In the last portion of the book of Bamidbar (Numbers) we read of the 42 stations in the wandering of the people of Israel in the wilderness until their arrival at the gates of the land of Israel.
“These are the journeys of the children of Israel who left the land of Egypt in their legions, under the charge of Moshe and Aaron. Moshe recorded from their starting points for their journeys ( motza-eyhem lemasa-eyem) according to the word of Hashem, and these were their journeys to their starting points.-masa-eyem lemotza-eyhem” (Numbers 33:1).
The Baal Shem Tov explains that the words in the verse “These are the journeys of the children of Israel…(ibid 1)” teaches us that ” These forty-two “stations” from Egypt to the land of Israel are replayed in the life of every individual Jew, as his soul journeys from its birth into the physical world until it returns to its heavenly beginnings.
The wording in the verse is very unusual ” Moshe recorded from their starting points for their journeys according to the word of Hashem, and these were their journeys to their starting points.” .”(ibid 33:2). First motza-eyhem lemasa-eyem (from their starting points for their journeys )and then masa-eyem lemotza-eyhem (their journeys to their starting points ) ” Why the repetition of the idea and why the reverse order?
The words “motza-eyhem lemasa-eyem(from their starting points for their journeys )” teaches us that we need to remember where we came from and what we have experienced. Our past is our guide. The Baal Shem Tov taught that ““Forgetfulness leads to exile. Memory is the source of redemption”.
While the final words “masa-eyem lemotza-eyhem-and these were their journeys to their starting points” reminds us that we must always be aware and directed towards our primary destiny and original goal. Why we began our journey.
Yet what is most critical to understand, is that in all these movements from station to station, each one of these Journeys were ” according to the word of Hashem”.(Numbers 33:2). As we read earlier in the Biblical text describing the journey through the desert
“So it was continuously; the cloud would cover it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. Whenever the cloud was lifted from over the tent, afterward the sons of Israel would then set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the sons of Israel would camp. At the command of Hashem the sons of Israel would set out, and at the command of Hashem they would camp; as long as the cloud settled over the tabernacle, they remained camped.…( Numbers 9:16-18)
When the cloud would begin to move so did the people of Israel. If “It” left, they just left. If “It” stopped they simply stopped. The “cloud’s movement” represented the palpable presence and impact of Hashem in reality. When that Presence was on the move the people felt compelled to do so as well.
There are many in the world who are aware of G-d’s Presence in the world but they are waiting.
They are waiting for solutions and easy results.
They are waiting for end results of Destiny to simply appear.
Yet for some time now, it has been clear that Hashem is clearly “on the move”. The world is being thrown into turmoil and uncertainty while the land of Promise is being replenished and nourished. Every nation that has attempted to come against what has been the promised direction of Hashem’s plan, has found itself mired in turmoil and confusion.
The question then, is what must be done. The message from the Torah portion is that if the cloud begins to move then so do we. Our brothers and sisters cannot wait for destiny to unfold without stepping in to seize them. In the journey of our people, Lakewood , Boro Park and Gateshead are only pit stops in a long journey.
It is as Hashem says to Moshe at the foot of Mount Sinai. “You have circled this mountain long enough ;”( Deuteronomy 2:3).
Go forward and seize the destiny.
LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved