Parashas Masei

This week’s parashah begins as follows (Bamidbar 33:1-2):
These are the journeys of the Children of Israel, who went out from the land of Egypt, according to their legions, under the hand of Moshe and Aharon. Moshe wrote down their goings forth according to their journeys at Hashem’s command, and these were their journeys according to their goings forth.
In the second verse, the Torah initially places “goings forth” before “journeys,” but afterward it reverses the order. The Maggid offers several explanations for this. I present one of them here.
The Maggid introduces the explanation with a parable. A man lost his wife and married a second one, bringing into this second marriage a young son from the first. His second wife was mean toward the boy. The man was aware of the situation, and he looked forward to the day when he could marry the boy off and get him away from his stepmother. Eventually the boy came of age. Some time afterward, while the man was traveling on business, he met a girl who was suitable for his son. He discussed the matter with the girl’s father, and the match was made. He returned home and told his son: “I have made a match for you with a girl from the town I just went to. Soon you will get married. And then you will be free of your stepmother’s mistreatment, except for visits once every few months.” The son counted the days until the date of the wedding, when his suffering would finally be over. Finally, the time came to go to the other town for the wedding, and the father hired a wagon to take him and his son there. The stepmother was not going. The young man boarded the wagon with great joy, and then they set out on the way.
After some time, the young man asked the driver: “My friend, how far have we traveled now from where we started?” The driver told him. The next day, the young man asked the driver the same question, and the driver answered again. The day after, the father asked the driver: “How far do we have to go now to reach our destination?” The driver stated the remaining distance. The son remarked to the father: “It is interesting that I asked the driver how far we had gone, while you asked him how far we had left to go. I wonder why we asked about the progress of the trip in different ways.” The father replied: “You have never seen your future wife or father-in-law. You have no idea what lies ahead of you. You are thinking only about getting away from your stepmother. So you asked how far we have gone. I, on the other hand, know how what a fine girl your future wife is, and what a gentleman your future father-in-law is. I am really looking forward to the wedding. So I asked how far we have left to go.”
Similarly, when the Jewish People left Egypt to go to Eretz Yisrael, they did not understand the virtues of the land. They understood only that they were leaving Egypt, the place where they had suffered horrible affliction. Therefore, in reviewing their travels, they counted upward through the succession of stations, measuring how far away from Egypt they had gone. Moshe, on the other hand, was well aware of the virtues of the land, and he therefore counted downward through the succession of stations, measuring at each stage the distance left to travel to reach it.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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