Parashat Masei // “The Marches”

- ע ר י -

What is the significance of the places and tribulations a person goes through along their journey?

A recap of Israel’s journey from their exodus to the final station before the Promised Land

“These are the journeys of the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt with their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron…And they departed from before Pihahiroth, and passed through the midst of the sea into the wilderness, and went three days’ journey in the wilderness of Etham, and pitched in Marah. And they removed from Marah, and came unto Elim: and in Elim were twelve fountains of water, and threescore and ten palm trees; and they pitched there. And they removed from Elim, and encamped by the Red sea” Numbers 33:8 – 10

  • The Torah deliberately enumerates Israel’s travels and stations across the desert. The Israelites have gone through different spiritual stages throughout their wanderings. At Marah (מרה, lit. “bitter”), for example, they were in a dire state; at Mithkah (מתקה, lit. “sweet”), on the other hand, they were in a better state. Indeed, many lessons are found in the hidden meaning of the stations. A person’s fate is defined exclusively by their behavior. We must all learn from every situation and not forget to arrive at the right conclusions. Reflection on the past is the key to constant improvement. God wants the Israelites to remember the hardships of the desert – where they awakened His wrath, where they sinned, where they sanctified Him. This is why the names given to each station are imbued with the lessons we must learn from each of them. The journey itself is what gives our lives meaning.

God requires that the Israelites establish refuge cities for sinners

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan; Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares. And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment” Numbers 35:28

  • Refuge cities are protected places to which those who have unintentionally killed a person can flee. Then, when the High Priest dies, they are acquitted of their actions. Every single action we take can tip the divine scales in our favor. This is especially true when we help others – and even more so when we help many people to grow spiritually. The High Priest is charged with securing the Israelites’ well – being. Any tragedy, such as an unintentional murder, is his responsibility – because he could have prevented it through his prayers and deeds. Just as with any other leader, the weight of responsibility sitting on the High Priest’s shoulder is enormous. He must not only find solutions; he must also prevent crises. The lesson is obvious – taking action for our community adds to our merits and purifies our soul, even if we haven’t corrected all of our sins. Leading others to become righteous prevents the recurrence of sin and contributes to our personal progress. 

Pearls of Divine Wisdom: “The Marches”

  • Our life is torn by contradictions: body and soul, good and evil, life and death, etc. We are always yearning for certainty – to return to the way things were in the Garden of Eden. We want everything to be one. 
  • To return to this original state, we must toil and climb up the spiritual ladder throughout our entire lives.
  • Israel camped 42 times in their wanderings. Ana BeKoach, a powerful prayer containing the energy and secrets of Creation, has the same number of words.
  • A person’s fate is defined exclusively by their behavior. To understand this, we must reflect on the past and learn from it. This practice will add meaning to our lives. 
  • Divine intervention is determined through our behavior. That is why we must always reevaluate ourselves, learn from the past, and strive to do better.
  • Every one of our actions can tip the divine scales favorably – especially when we help individuals grow spiritually (and all the more so when we help many people). Leading others to become righteous prevents the recurrence of sin and contributes to our personal progress.

Higher consciousness is achieved through study, which is motivated by curiosity; curiosity is where the process begins.