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By: Rabbi Dr Zvi Ron

This week we have the longest aliyah in the Torah, the fourth aliyah, which bridges the end of Matot and beginning of Masei. More than half of this aliyah is a listing of all of the stops Bnei Yisrael made on their way to Israel. Why include all of this detail?


Rashi explains that it was important to list all these stops to demonstrate the great chesed that Hashem did for Bnei Yisrael: In 38 years of wandering, Bnei Yisrael made only 20 stops. The Jewish people were not constantly running from place to place; instead, they would camp out for a long while at each stop. In Moreh Ha-Nevuchim, the Rambam takes a different approach, asserting that the stops are listed to demonstrate to later generations that these events really happened.


Ramban cites these approaches, but explains that the real reason all the stops are listed is a sod, a secret. It could be that the Ramban is referring to an idea found in Abrabanel – that in the future ge’ulah, Bnei Yisrael will go through these same 42 stations. Similarly, the Kotzker Rebbe taught that right now, Eliyahu the prophet is writing all of the journeys of the Jewish people throughout history, and when Mashiach comes, everybody will read and study that book. Perhaps the 42 stations in the parshah are hinting to the stations the Jewish people will pass through until the final ge’ulah.


The Ba’al Shem Tov explains that the 42 stops represent the stages that each person goes through personally to reach hos own individual ge’ulah. The idea is that a person is constantly moving from one situation, experience, level, state of mind, attitude, to another, in a long journey that only ends when a person's time on this world is completed.


Based on this idea, Rav Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl explained the famous statement of Rabbi Yehuda in the Gemara: "Le-olam, (“forever,” “always”) a person should learn lo lishmah (not for its own sake), because from lo lishma, you go to lishma." Rabbi Yehuda uses the term Le-olam to demonstrate that in life, a person should be constantly moving from one level to the next, looking back and realizing that where he was before was a lo lishma level compared to where he is now.


Many people look at their year in Israel as a religious and spiritual high point in their lives, with the attitude that from now on, it’s all downhill, or at best maintaining the level you were at in Israel. Instead, we should be focusing and growing even more. Does it really make sense to say that your spiritual growth peaked at age 19, and that is your final stop? We are on a journey of the spirit that does not end, it brings us constantly closer and closer to our personal ge’ulah.




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