Parashas Masei

This week’s parashah begins as follows (Bamidbar 33:1-2):
These are the journeys of the Children of Yisrael, 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.
The Midrash says (Bamidbar Rabbah 23:1): “Said the Holy One Blessed Be He to Moshe, ‘Record the journeys that the People of Yisrael made in the wilderness, so that they will know what miracles I did for them.’” The Maggid discusses the purpose of making such a record, and more generally, the reason why Hashem performed so many miracles for the Jews in the wilderness when it was possible for Him to convey them to Eretz Yisrael in a more natural way. He also discusses why the second verse of the parashah initially places “goings forth” before “journeys,” but afterward reverses the order. He brings out the point with a parable.
A certain rich man had two sons. When the older son got engaged, he set aside for him a large sum of money to help him and his wife establish a household, and gave the money to a trustee. The younger son saw how much money his father was spending on his brother, and he asked his father: “Why did you give so much money to my brother, while not giving such a sum to me? Am I inferior, that I should get less than him?” The father replied: “Your older brother will soon be getting married, and I have set aside money for him to establish a household. You, on the other hand, are still young. Your turn will come. Write down what I gave your brother and have me sign on it, and when your time comes I will give you the same.” So younger son took a notebook and wrote the sum down.
Some time afterward, he saw fine cloth being delivered to the house, and he was very happy over this development. A tailor then came and took the older son’s measurements, while not involving himself with the younger son at all. The younger son started to cry, and he asked his father: “Why is it that with all this nice cloth the tailor is making clothes only for my brother and not for me?” The father replied: “I explained to you already that I am spending a lot of money on your brother because he is getting married. I am now preparing him a wardrobe. As I said before, write everything down, and when your time comes I will give you the same.” So the younger son stood by the tailor with his notebook and made a list of all the clothes he was making for his brother. Afterward, when his father bought items jewelry for the bride, he made a list of these as well. When all the clothes were finished and all the jewelry had been bought, the father put everything in a storage chest to be kept there until the wedding.
Shortly afterward, the chest was stolen. The father was very upset, especially since the wedding day was soon approaching. Having no choice, he went back to the cloth store, had new cloth delivered, and called in the tailor to prepare the wardrobe again. The younger son got out his notebook and wrote everything down. This incident repeated itself several times. Eventually the wedding was held. Some time afterward, when the groom was out on a stroll with his brother and his father-in-law, he recounted how his father had been so generous toward him, and even had his wardrobe remade several times because of the thefts. The younger brother remarked: “My brother, you don’t have the story quite right. You shouldn’t say that you had new clothes made because the previous clothes were stolen. Rather, you should say that the previous clothes were stolen so that new clothes would be made for you. I arranged for the thieves to come and steal the clothes, so that our father would have to get the wardrobe remade for you. I wanted our father to spend a lot on you, since he promised me that whatever he gave you he would also give me.”
The parallel is as follows. Hashem told Moshe to take a pen and wrote down all the incidents that occurred to the Jewish People during their journeys in the wilderness. The Midrash in Bamidbar Rabbah 23:3 compares this process to a father taking his sick son to a doctor in a distant city, and afterward, on the return trip, recounting the incidents that occurred to them along the way to the doctor: “Here we slept, “Here we suffered a cold spell,” “Here you got a headache,” and so on. Similarly, Hashem told Moshe to make a record of everything the Jews went through in the wilderness: the spells of hunger and thirst, the battles, and so on. And He made a point of having the Torah describe the record as a list of “their journeys according to their goings forth,” i.e., their journeys according to their experiences. He did so in order that we would understand that these experiences did not occur by mere happenstance as the Jews encamped in various places, but rather it was just the opposite: Hashem deliberately arranged for us to travel to these places so that we would go through these experiences and have Him grant us a miraculous deliverance. Hashem’s aim in doing so was to set a series of precedents for later generations and, ultimately, for the final redemption, may it come speedily and soon.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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