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Multiple Journeys
by Rabbi Heschel Greenberg

If there is one word that describes all of existence it is “journeys,” the subject and title of the parshah of Massei.

First, “journeys” describes what our souls have gone through to come into this world and inhabit physical bodies. The soul originates in the divinely spiritual world of Atzilus (Emanation) and must descend through myriads of levels of reduced consciousness to be able to relate to and inhabit a physical body. Every level the soul passes through is a journey and every journey is traumatic.

Second, the term “journeys” describes what we do from the moment we are born until the moment the soul leaves this world. Every moment of life is designed to take us from one level of spiritual enlightenment to another. Life is a perpetual journey.

Chassidus teaches us that the soul actually reaches an even higher “place” than the one it occupied prior to its journey down below. Otherwise, why would a compassionate and loving G-d compel the soul to lose its original radiance and enter a hostile environment, punctuated with constant struggle? There must be some benefit to the soul in its descent and struggle. Indeed, the descent into our world empowers the soul to rise to an even higher “proximity” and intimacy with its Divine Source.

Third, we go through mini-journeys every year, month, week and day. For example, Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of a journey that will culminate at the end of the year. The same is true of all other segments of time. These journeys condition us to be goal-oriented so we can have a smooth and successful life’s journey.

Fourth, there is the primal journey which commenced at the time of Creation. When G-d created the world, He did so with a plan and purpose. The world has gone through many periods of development and maturation on its way to the Messianic Age. This protracted and arduous journey has taken humanity through many twists and turns but will lead us, inexorably, to our destination: the Final Redemption. It is the Torah which provides us with the roadmap, navigational skills and the energy to reach our goal.

Historically speaking, this journey has been a rather bumpy one for us, with many detours and periods when we might have strayed off the road. Thank G-d, as the Rebbe told us repeatedly, we are presently at the very end of this journey, on the very threshold of the Final Redemption.

After listing all of the 42 journeys the Jewish nation traversed in the desert, the Torah enumerates the boundaries of the Land of Israel. When the Torah speaks of the final stretch of land on the eastern boundary, it uses the term V’hisavisem, which is translated as “turning,” referring to the eastern borders you will find when you turn east. However, the Chassidic work Tiferes Shlomo translates it as “and you shall desire.” He interprets this to mean that your journey toward the Promised Land must be one of desire. A Jew must work on generating his or her desire for the Redemption when we will return to the entire Land of Israel and live within the original boundaries described in the Torah.

The lesson for our time is clear: Even when we have completed the 42 journeys of our history, even as we have circumnavigated and encompassed all of our boundaries save for the last one, it is crucial that we don’t lose any of our faith, hope and desire for the Redemption.

This lesson is particularly relevant and poignant now. We have entered the period known as the “Three Weeks,” when we reflect on the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash and hope and pray for the imminent rebuilding of the Third Bais HaMikdash. When things appear bleak, especially when they appear bleak, we must muster all of our inner faith and generate even more profound feelings of faith and anticipation for the Final Redemption. 


 

 


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