At the beginning of this week’s Sedra the Torah tells us of each and every one of Klal-Yisroel’s forty two encampments in the Midbar. The Minhag is that we glorify the majority of these travels by reading them with a special tune just as we do for the Shiras Hayam. Rashi explains that Hashem felt it necessary to retell of all these travels because He cherished them; Rashi offers the following analogy to explain further: There was once a King who had a son who was sick. In order to cure him it was nescesary to travel to a far away land. Only there did the doctors have the special knowledge and skills to heal him. Once they were on their way back, the King began to recount to his son all the stops they had made on the way to cure him and why they were nescesary, and what they did at each one. So too Hashem wanted to remind us of what had occurred to us and what we did at each stop as He was bringing us to our final destination of Eretz-Yisroel.
While superficially this mashal-nimshal seems to make sense, it also raises some questions. In our Parsha’s recounting of Klal-Yisroel’s journeys the Torah doesn’t for the most part tell us of what happened at most of their stops. Only here and there does the Torah mention briefly something of what happened. Furthermore, in the mushel mentioned above, the king and his son were on their way back passing through once again each and every one of those same places. Here in our Parsha they weren’t returning to where they came from, but rather going forward to Eretz Yisroel.
Hakadosh Baruch Hu had told Avrohom Avinu that his children would inherit and have Eretz-Yisroel as their own. Avrohom Avinu questioned Hashem: “Bameh Aidoh” (“how, through what will I know this to be so”). Hashem answered him that his descendants would first be slaves in a foreign land. Evidently it seemed as if Klal-Yisroel had started off in Eretz-Yisroel, but that in order eventually to possess the Land as their own they needed to somehow deserve it. Thus Avrohom Avinu asked Hashem: how will I know that they will for certain deserve it? Hashem therefore told Avrohom Avinu that they would not inherit it and receive it easily, but rather that they would first earn the right to Eretz-Yisroel.
In essence, the whole time Klal-Yisroel was in the Midbar they were really on their way back, but while on this way back they were also adding the final touches to being deservant of Eretz-Yisroel.
While we might have accounted for the way back issue, the mashal-nimshal has only been complicated further as Rashi is explaining why the Torah is repeating briefly now not during their actual travels back to Eretz-Yisroel. We are still are unclear as to what Rashi means: why were all these stops dear to Hashem?
My Rosh Yeshiva, Hagaon Reb Eli Dov Wachtfogel Shlita, mentions every year during the Bein-Hamaitzarim the following idea. He explains that while we cannot understand the reasons for every Churban nor for every move Klal-Yisroel has made there is still an observational ultimate good element that comes out of every Churban Am-Yisroel has unfortunately undergone. In every Churban that we have gone through there was some sort of negative element of Klal-Yisroel that was removed in its totality.
We live today in a world full of Torah and religious Jews. We live in a generation in which there are more Lomdei Torah (not only in actual numbers but also percentage wise) than in any other generation. This is because those members of Klal-Yisroel that survived unblemished are only the ones who so strongly cleaved to the Torah and Mitzvos no matter what element tried to pull them away. Those returning to the Torah now are also only those who have pulled themselves back to cleave strongly to the Torah as well.
Perhaps this is really the idea that Rashi is bringing out. What matters is not so much which journeys and at what point in time Klal-Yisroel made these journeys, but that all the journeys that Klal-Yisroel took and are taking are all al Pi Hashem and all are steps that we are taking towards the ultimate Geula.
May it be Hashem’s Will that we have already taken that last journey and that we are already deservant at the Geula. Please may it be Hashem’s Ratzon that we stand now at the threshold of the Geula, and we will receive Eretz-Yisroel and the Beis-Hamikdosh once and for all. May this Tzom Hachamishi be a full Yom-Tov.
This week’s Sedra starts with Moshe Rabeinu’s recounting of the travels and encampments of Klal-Yisroel during their time in the Midbar. The first Passuk of the Sedra states: “these are the journeys of Klal-Yisroel when they left Mitzraim under the hand of Moshe and Aharon”. The next Passuk states: “and Moshe wrote their goings forth according to their journeys at the bidding of Hashem”. The Mefarshim (see Iban Ezra; see also Baal Haturim and Sephorno) explain that the Passuk means that they traveled following Hashem – that Hashem would cause the Ananei-HaKavod (clouds of glory) to move and Klal-Yisroel would pick up and follow.
There is an interesting contrast here: the Torah first tells us that they travelled under the hand of – in other words, following — Moshe and Aharon, and yet in the next Passuk it seems to place all the emphasis of their travels as being travelling in the footsteps of Hashem. There is another difference between the first Passuk and the second. In the first Passuk it attributes Yetzias Mitzraim (the exodus from Egypt) as being in the hands of Moshe and Aharon, however in the next Passuk the reference to the exodus is omitted. Why is it that when the Passuk refers to Yetzias Mitzraim it is ביד משה ואהרן whereas when the Passuk talks about our following Hashem there is no mention of Yetzias Mitzraim?
In the first Haftorah of the Tlasa Depuranusa (the Three Weeks) Hashem tells Yermiyahu Hanavi to tell Klal-Yisroel that Hashem remembers the Chesed of our youth and the love from when we were united with Hashem – how we followed after Him in the Midbar, in a desolate land. Yirmiyahu Hanavi is not asked to tell Klal-Yisroel anything about our leaving Egypt.
Hashem took us out of Mitzraim the same way He led us through the Midbar. However, we did not leave Mitzraim following Hashem in the same way as we did throughout the Midbar. The exodus wasn’t a choice. After Hashem brought upon Mitzraim all the Makos (plagues) the Egyptians didn’t want us around – the Egyptians wanted us out. Moshe and Aharon, through the Makos and the final period in Egypt had proven themselves as leaders. As such Klal-Yisroel chose to follow Moshe and Aharon out of Egypt. However once out of Egypt Klal-Yisroel could have done the most logical thing: they could have insisted on finding the closest livable area outside of Egypt and set up their homes. Even had Klal-Yisroel for some reason desired to go to Eretz-Yisroel they could have drawn a straight line from Egypt to Israel and thereby gotten to their ultimate destination in a very short time. In either of these situations they most likely would have turned to Moshe and Aharon for leadership. Klal-Yisroel however decided that no – they would follow Hashem throughout the Midbar even if it meant traveling in circles or taking detour after detour.
The first Passuk in the Parsha starts with Yetzias-Mitzraim. Yetzias Mitzraim demonstrated Klal-Yisroel’s ability to recognize Moshe and Aharon as leaders. The second Passuk deals with Klal-Yisroel in the Midbar staying true to Hashem and following Hashem even if it was in circles.
The Divrei Chizuk (words of encouragement) Hashem instructed Yirmiyahu Hanavi to relay to us contains two important lessons: firstly that Klal-Yisroel didn’t settle for anything short of Eretz-Yisroel no matter how convenient any other locale might have been. Secondly, and equally as important as the first, Eretz-Yisroel isn’t something that necessarily comes easily. Rather, it is something that must come through adhering to Hashem no matter how difficult it may seem. We must merit Eretz-Yisroel and work towards it על פי ה even if at times doing so might seem counterproductive just as Klal-Yisroel following Hashem in what seemed in the Midbar like roundabout ways leading nowhere.