By Rus Devorah Wallen
I’m Rus Devorah Wallen, and I’d like to share my T for 2, my Torah thought for two minutes, more or less.
This week is another double header. The names of the portions are Matos and Masei. Matos means tribes referring to the verses of the parsha when Moshe is telling the heads of the Tribes of Israel about the laws regarding vows. The second portion is parshas Masei, which means journeys. I would like to briefly focus on just this word from the beginning of the second of our portions.
It says there, “Eileh masei B’nei Yisroel – these are the journeys of the children of Israel, by which they left the land of Egypt…” The portion tells us about 42 journeys until they reached the Promised Land. Why does it say, these are the journeys by which they left Egypt? If they left Egypt, then encamped somewhere, isn’t that only one journey? Why are all of these journeys lumped together as if they were all journeys out of Egypt? Doesn’t each encampment become a new journey? Why are all 42 considered in this reckoning?
You may recall the aphorism of the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi that “we must live with the times,” meaning, the Torah times. Something each week must have current relevance in our daily lives – so we can truly live with the Torah. The Lubavitcher Rebbe helps us better understand our question above regarding the 42 journeys from Egypt, even though there was really only one trip out of that land. The word Egypt – Mitzrayim is a cognate of the word, Metzarim which means boundaries, constraints, or limitations. The human being is called a “m’halech – a mover – as in mover and groover. The way of the healthy individual is to continue growing and expanding. The Rebbe explains, in life once we’ve left one challenge or constraint, we don’t stay complacent. We need to break through the next limit. Like a rock, when thrown into the water creates concentric circles, growing and moving outward, we expand from experience to experience. There’s always another Egypt, another challenge and opportunity. We cannot stagnate. When we’re at the threshold, we’ve got a new Egypt, a new stretch, a new breakthrough, another journey and goal.
There’s no limit to how much we can achieve. We have a soul that is part of and intimately connected with Hashem. After we strive toward goals in our life, we must settle, temporarily encamp, enjoying the hard work. But then, we immediately prepare to journey again, breaking out of the new Egypt that we now find ourselves in. So, in answer to our query before? “These are the journeys that the Jewish People took…” means there’s a continuous journey out of Egypt, and our job is to be willing to continually step forward, step it out. Expand and stretch to our capacity.
May Hashem, give us each the strength and the trust that although the journey may be hard, this precedent and template gives us the trust that we can break through the challenges, bringing us figuratively from Egypt to the Promised Land.
Rus Devorah Wallen is an accomplished musician, performer, social worker, psychotherapist, and educator.