Parshas Beha’aloscha – We Are Traveling… Or Are We Traveling?

In the beginning of this week’s dramatic parsha, Parshas Beha’aloscha, Moshe and the Bnei Yisrael (Children of Israel) continue to prepare for entry into the Promised Land.  With final preparations in place (which have been Divinely ordered and discussed in the first three parshios of Bamidbar), the final and fifth lashon geula (term of redemption) promised to Moshe back in Egypt is about to be fulfilled: …וְהֵבֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ – And I will bring you to the Land, concerning which I raised My hand to give to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, and I will give it to you as a heritage, I am Hashem (Shemos 6:8). 

Our national redemption occurred in stages: physical redemption from the shackles of Egyptian enslavement and bondage; spiritual redemption with the giving (and receiving) of the Torah at Har Sinai; and what might have been the final stage for that generation: entering, conquering and inheriting the Holy Land.  With this, redemption would have been complete – a liberated people, redeemed with the Torah and mitzvos, settling in its own Land.  Am Yisrael, Toras Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael (the nation of Israel, the Torah of Israel, and the Land of Israel). 

From the Exodus in Parshas Bo (Shemos 12), through the giving of the Torah (beginning in Shemos 19), to our encampment at the foothills of Sinai (through the entire book of Vayikra and the beginning of Bamidbar), all has gone well and according to plan…

And then!  It is in our parsha (Bamidbar 11 and on) that the plans abruptly change.  Like those seeking pretexts, the people complain when there is nothing to complain about.  There is no meat to eat, Egypt was better and the food was free (!), we remember the fish of the mighty Nile River, the manna is nauseating… and nothing is good enough. 

And from this moment, our triumphant march is halted.  It ends.  There will be no וְהֵבֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ for this generation.

Prior to the complaints, Moshe speaks to his father-in-law, Yisro.  And he wholeheartedly declares: נֹסְעִים אֲנַחְנוּ אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם – WE are traveling to the place that Hashem said He would give to us (Bamidbar 10:29).  Rashi comments: Mi’yad!  Immediately, now, imminently – in just three days, Moshe said to Yisro, we are all, together, traveling to the Holy Land!  Come with us, Moshe said to Yisro, for it will be good for you, and good for us. 

Rashi notes that Moshe included himself in this journey, for the decree had not yet been decreed upon him (that he would never enter the Land), and he was certain he too was going in! 

R’ Soloveitchik zt’l teaches, “Moshe spoke of the final journey to the Promised Land.  No waiting anymore, no Ani ma’amin bi’viyas ha’Moshiach (I believe in the coming of the Messiah), there would be no need for (waiting for Moshiach) anymore.  No delays, no procrastination, no ifs… It is now.  It is going to happen right now, not tomorrow, right now.  נֹסְעִים אֲנַחְנוּ – we are traveling!, present tense.  Not anachnu nisa (future tense – we will travel).  All the promises will be fulfilled.  No problems, questions, 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: נֹסְעִים אֲנַחְנוּ. אִתָּנוּ. עִמָּנוּ. (We are traveling.  Come 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 (those who left Egypt) and ba’ey ha’Aretz (those who would enter the Land).  He was sure, he was convinced, that he will see הָאָרֶץ הַטּוֹבָה, אֲשֶׁר בְּעֵבֶר הַיַּרְדֵּן:  הָהָר הַטּוֹב הַזֶּה, וְהַלְּבָנֹן (the good Land that is on the other side of the Jordan River, the good mountain and the Lebanon, Devarim 3:15), the good Land, the hills of Yehuda.  He was certain that he would climb the mount of the Lebanon.  Later, he prayed, but his prayer did not come true, אֶעְבְּרָה-נָּא, וְאֶרְאֶה (Please let me cross over and see the Land, Moshe’s prayer to be allowed entry – see Devarim 3:23-25).  But at this time (in our parsha, prior to the complaints), he felt no need for prayer.   נֹסְעִים אֲנַחְנוּ – we are journeying.  There was no doubt about his destiny” (The Rav Thinking Aloud, Bamidbar, p.46-47).

And so, certain of his fate, Moshe’s final preparation for crossing into the Land ahead of the nation takes place, when he declares: וַיְהִי בִּנְסֹעַ הָאָרֹן, וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה:  קוּמָה ה’, וְיָפֻצוּ אֹיְבֶיךָ, וְיָנֻסוּ מְשַׂנְאֶיךָ, מִפָּנֶיךָ – And it was, when the Aron (Holy Ark) would journey, and Moshe said: Arise Hashem!  And let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee from before you (Bamidbar 10:35). 

Yet, alas… the triumphant march never happened.  It was halted.  With the complaints of the people, Moshe knew, R’ Soloveitchik explains, that he was never going in (see Bamidbar 11:28 w/ Rashi). 

And millennia later, R”L, we are still waiting for the day when we will cross, all of us, into the good Land – נֹסְעִים אֲנַחְנוּ.  When we will be blessed with the fifth and final lashon geula: וְהֵבֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ.  When the Ark of Hashem will arise and our enemies will scatter, קוּמָה ה’, וְיָפֻצוּ אֹיְבֶיךָ – halavay that we would merit it immediately and in our days! 

When the Land – and her people – will be blessed with tranquility, harmony, goodwill, and boundless blessings.  When the rockets will not fly in barrages from the Gaza Strip into the communities in the south, when the kites will not burn the farms, when soldiers and civilians will be safe from marble slabs, bullets, knives and those who utilize tools of hate and war, when the world will allow us to live securely, safely and peacefully in our Home: Am Yisrael, Toras Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael.

וַיְהִי בִּנְסֹעַ הָאָרֹן, וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה:  קוּמָה ה’, וְיָפֻצוּ אֹיְבֶיךָ, וְיָנֻסוּ מְשַׂנְאֶיךָ, מִפָּנֶיךָ

In memory of 20 year old Duvdevan soldier Staff Sergeant Ronen Lubarsky z’l HY”D.  Ronen was buried this past Motzei Shabbat on Har Herzl.  He died from injuries sustained two days earlier, when a marble slab was thrown at him, and crushed his helmet, during an operation in a refugee camp near Ramallah.  May his memory be for a blessing; May G-d avenge his blood.

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,


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