The reading of the book of Bamidbar concludes this week with the parshiyot of Matot and Masei. Jews are inveterate travelers. The long exile that we have suffered has of necessity forced us to travel a great deal. There is almost no place in the world that we have not visited, settled and eventually moved from to a different location. Thus the recording of all of the travels and way stations that the Jews experienced in their years in the Sinai desert is a small prophecy as to the future historical experiences of Jews over millennia of wandering.
The world of our enemies has always accused Jews of being "rootless." But that is untrue since we have always been rooted in the Land of Israel, consciously or subconsciously, during our entire history as a people. It is in the Exile that we are rootless, never certain of the shifting ground that lies under our weary feet. Thus we are always a restless people filled with curiosity over locations that we have not as yet seen and wonders that we have as not as yet experienced.
The history of the Exile is that Jews arrive at a new destination, settle there, help develop that country or part of the world, begin to feel at home there and attempt to assimilate into the majority culture and society. Suddenly all of this collapses. A mighty and unforeseen wind uproots them after centuries of living there and they move on to new shores.
There are no more Jews in numbers sufficient to speak of in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, etc. This was the Jewish heartland for centuries. But now we have moved on again to other shores.
All of the travels and way stations described in this week’s parsha had only one ultimate goal and destination in mind - entry into the Land of Israel and settlement there. The Israel deniers in our midst, religious and secular, leftists and rightists, academics and almost illiterate (certainly in Jewish history) all share a common delusion - that the home of Jews is somehow not necessarily, and certainly not now in the present, in the Land of Israel.
We are taught that the Jews stayed at the oasis of Kadesh in the desert for thirty eight of their forty year sojourn in the Sinai desert. They became accustomed to living there and felt comfortable there. The Land of Israel was a far off dream and goal of theirs but not an immediate imperative. But the Lord pushed them out of the desert to fight wars that they probably would have wished to avoid and to settle a land, harsh in character but with the potential of being one of milk and honey.
Every way station and desert oasis is recorded for us in this week’s parsha in order to remind us that these places exist only in our past, but that our present and future lie only in the Land of Israel. The lessons of this parsha are as valid to us today in our Jewish world as they were to our ancestors long ago at Kadesh