכתוב משה את מוצאיהם למסעיהם ע”פ ה’, ומקום הצורך אליו גדול מאד, מפני שכל המופתים אינם אמתיים רק מי שראם, אך לעתיד ישוב זכרם ספור, ואפשר שיכזיבם השומע, וידוע שאי אפשר להיות וגם לא יצוייר שיהיה מופת עומד קיים לדורות לבני אדם כלם, וממופתי התורה מן הגדולים שבהם, עמוד ישראל במדבר ארבעים שנה והמצא בו המן בכל יום, והמדבר ההוא כמו שזכר הכתוב, נחש שרף ועקרב וצמאון אשר אין מים, והם מקומות רחוקים מאד מן הישוב, בלתי טבעיים לאדם, לא מקום זרע ותאנה וגפן ורמון ומים אין לשתות, ואמר בהם גם כן ארץ לא עבר בה איש ולא ישב אדם שם, וכתוב בתורה לחם לא אכלתם ויין ושכר לא שתיתם, ואלו כלם מופתים גדולים גלוים נראים, וכאשר ידע השם יתעלה שאפשר לפקפק באלו המופתים בעתיד, כמו שמפקפקין בשאר הספורים, ויחשב שעמידתם היתה במדבר קרוב מן הישוב שאפשר לאדם לעמוד בו, (האדם) כאלו המדברות ששוכנים בהם הערביים היום, או שהם מקומות שאפשר לחרוש בהם ולזרוע ולקצור, או להזון באחד הצמחים אשר היו שם, או שמטבע המן לרדת במקומות ההם תמיד, או שיש במקומות ההם בארות מים, ומפני זה הסיר המחשבות ההם כלם, וחזק עניני אלו המופתים כלם בבאור המסעות ההם, שיראו אותם הבאים וידעו גודל המופת, בעמוד מין האדם במקומות ההם ארבעים שנה.

And among the things that you need to know are that there is a great difference between witnessing something personally and reading a written account of the event. When one sees an event transpire his eyes take in all of the details that are necessary to understand the event. These details are so numerous that it is nigh impossible to repeat them verbally due to the great lengthiness of the story! One who contemplates such written stories naturally thinks that the story could have been written much more concisely, or that the writer repeated himself numerous times. It is not so. Had he seen the event transpire he would know exactly why the writer wrote what he did, and the reason why here and there it was necessary to write at length, as well as the purpose behind the seeming repetitions. This being the case, when you see the Torah recount episodes that are not Mitzvos for no apparent reason, or if the story appears to be overly long, know that it only appears that way because you are unable to discern the details that the Torah is trying to communicate to you!

Among these accounts whose knowledge seems to be not at all necessary is the order of our journeys. And because Hashem knows that this thought is likely to run through the minds of his people He said the following pasuk: “And Moshe wrote their decampments for their journeys at Hashem’s command”. The truth however is, that the need for this parshah is truly great, and that is because all of the wonders and signs are only true to the ones who actually saw them. After these people pass on, their visual proofs turn into mere stories, and those accounts fall prey to the great danger of disbelief. Now it is well known that it is impossible nor will it ever be possible that there should be a wondrous sign that will last throughout the generations for all of mankind. Among the greatest of the wondrous signs of the Torah is the fact that Klal Yisroel lived in the desert for forty years and that in that wilderness they found mon to eat each day. The conditions in that desert were exactly as described in the pasuk “Snakes, fiery venomous serpents, scorpions; a parched wasteland where there was no water!” These places are very distant from settled areas, their conditions are unnatural to man. They are not places that can be planted, there are no figs, grapes, or pomegranates there. There is not even any drinkable water. They are said to be places that no man ever passed through nor were they ever settled.[2] Furthermore the Torah writes that “[I led you for forty years…] You did not crave bread, nor did you need to distract yourselves with wine or beer.” You were completely undistracted by physical needs! These were all tremendous and openly visible wonders! Now Hashem knew that with the passage of time it would become possible for people to question these wonders, just as all stories are ultimately questioned. People would promote theories that perhaps we wandered close to the desert’s edge, that they were close to human civilization. They would claim that we stayed within areas which are hospitable to human habitation, much like the deserts which the Arabs inhabit to this day. Or, they might decide that our wanderings were in places that could be cultivated, and that our time in the desert was spent plowing and planting, reaping and harvesting; or that we were sustained by the natural vegetation that grew in the desert; or that the mon fell naturally in those places on a consistent basis; or that there were natural springs there. To forestall all such speculations, and to strengthen the power of these wonders to us[3] Hashem laid out the exact itinerary of those journeys so that the coming generations could see the places we had been and could know for themselves the enormity of the wonders that were necessary to sustain humankind in these places for forty years.

So here we have laid out for us three different ways to understand the purpose for which Hashem recorded the masa’os:

1) Rashi and the Maharal understand that R. Tanchuma uses them to display Hashem’s great love for us by pointing out the significance of the different things that occurred during our stay in the desert.

2) The plain reading of the Medrash Tanchuma, as well as R. Shamshon Refael Hirsch use them to instruct us as to our failings and where we need to make amends.

3) The Rambam understands them to be a means of authenticating the Torah’s account of the wonders that Hashem performed for us in the desert.

Now, I have a problem with the way that Rashi and the Rambam understand this parshah, and that is as follows: These places and the names they were given were surely quite significant to the people who experienced them. Surely not even the passage of many, many years could stop their memories from being jogged by the mere mention of these names. Mention any of them to the people who first left the desert and began settling the land and his or her mind would suddenly flood with images as they were transported directly to that place in the desert. They would palpably relive the passionate feelings of love that they felt flow upon them from Hashem. This would keep the memories of those feelings from fading and so, as far as the first generation is concerned it is a wonderful thing to hear them each year as we lein. Perhaps the same could be said for the second generation who heard these But what about the coming generations? They did not experience those affectionate moments with the Ribono Shel Olam. How will these hints well up the founts of emotion in their hearts? These generations don’t even know where to attach these place names to. How will they be able to visit places which they cannot identify?

The Dangers of Static:

These questions were very bothersome to me, and through an unbelievable stroke of Hashgacha Peratis I came across a mehalech towards answering them as I travelled in the car the other day on a trip to Lakewood. I had with me a recording of one of the shiurim of HaRav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro zt”l and as always it was truly an incredible experience listening to his Torah. In this shiur he asked the following question on the pasuk that we say during the Shabbos day kiddush.

כִּ֣י שֵֽׁשֶׁת־יָמִים֩ עָשָׂ֨ה יְקֹוָ֜ק אֶת־הַשָּׁמַ֣יִם וְאֶת־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֶת־הַיָּם֙ וְאֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁר־בָּ֔ם וַיָּ֖נַח בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֑י עַל־כֵּ֗ן בֵּרַ֧ךְ יְקֹוָ֛ק אֶת־י֥וֹם הַשַּׁבָּ֖ת וַֽיְקַדְּשֵֽׁהוּ:

For [in] six days Hashem created the Heavens and the Earth, the sea and all that is in them and He rested on the seventh day, therefore Hashem made the day of Shabbos the source of blessing[4] and He sanctified it.

You will notice that the second word of the pasuk is ששת and literally should be translated “for six days Hashem created the world”. Rav Moshe zt”l asked the question that we patched in with brackets. Why does the pasuk not read כי בששת ימים עשה ה’? In his answer which was both deep and profound, my eyes were opened to an essential truth which can hopefully assist us in our parshah of Masei. He explained the pasuk to be saying as follows. “For [as a unit of] six days Hashem created the Heavens and the Earth… and He rested on the seventh day…” This world was created with two discrete conceptual units of time. There are on the one hand the six days of Creation. These days are transient, one flows into the next and so on and so forth. One after another they lead us towards a very specific destination, that is the Seventh day, Shabbos the day of rest. That day is not transient at all. Of course, in this world it passes as does everything else, but unlike the sixth day that led into it, Shabbos does not lead into the first day of the next week. It is simply a destination, a microcosm of the purpose of the entire world. A similar concept exists with the Mitzvos of Shemittah and Yovel. Seven Shemittah cycles of forty-nine years bring us to their own end-destination, that is the Yovel year. This is the way that the Ribono Shel Olam created His world, in a way where many units of transience lead up to a permanence. But that permanence does not end there. It simply positions me in the right place to step on the next escalator of transience which in turn lands me on yet another platform of permanence and so on and so forth. Life in Olam Hazeh is thus meant to be a perpetual journey of movement, and nothing could be worse than to hit a patch of static ice in which one is not accomplishing any growth.

Upon hearing this, something in my head clicked. I went back to the website to see what I had said in previous years on Parshas Masei and found there a shiur from two years ago in which I had elaborated upon a statement of the Ramban. In that shiur we were very bothered by the presence of two seemingly interjected Parshiyos that pop up just as we are settling down into the narrative of Klal Yisroel’s vendetta against Midian. There was the parshah of the Musafim at the end of Parshas Pinchas. There was the parsha of Nedarim at the beginning of Parshas Matos along with its close cousin, the parsha of the Shevua. In that shiur we explained a very important yesod which will help us out here as well. That yesod is this fact that life in the Midbar was in a way far closer to the ideal than the life which we would live in Eretz Yisroel. In the Midbar we were in the very close and intimate environs of the Shechina’s presence! The first thing we saw each morning upon opening our eyes was the Anan resting upon the Mishkan! The big question each morning was not whether I would be going to the Mishkan to hear the Levi’im sing and to watch the Avodah. That was a given! The only question was whether there was anything that I needed to take care of that might cause me to have to miss watching a part of the Avodah! In the Midbar there was no such thing as simply pulling out a grill and firing up some fleishigs for dinner! Basar taavah was forbidden. If I wanted to put some distance between myself and milchigs there was nothing for it but to bring a korban shelamim to the Mishkan and make the beracha of Al achilas zevach! It was impossible to escape the scent of the korbanos emanating from the fires of the Mizbeach and the sweet melodies of the Levi’im permeated the air all around.

All this was a constant feature in the life of every Yid – so long as they lived in the Midbar. Once we began settling the land we would no longer be in such intimate confines with the Ribono shel Olam! How would we manage? In a world that is so overwhelmingly physical who would keep us from getting sucked into it all? On the very doorstep of Eretz Yisroel, Hashem sent us these Parshiyos to provide us the tools we would need to handle all of this physicality. We explained there that Nedarim help us to put a little bit of space between ourselves and all pleasures physical. Shevu’os remind us that we are standing in the presence of the King constantly! Last but not least, the Musafim allowed us to connect to the Mishkan from long distance, by learning about the korbanos that are currently being offered up in the Mishkan or Beis Hamikdash.

With this knowledge now in our heads let us head back to the parsha of the masa’os. We wanted to know why it was that Hashem recorded them and what exactly they are supposed to mean to outsiders such as ourselves. With Rav Moshe Shmuel’s yesod in hand we can understand the following:

Life, as we have said before, is meant to be an ever extending upward spiral of growth. In the Mishkan this was easy to accomplish. Everything was facilitated for me to grow, and lest we grow too complacent and sedentary in our lifestyle, on average we were picked up and moved to a new spot once a year (save for the nineteen years spent in Kadesh)! That facilitated growth and movement would be coming to an abrupt halt upon our entry into Eretz Yisroel! Once we entered the land, we would be confronted with the new life of first conquering and then settling and building up the land of Eretz Yisroel. There we would encounter conditions of Menucha and of Nachalah. These present a grave danger! It is all too easy to settle into life beneath the Fig Tree and the Grape Vine, to become at home in the state of static. Though Yovel is a built in safeguard to this, telling me as it does precisely when rov yoshveha are aleha that this land is not mine, that כי לי הארץ כי גרים ותושבים אתם עמדי, the land belongs to Hashem and He apportions it as his will, we must deal with the fact that ultimately the Mitzvah of Yovel did not work for us in this way! What then can we give Klal Yisroel that will rescue them from this new menace of complacency?

Enter the masa’os. Reading through them we can see how we were constantly moving in the Desert, and we can remind ourselves that movement, nonstop and incessant is what life is all about! We wondered how the expressions of love revealed in these pesukim talk to us? Perhaps we can suggest that although we may have difficulty initially in tapping into this well-font of love, once we take it at the level that does talk to us – namely as a map that details to us this fact that life is about movement, not static – we will be able to merit hearing the loving voice in which that pasuk speaks! Thus we understand a new purpose for the masa’os. They are presented here to prepare us for the life we will soon enjoy upon entering into Eretz Yisroel. Their very presence beckons to us, shaking us out of the complacent revery of the shade beneath the Fig Tree and the Grape Vine. Grabbing us by the lapel they shout in our collective ear: “Get up! Do something about life! Don’t just sit there and nosh on the fruit. Accomplish! Grow! Move on to the next stage in this great dance called life!”

  1. Perhaps we could try to suggest just such an intersection between Rashi and the Medrash. It is important to note that this Medrash is the source for Rashi’s comment here. As such it would be troubling indeed to say that Rashi is suggesting an entirely different understanding of the parshah than that of R. Tanchuma and such an intersection might very well be called for [ZB]
  2. Yirmiyahu 2:6. See Berachos 31a and Sotah 46b where this pasuk is expounded to mean that only those lands which Adam determined would be settled ever were. Thus because the man, that is Adam, never decreed that these places be settled, no man ever had reason to step foot in this desert. Consequently no one ever did. Klal Yisrael were the first to ever traverse this particular piece of real estate. (Maharsha to Sotah 46b)
  3. By allowing us to physically visit those places and see where
  4. See Ramban Bereishis 2:1