Parashat Massei

You Need a Desert After we scream and call for help and acknowledge that we are weak and choose the holy land and are willing to sacrifice ourselves, for our complete healing, or for our spouse, or for both of us; then Hashem sends us Moshe to take us out of Egypt. This is when our test begins… Desert Safari - Amram's Pillars

Harav Israel Asulin

Tuesday, 27th of Tammuz, 5775


“These are the journeys of the children of Israel who left the land of Egypt…” (Bamidbar[1] Chapter 33, Verse 1). In the parasha[2] Massei the holy Torah tells us about the forty-two journeys that the nation of Israel traveled in the desert. Forty-two stops, that began at the exodus from Egypt and came to their culmination with the entrance to the land of Israel. The discussion of these journeys- as our holy sages teach us- it is not a historical or archeological documentation of an ancient journey; rather it is an exact and actual discussion relevant to every Jew, where ever they find themselves in their lives. “All the journeys were forty-two and they are for every man from the day of his birth until his returning to the next world…” (The ‘Degel Machanei Ephraim’, accredited to his grandfather, the holy Baal Shem Tov). So let us listen to the whole story from the beginning: The nation of Israel leaves Egypt with a clear promise to inherit the land of Israel. Instead of landing, straight from the miracles on the sea- to the receiving of the Torah, and from there a quick jump to the Promised Land, a long journey in a desolate land begins. This journey, as in the parable with the generation in the desert that took place thousands of years ago, is also the lesson for every one of us. It is a journey that requires a lot of emunah[3]in Hashem, in Moshe, and in ourselves. The beginning for everyone in every area is in Egypt. In our relationship with Hashem, in our relationship with ourselves, and in our relationship with our spouse, they all start in Egypt. The beginning is disconnect and exile and complete slavery to Pharaoh. I don’t know who I am, I don’t know who Hashem is, and it doesn’t really interest me who my spouse is, as long as Hashem doesn’t interfere with my life with some sort of earth shaking tragedy. If my wife still prepares for me good food and good laundry services, in my opinion why not spend the next eighty years in the shadow of Pithom and Ramses and Pharaoh’s Nile River. Then Egypt started to pressure us and to limit our steps. Everything begins to screech and to whistle and to shake. Your health is not what is used to be and the children are screaming the scream of your wife and your livelihood and your neighbors…something is happening and you are waking up to realize that you are really in exile and enslaved. After we scream and call for help and acknowledge that we are weak and choose the holy land and are willing to sacrifice ourselves, for our complete healing, or for our spouse, or for both of us; then Hashem sends us Moshe to take us out of Egypt. This is when our test begins. When we are leaving Egypt we don’t have patience, we want to get to the Land of Israel, to find serenity and to settle immediately and without any stops along the way. This desert, and these forty-two journeys, arouse within us our sense of justice: You said we were going to be redeemed, correct?! You said we only need to come and then we will be healed, correct?! So here I am! Why does everything continue to stay black? You spoke about the Land of Israel, so why am I in the desert??…and it doesn’t end! Look a little at the names of the places that are written in this Torah portion, and see the stops that we are passing in our lives: ‘Marrah (Bitterness)’, ‘Charadah (Anxiety)’, ‘Rephidim (where Amalek attacked the nation of Israel)’, and ‘Kivrot Hatavah (Burial of Lust)’…and this is how we falter in the desert, instead of settling down in the Land of Milk and Honey. Why? The Chassidic sages explain to us that any real relationship needs a desert first. You are requesting the real, complete, and lofty relationship? You are searching for the connection with yourself, to your strengths, to your soul, to your life’s purpose, to your ‘Lost Princess’? So this is the way- “He traveled back and forth for a long time, through deserts, fields, and forests, and searched for her (the ‘Lost Princess’) for a long time.” (Rebbe Nachman’s Thirteen Tales, The Lost Princess[4]). You want a relationship with Hashem? So try personal prayer, and instead of meeting angels, you meet the emptiness and the lacking and the boredom and ‘no words’ and ‘no strength’ and ‘no desire’ and maybe it is enough to try personal prayer once a month or every two months or once a year?… You want to connect to yourself? Start to work on yourself, and meet the hurt child within yourself, and recognize the addictions that infiltrate your life. Start getting to know the desert and the snakes and scorpions that you have inside yourself! You want a relationship with your spouse? Only by way of a desert! Start to devote yourself even when you don’t feel anything and don’t know what love is. Begin to obligate yourself and sacrifice your soul for your obligations, even when surrounding you everything is desolate and profane and without reason and enjoyment. Why is it like this? Why do all real relationships need a desert first? Only in the desert can you find your path on the side. Just as Rebbe Nachman says in the tale of The Lost Princess: “Finally while traveling through the desert; he saw a path to the side. He thought it over, ‘Since I have traveled for so long in the desert and cannot find her, let me follow this path. Perhaps it will bring me to an inhabited area.’” So what is a desert? A desert is the wilderness. There is nothing. Everything is barren. Everything is arid. There is no water, no food and no shade. You need to build everything anew. You need to invent. You cannot rely on the good of Pharaoh that he will give you something to drink or to eat or a place to sleep. In the desert you are the first explorer. From this empty desert without an outlet, you will find something from nothing, your individual path to the ‘Lost Princess.’ [1] Numbers [2] Torah portion [3] Faith [4] This first of Rebbe Nachman’s Thirteen Tales, literally the title should be “Loss of a King’s Daughter”. The ‘Lost Princess’ refers to our soul, and the story is a parable of our journey to find our connection with our soul and G-d.

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