Reunited for a Single Purpose
I was at the Jerusalem Mall today.
While there I noticed the subtle differences between it and the malls in the UK.
Firstly, there were the Chabad shlichim cajoling passersby to put on tefillin and handing out Divrei Torah. Then there were the various market stalls selling hot food for Shabbat and of course, the food court was totally kosher. However, the thing that made the biggest impression to me were posters everywhere advertising the kids water park festival – starting…the day after Tisha B’Av.
As my son said – the feeling of a Jewish State is everywhere.
Yes, we have started the nine days culminating in Tisha B’Av commemorating the destruction of Yerushalayim and the bet HaMikdash, however our mourning is tempered by a realisation that we have returned and Yerushalayim is a bustling metropolis once again.
We mourn as we have not rebuilt the Bet HaMikdash, we have not merited the Geula Sheleima, yet walking around Yerushalayim and Israel 2019 you can feel that we are living in Reishit Smichat Geulateinu – the beginning of our redemption.
There is a beautiful idea in our Parasha (just Masei here in Israel) which demonstrates this. Parashat Masei is blessed with a list of forty two stations that Bnei Yisrael passed through during their wanderings in the desert on the way to the Promised Land.
Why does Hashem command Moshe to document the resting spots when they are already documented in the narratives of Shemot and Bamidbar?
There are fundamentally two approaches to this question.
(1) Rashi and other medieval commentaries relate to the list as historical narrative and say that there is a religious message to be learned from the repetition of the rest stops. The lesson is that despite the decree that the children of Israel should wander the desert for 40 years, they did not wander without respite. The list is to inform us of God’s kindness even in the execution of the decree.
(2) The Baal Shem Tov takes the historical narrative and interiorizes it. That is to say that the significance of the record of stations is not historical but internal and spiritual. “These are the journeys […] All the stops along the way apply to every human being from the day of birth until death.” (Sefer Baal Shem Tov Masei) All of life is a journey from the darkness of Egypt to the light of the Promised Land.
Consistent with this approach, symbolic significance was given to the names of the places where the Israelites camped. Mordechai Yosef of Ishbitz on this week’s Parasha follows the assumptions of the Baal Shem Tov.
“And they camped in Harada (meaning trepidation) This means that whenever a person is uncertain what God wants then the best advice is to remain passive; this is the meaning of camping in Harada (trepidation). This is the situation today (R Mordechai wrote this in early 19th century Poland) when we are prohibited by oath not to agitate for the End of Days.
And they departed from Harada and they camped in Makhelot (meaning a place of ingathering): This means that when God will desire to gather us in then he will instill within our hearts the courage and self-confidence so that we not fear. May this come to be speedily in our day.” (Mei HaShiloah, Masei)
This was written 200 years ago – and Hashem did gather us back to the land of Israel.
In recent years the Jewish people and the State of Israel have been graced by many miracles, not the least being the continued survival of our State in a sea of murderous hostility and hatred.
However, the greatest miracle of all is the subtlest; the shift of consciousness, with the advent of the Zionist movement, from one of fear and helplessness to self-confidence and assumption of responsibility for our own survival.
The subsequent political, economic and military developments are all a consequence of this fundamental shift in the mentality of the Jewish People. According to R. Mordechai Yosef this is the Divine revelation.
According to today’s religious Zionist Rabbis – this is Reishit Smichat Geulateinu.
We end Bamidbar tomorrow together – both here in Israel and across the diaspora.
We are together again.
As we enter the nine days that sense of Jewish unity in terms of purpose and Destiny will help us eventually build the third temple – achieve the Geula Sheleima Bimheira B’Yamenu!