Parshat Matot-Masei – Journeys

There were 42 places listed as places to camp at and to journey from in the 40 years in the wilderness, and here Moshe lists them all.


R’ Shlomo Riskin quotes Rambam who wrote that the historical truth of the journeys was important as a way of emphasising that the survival of Israel in these barren circumstances was miraculous.


R’ Riskin wonders whether Nachmanides was suggesting that the underlying meaning was that this was the way Jewish history was going to be: a series of journeys until the present arrival in the state of Israel. Nachmanides may have been indicating that this was a lesson in what gave the Jews the courage, the faith and the strength to keep going. R’ Riskin asks about the meaning of the sentence “and Moshe wrote the starting points toward their destinations and their destinations towards their starting points”. The first part is clear but the second requires clarification. R’ Riskin quotes SY Agnon who when asked about his birthplace, spoke about Jerusalem, when everyone knew he was from Galicia. Agnon explained that he was “born in Jerusalem 3000 years ago, that was his origin, and  that Galicia was just a stopping off point.

R’ Riskin concludes that “as long as we wander with our place of origin firmly in mind, we are bound to reach our goal” and “our places of origin in Israel will remain our ultimate destiny”.

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