Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
  LifeLine
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Matos-Masei

by Rabbi Yaakov Menken


We conclude the reading of Bamdibar [Numbers] with the portion called "Masei", meaning travels or journeys. This reading begins with an enumeration of the various stops that Israel made between Egypt and the Land of Israel during 40 years in the desert.

Many commentators discuss why the travels are all listed here, especially because the trips are also recorded in the Torah at the appropriate places. Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki) and the Ramban (Nachmanides) both offer an interesting insight from the Medrash: this list displays G-d's kindnesses towards Israel.

Following of the episode of the spies, G-d Decreed that Israel should wander for 40 years in the desert. A pillar of cloud led them during the day, and a pillar of fire at night, whenever G-d Commanded them to move. We might have a mental image of a group forced to wander across the hot desert, stumbling from place to place, offered little rest until, at long last, the entire first generation had passed away after 40 years.

Rashi demonstrates with a simple bit of subtraction that this image is incorrect. The total count of the journeys is 42. Take off the first 14 from this number, which were all made during the first year before the spies were sent into the Land of Israel. Also subtract the final 8, which occurred during the last year, following the death of Aharon, as Israel once again moved forward to occupy its homeland. We then realize that the intervening 38-year period was marked by only 20 moves, with an average of nearly two years between trips. This, then, provides an example of how even an evil decree is tempered by G-d's kindness.

The Ramban also quotes the Rambam [Maimonides] in his Guide to the Perplexed. The Rambam indicates that there is a "great need" to recount the journeys, because of the Manna that the Jews ate in the desert. He says that people could have thought the Jews wandered searching for food, and stopped in "a place where people go, like those deserts which the Arabs settle today." The Torah describes the locations, he writes, in order that future generations could go and see for themselves that these places were not fit for agriculture or even basic survival.

This struck me as a practical lesson in "the more things change, the more they stay the same." In our era, people consider it a sign of modernity and sophistication not to believe in miracles. I still enjoy recalling the correspondence I received early in my Internet ventures, offering the theory that the Manna was actually a hallucinogenic mushroom, and the Israelites simply dreamed all their experiences. Maimonides dealt with the issue some 700 years ago -- and asserts that the Torah predicted it several millennia before. In the words of our wisest Sage [King Solomon in Koheles, Ecclesiastes], "there's nothing new under the sun!"

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Yaakov Menken


Text Copyright © 2002 Project Genesis, Inc.

The author is the Director of Project Genesis.


 






ARTICLES ON DEVARIM AND THE THREE WEEKS:

View Complete List

Payment in Full
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5769

So Much to Say
Shlomo Katz - 5761

Rebuilding the Temple
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5768

> By The Rivers of Babylon...
Shlomo Katz - 5759

The Three Weeks: What Are We Trying to Achieve?
Rabbi Naphtali Hoff - 5768

The Bobover Rebbe Zt"l
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5760

ArtScroll

Because of Us, not Through Us
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5770

Kamtza and Bar-Kamtza
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5758

The Eye Generation
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5763

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Points to Ponder
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5757

Only the Shadow Knows
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5764

A Judgement Call
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

It's Not What You Want - But How You Ask
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5759

In a Month We Call -“Av”
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765

Wise Rebuke
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5758

Golden Opportunities
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5772



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information