Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Mattot-Massei

“These are the journeys of the people of Israel” Numbers 33:1

     As we end the book of Bemidbar, the Torah presents us with a list of Israel’s journeys on their way in the desert. At first glance the list appears exhausting, representative of the 40 years of hunger, danger, rebellion and punishment. 


    Rashi, however, provides a different picture: “Why were these encampments recorded?  To indicate God’s great compassion. Do not think that they were in constant motion from one encampment to the next for the entire 40-year period and had no respite whatsoever.  In fact, there are only 42  encampments listed here.”


    Rashi goes on to point out that 14 of the journeys took place in the first year and the final eight took place in the 40th year. He concludes: “Thus, over the course of 38 years, there were only a total of 20 encampments [42–14–8 = 20]”.  


    Many read the book as one of endless catastrophe with the narratives of the people’s greed, the spies and Korah’s rebellion, among others, marring the journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in Israel.


    Rashi’s insight dramatically challenges this approach. True, tragic episodes occurred. But considering the book as taking place over the span of 40 years, these episodes were in fact relatively rare. 


    As Jeremiah tells it, when God looks back on the desert experience, He says to Israel, “I remember the kindness of your youth, your bridal love, how you followed Me in the desert, in a land unsown. “


    Bemidbar should thus be viewed as a period of harmony and intimacy. There is a wider lesson here too: the Jewish world can at times fill one with despair. If we take a few steps back however, consider the wider picture, then like the prophet Balaam, we might just say, “How goodly are your tents O Israel”.
     

Sidrah

Yom Kippur

Rabbi Joseph Wolfson

Friday, September 29, 2017

Yom Kippur
Sidrah

Emor

Rabbi Joseph Wolfson

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Emor
Sidrah

Va'era

Rabbi Joseph Wolfson

Friday, January 27, 2017

Va'era
Sidrah

Shoftim

Rabbi Joseph Wolfson

Friday, August 25, 2017

Shoftim
Sidrah

Tzav

Rabbi Joseph Wolfson

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Tzav
Sidrah

Vayeshev

Rabbi Joseph Wolfson

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Vayeshev
Sidrah

Shelach Lecha

Rabbi Joseph Wolfson

Friday, June 16, 2017

Shelach Lecha
Sidrah

Terumah

Rabbi Joseph Wolfson

Monday, March 6, 2017

Terumah
Features

You don't have to be frum to study Torah

Rabbi Joseph Wolfson

Thursday, May 21, 2015

You don't have to be frum to study Torah