Behaaloscha 5784: The Long Journey Home

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Behaaloscha, the nation leaves Har Sinai – where they have been camped for one year minus ten days (Shemos 19:1 with Rashi and Bamidbar – the nation arrived at Har Sinai on Rosh Chodesh Sivan in the first year, and Bamidbar 10:11-12 – in the second year, in the second month [Iyar], on the 20th day day, the Cloud lifted up from upon the Mishkan and the nation traveled from Midbar Sinai) and they begin the journey to Eretz Yisrael.   The Torah tells us about the chatzotzros that Moshe is commanded to make: the silver trumpets used for communication with the nation, to signal to the nation when it is time to travel, and which are to be blown in a time of war, when the enemy comes upon us in our Land (Bamidbar 10:1-10).

The Torah then describes the order of travel of the nation, each tribe according to their encampment and direction.  Yehuda, Yissachar and Zevulun, who camp in the east, travel first.  Reuven, Shimon and Gad, who camp in the south, are the second degel (“Flag”) to travel.  In the west, Ephraim, Menashe and Binyanim travel third.  And finally, the southern degel, Dan, Naftali and Asher, travel last.

Everything is ready for their entry to the Land.  They were redeemed from Egypt, miraculously saved at the Reed Sea, received the Torah at Har Sinai, built the Mishkan as a kapparah for the sin of the Golden Calf, and now, they were ready to see the fulfillment of the fifth lashon of geula: וְהֵבֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם, אֶלהָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר נָשָׂאתִי אֶתיָדִי, לָתֵת אֹתָהּ לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיַעֲקֹב; וְנָתַתִּי אֹתָהּ לָכֶם מוֹרָשָׁה, אֲנִי הI will bring you to the land, which I raised My hand to give her to Avraham, to Yitzchak, and to Yaakov, and I will give her to you as a heritage; I am Hashem (Shemos 6:8).

At this juncture, Moshe Rabbainu extends an invitation to Yisro, his father-in-law: נֹֽסְעִ֣ים אֲנַ֗חְנוּ אֶל־הַמָּקוֹם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אָמַ֣ר האֹת֖וֹ אֶתֵּ֣ן לָכֶ֑ם לְכָ֤ה אִתָּ֨נוּ֙ וְהֵטַ֣בְנוּ לָ֔ךְ כִּֽי־הדִּבֶּר־ט֖וֹב עַל־יִשְׂרָאֵֽלWe are traveling to the place to which Hashem said: This Land I will give it to you. Come with us and we will be good to you, for Hashem has spoken good about Israel (Bamidbar 10:29).

Why did Moshe include himself in this journey; ‘we are traveling to the land’, ‘come with us’?

Rashi explains: מִיָּדעַד שְׁלֹשָׁה יָמִים אָנוּ נִכְנָסִין לָאָרֶץ, שֶׁבְּמַסָּע זֶה הָרִאשׁוֹן נָסְעוּ עַל מְנָת לִכָּנֵס לְאֶרֶץ יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶלָּא שֶׁחָטְאוּ בְּמִתְאוֹנְנִים; וּמִפְּנֵי מָה שִׁתֵּף מֹשֶׁה עַצְמוֹ עִמָּהֶם? שֶׁעֲדַיִן לֹא נִגְזְרָה גְזֵרָה עָלָיו וּכְסָבוּר שֶׁהוּא נִכְנָסMoshe said to Yisro: “We are traveling to the land – right away! In three more days we will enter the Land.”  For with this first travel, they traveled on the condition to enter into Eretz Yisrael, but once they sinned with the Mes’oninim (Bamidbar 11:1-3) those plans were thwarted.  And why did Moshe include himself in the journey of the nation to the land of Israel?  Because at this point, the decree against him was not yet in effect, and he was certain that he too was going to enter the Land (Rashi to Bamidbar 10:29).

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, the Rav zt’l, teaches, “Moshe spoke of the final journey to the Promised Land.  No waiting anymore, no ‘ani ma’amin b’viyas ha’Moshiach’, there would be no need for it anymore.  No delays, no procrastination, no ifs, no ‘if you listen to My voice’ (Shemos 23:22 – if you listen to My voice…I will destroy your enemies and bring you to the Land of Israel).  It is now!  It is going to happen right now, not tomorrow, right now.  נֹסְעִ֣ים אֲנַ֗חְנו, we are journeying.  Present tense.  Not ananchnu nisa, not in the future tense!  All the promises will be fulfilled.  I won’t have to ask ‘lamah ha’rei’osah – why did You make things worse for this nation?’ (cf. Shemos 5:22), no problems, no questions, no doubts, nothing.  It would be very simple.

“Whenever I read this parsha, it affects me.  There is something moving, touching, in this parsha.  Sometimes I want to cry.  I have to control my tears.  What is moving here is the simplicity with which the great Moshe, the master of all wise men, and the father of all prophets, speaks.  He uses the grammatical first person: נֹסְעִ֣ים אֲנַ֗חְנוּ, אִתָּ֙נוּ֙, עִמָּ֑נוּ (Bamidbar 10:29, 32 – We are journeying, coming along with us).  What does it mean?  Moshe was certain – there was not even a shadow of a doubt in his mind – that he is going to enter the Promised Land.  He and the entire congregation would be classified as both yotzei Mitzrayim (the generation that left Egypt), and ba’ei Aretz (the generation that would enter the Land).

“He was sure, he was convinced, that he will see ha’aretz ha’tova, the good Land, the hills of Judea (Devarim 3:25).  He was certain that he would climb the mount of the Levonan (ibid).  Later, he prayed, אֶעְבְּרָהנָּא, וְאֶרְאֶה, please let me cross over the Yarden and see the Land (ibid), but his prayer did not come true.  But at this time, when he spoke to YIsro, at the beginning of the journey, he felt no need for prayer (to rescind any decree).  נֹסְעִ֣ים אֲנַ֗חְנו, we are journeying.  There was no doubt about his destiny…

“If that march had been realized, the biyas ha’Moshaich would have taken place when?  Right then!  Moshe would have been the Moshiach… But the Jews lost it.  So Moshe is not the melech ha’Moshiach (King Messiah) and the melech ha’Moshiach is not Moshe, and the distance in time between them is long and far.  Instead of the march bringing them closer to Eretz Yisrael, so the march took them away from the Land.  Jewish history was inverted, and it is still inverted.  We cannot say ‘nosim anachnu’ with the assurance with which Moshe said it to Yisro just twenty-four hours before” (The Rav Aloud on the Parsha, Bamidbar, p.46-47, 49, 53.  These remarks of the Rav, “The Long March,” were made c.1950’s).

On Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Naso 5784, כֹּה תְבָרְכוּ אֶתבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵלוְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם, eleven chayalim lost their lives HY”D in defense of Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael, and Medinat Yisrael.

The kedoshim were named as: Sgt. Yair Roitman, 19 (who succumbed to the wounds he sustained fighting in Gaza earlier in the week) Sgt. Eliyahu Moshe Zimbalist, 21 years old; Sgt. Itay Amar, 19; Staff Sgt. Stanislav Kostarev, 21; Sgt. Shalom Menachem, 21; Staff Sgt. Orr Blumovitz, 20; Staff Sgt. Oz Yeshaya Gruber, 20; Cpt. Wassem Mahmoud, 23; Sgt. Yakir Ya’akov Levi, 21; Eitan Koplovich, 28, who leaves behind his wife Yael and one year old son, Boaz; and Elon Weiss, 49, who leaves behind his wife, 7 children, and one grandchild.  On Sunday, June 16, Tzur Avraham, 22 years old, fell in battle, HYD.

Twelve worlds destroyed (Sanhedrin 37a, kol ha’me’abed nefesh achas b’Yisrael, ki’ilu ibed olam ma’leh), and hundreds of family and friends bereaved in the ripple effect of mourning and loss.  Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of lives irrevocably affected from these twelve fallen.

A nation mourning.

Twelve soldiers in two days.

Twelve tribes marching in formation to the Promised Land.  Nosim anachnu.  We are traveling.  Right now.  No ifs, ands or buts.  Moshe would have been Melech ha’Moshiach and the King Moshiach would have been Moshe.  But the march was inverted and the distance between Moshe and Moshiach is very, very long and very, very painful.

May we merit the day when the fifth promise of redemption: and I will bring you to the Land (Shemos 6:8), will be coupled with the promise of וְשָׂמוּ אֶתשְׁמִי, עַלבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל; וַאֲנִי, אֲבָרְכֵם, and I will place My Name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless themוְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם, and I will grant you peace (Bamidbar 6:26-27).

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


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