Eileh Masei Bnei Yisrael… “These are the journeys of the Children of Israel who left the Land of Egypt…”
“Masei” means “journeys,” and Parshas Masei certainly lives up to its name. The Parsha opens with a list of the 42 places where Bnei Yisrael stopped during their 40 years in the desert, starting from when they went Out of Egypt.
It’s no coincidence that we read Masei during the sad three-week period before Tisha B’Av, the day of the destruction of our Beis HaMikdash – Holy Temple. These three weeks are reserved for thinking about the experience of exile, and the trials and tribulations of the centuries-long journey through “the desert of the nations.”
Aimless wandering, with no end in sight, is torture. But a journey with a clear destination is a wondrous experience, despite the many obstacles.
Bnei Yisrael’s travels in the desert were by no means aimless (as we shall see later in the Parsha). The final destination of the Promised Land becomes closer and closer as HaShem defines its borders and tells Bnei Yisrael how it is to be divided.
“The Jews wandered in the desert for 40 years.” Typically, that’s how people describe the journeys of Bnei Yisrael in the desert.
Now open a dictionary for the definition of “wander.” It goes something like this:
walk or move in a leisurely, casual, or aimless way, as in, “He wandered aimlessly through the narrow streets.”
Well, the travels through the desert were certainly not leisurely (it was no vacation), were not aimless (they knew exactly where they wanted to go – to Eretz Yisrael), and there was nothing casual about their 40-year punishment.
Perhaps that is why our Parsha is called Masei “travels” and not “wandering.”
“Global Positioning System,” or GPS for short, is a satellite navigation system.
A GPS talks to us, tells us where you are, and the best way to get to your destination.
Need a gas station? The GPS can find the nearest ones and get you there without getting lost or running out of gas! Pretty amazing, come to think of it!
Although the GPS was created by and for the U.S. military, it’s now available to everyone all over the world.
During their travels through the desert, Bnei Yisrael had a different kind of GPS: “G-d’s Positioning System”!