Friday, July 29, 2011


Written by Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

"These are the journeys of the Children of Israel" [Masei 33:1]
אֵלֶּה מַסְעֵי בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

This verse alludes to the four exiles that the Jewish nation would endure:

אֵלֶּה - Eileh - Edom [Rome]
מַסְעֵי - Masei - Madai and Paras [Medes and Persia]
בְנֵי - Bnei - Bavel [Babylonia]
יִשְׂרָאֵל - Yisrael - Yavan [Greece]

Why, asks Rashi, was it necessary to enumerate all of the different journeys?

To answer this question, Rashi quotes the words of the Midrash Tanchuma: "This can be compared to the case of a king whose son was ill and he took him to a distant place to cure him. Once they started back, his father began to enumerate all the stages [of their journey] saying to [his son]: "Here we slept. Here we felt cold. Here you had a headache, etc."

What is the nimshal [the application] of this parable? asked the Imrei Emes [R' Avraham Mordechai of Gur]. Is the Torah merely telling us that the Jews rested or cooled themselves in these places? Isn't it obvious that they had to do these things? What, then, is the Midrash coming to teach us by listing the places where they slept or felt cold?

These verses and Chazal's parable, answered the Rebbe, have deep meaning and contain hidden admonishments.

"Here we slept" - this is an allusion to the time of the Giving of the Torah. For on that monumental morning when the Torah was to be given, the Jewish nation overslept.

"Here we felt cold" - this alludes to when Amalek "cooled down" the Jewish nation's enthusiasm for serving Hashem, as the verse states "That he happened [karcha, "made you cold"] upon you on the way" [Devarim 25:18]

"Here you had a headache [chashasta es roshecha]" - this is an allusion to the sin of the Golden Calf, when the Jewish people had uncertainties [chashashos] regarding the whereabouts of their leader [rosh] Moshe Rabbeinu.

This is why, concluded the Rebbe, the Torah specified each journey, in order that the Jewish nation should remember what transpired at each place and repent wholeheartedly.

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