(33:1) “Ayleh MasseyBenei Yisroel-These are the journeys of the children of Israel.”
Why is the name of this weeks Parsha called Massey, which refers to the traveling, when what the Torah really describes here is the camps that were set up? Also in the very second posuk (33:2) it says “Vayichtov Moshe es-Moitzaeyhem Le’Maseyhem Al-Pi Hashem V’Ayleh Maseyhem L’Motzaeyhem- And Moshe wrote their goings forth according to their journeys at the bidding of Hashem and these were the journeys according to the goings fourth.” Why is the order of their travels reversed from the way it appears in the beginning? The Ohr Hachaim writes that the going fourth was for a purpose. It was meant for Yisroel to seek out sparks of Kiddusha that are trapped in a shell of tumeh that make their home in the Midbar. It is the mission of Klal Yisroel to release them from this source by traveling through such places and acting as a magnet of Kiddusah to bring them back to their rightful place. According to the Zohar these sparks could be captured only while actively journeying not while they were encamped. Therefore it was the travels that the Torah mentions not the stops.
According to this we can understand why the Torah wrote “their goings forth according to their journeys” They were going away from the physicality of their experience in Mitzraim and towards the spirituality of their journeys which was gathering in Kiddusha. R.Bachya sees the reverse repetition of this phrase as an allusion to the future redemption. What this means is that in the future it will be our “journeys according to the goings fourth”. The journeys ie. the long Golus, will be what will bring us to the eventual redemption. This is why according to the Megaleh Amukos the Roshe Tevei of the first words of the parsha represents the four exiles we have endured. Ayleh Massey Beni Yisroel. Alef- Edom, Mem –Modai, Beis – Bavel, Yud – Yovan.
(33:2) “Vatichtov Moshe...Al Pi Hashem-Moshe wrote ...At the bidding of Hashem.”What precisely did the Torah want to teach us here? Why do we need to be told that Moshe recorded these departures, Moshe wrote the entire Torah? According to the Ohr Hachaim it appears that the Torah wanted to inform us that Moshe did not record all these journeys on a single day, but that he recorded them as they occurred. He began recording when he was instructed to make Yisroel leave Egypt. He took notes of each departure and every encampment. Here Hashem told Moshe to include these private notes he had made in the Torah in the order he had previously recorded them. What the Torah describes here is a copy of all the notations made by Moshe throughout all these years.
What was the purpose of recording all of these journeys? Perhaps it was to make Jews aware of how temporary any dwelling outside of Israel really is. To be a Jew is to be on a journey. That is how the Jewish story began when Avraham first heard the words “Lech Lecha”to leave where he was and to travel “to the land I will show you”. Every journey was to grow, to change. We are all on a journey. Without the journey, we do not grow. And life is growth. There is no way to avoid challenge and change. Life is a journey, not a destination. We should constantly set ourselves new challenges that take us closer to our goal.
(33:4) “U’Mitzrayim M’Kabrim-The Egyptians were burying” Why does the Torah need to mention this fact? This day designated the start of a new era, the era of the Weiss nation. Likewise the Egyptians had reached the end of their era. Thus burying their dead.
The parsha lists forty two journeys that Klal Yisroel traveled in the Midbar. On the surface the number 42 doesn’t seem to have any special significance. But as it says in Devarim “Lo Davar Rake Mikem –The Torah is not an empty pursuit from you.” Meaning if there is something we cannot understand it is from you, our deficiency not the Torah’s. The number forty two corresponds to the forty two letter name of Hashem. We also say a special tefilah “Anah Bekoach” which is said before going up in Kiddusha. This tefilah has seven lines each containing six words. Forty two is “Mem Beis” which stands for Masseh Bereishis which the forty two letter name of Hashem is derived from. Also this parsha is considered the end of the Torah since Devarim is really referred to as Mishneh Torah (repeating of the Torah). It therefore comes out that the Torah begins with the letter Beis and the last parsha begins with a mem together equaling 42.
The Sefas Emes writes that in reality there were fifty journeys if you include the eight journeys backward that Klal Yisroel made when Aharon died. He then explains that the purpose of all these travels was to raise the nation from the fifty levels of Tumeh they were sunk into back in Mitzrayim Each journey elevating them another level. We can say the same with regard to Shabbos. In the lunar calendar there are fifty Shabbosim. Each Shabbos raises the spiritual level of the nation.
The two tribes, Reuven and Gad wanted to take their inheritance on the eastern side of the Jordan River. But we also see that half of the Shevet Menashe was also given this area as a Yerusha? Why were they given this area? They had not been the ones who requested it in last weeks parsha? Also why half of the tribe? It would seem that the Shevet Menashe were Talmidei Chachomim and that their presence was required for the sake of the other two tribes who needed to be close to a source of Kiddusha. The reason why only half of the tribe was sent there was because of an old debt that had to be repaid. When Yosef's son Menashe pursued the Tribes to demand back the goblet his father had planted there, he became the direct cause of the brothers' rending their clothes. Middah-Kineged-Middah (measure for measure) his portion was torn in half. Half of his inheritance was in Eretz Yisroel and the other half on the eastern side of the Jordan. In the future all the tribes will be in possession of a portion in Eretz Yisroel proper for Trans Jordan will be Eretz Yisroel proper.
Why these two tribes chose to settle in a land less holy than Eretz Yisroel can perhaps be traced back to their spiritual roots. When was conceived his father Yakov thought he was joining with Rachel and his thoughts were to father his firstborn Yosef. But he was tricked by Lavan. This slight blemish became the spiritual seeds of his son Reuvein. Gad, as well was conceived with a slight spiritual blemish. When his mother Leah thought she had stopped giving birth, she gave her handmaid Zilpah to Yakov. Later on we find that she once again gave birth to another tribe. Had Gad been conceived by Leah there would have been enough spiritual might to have conquered Amalek. We see that Leah had the power of prayer and was able to overcome Essav. When she was younger people said that The elder daughter of Lavan was destined to marry the elder son of Yitzchok. She prayed not to fall into his hands and her prayers were able to overcome Essav.
We find at the end of this weeks parsha the Mitzvah of Aray Miklot, cities of refuge that were created for Benei Yisroel. Of the six cities half of them were to be placed in the territories of the two and a half tribes on the eastern side of the Jordan. It would seem that their separation from the Kiddusha of the rest of Yisroel caused them to have a greater incidence of murder in their midst. But there is a deeper understanding to this. When Benei Reuvein and Benei Gad agreed to fight along side the rest of Klal Yisroel they volunteered to remain even until the lands were divided to the nine and a half tribes a period of an extra seven years that Moshe never requested. This means that for fourteen years the children of these two tribes grew up without a father. This created many children at risk and was the cause of much bloodshed on the other side of the Jordan and the subsequent need for the additional Aray Miklot.
The last Mitzvah in sefer Bamidbar is the Mitzvah of driving out the residing gentile nations of the land. The Torah warns that if you do not remove them they will constantly be a thorn in your eyes. This was a lesson never learned, as we see today, much of the non-Jewish element in the land of Israel is far more than a mere thorn in our eyes.
Chazak, Chazak V'nischazek