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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Masei

JOURNEYS

Rabbi Stewart WeissTammuz 29 5776
164
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It has been a wild ride, to say the least. The Jewish People’s journey through the desert, as catalogued in Sefer Bamidbar, has encapsulated some of the highest highs and the lowest lows of our entire history.

On the positive side, we manage to overcome all the myriad challenges that desert travel can entail: Thirst, famine, the cruel elements, war. Hashem protects us with loving care. We live miraculous lives, eating the amazing Mahn, drinking from a moveable spring; learning from Moshe himself as we move, accompanied by a pillar of cloud by day and one of fire by night. We defeat any and all foes, from Moav to Midian to Sichon and Og the Giant.

Yet all is not peaches and cream (even with the Mahn!). We will quarrel mightily along the way, angering both Moshe and Hashem. Aharon and Miriam will die, and an internal rebellion against Moshe’s leadership will have to be brutally quashed. Most tragic of all, the dream of entering
Eretz Yisrael will have to be denied or deferred for the nation, most of who will end up perishing in the desert.

The journeys of Masei are as exhausting as they are exhilarating. But they have a special message for us. I believe that every Parsha in the Torah – not just Yetziat Mitzrayim, the Exodus – is meant to be experienced as well as examined, and so I suggest the following exercise:

Find a quiet, comfortable place to relax. Close your eyes and mentally begin the journey of your life. Start as far back as your mind will take you, to your very earliest childhood. Visit your home, your school, your friends and relatives. Then move on, slowly, to the seminal
experiences of your life: Your happiest moments and your greatest achievements, the places you loved to visit, all the things that stand out as blessed mileposts along your personal journey.

But don’t leave out the rocky roads, either. The moments that made you sad, the loved ones lost along the way; the times you came up short rather than prevailed, the opportunities missed and the tests you failed. Yes, these can be painful memories, but they may actually be the most emotive and character-shaping of all your journeys.

Through it all, try to remember: You were never completely alone. You had lots of help from fellow travelers and those who loved you.

The last word in Bamidbar is "Yericho," Jericho. But the letters of this word can be re-arranged to spell "Ruach Hashem," the spirit of G-d. Perhaps it is G-d's code reminding us that He was - and always will - be our travel partner.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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