“These are the journeys of the Children of Israel who went forth from the Land of Egypt...”

-Massey 33:1

Parshat Massey begins with enumerating the forty-two journeys of the Children of Israel, from leaving the Land of Egypt until reaching Yarden Yericho (the Jordan near Jericho). The Torah’s wording, however, raises an obvious question: it took only one journey “from the Land of Egypt.” The other 41 journeys were after the people had already left Egypt! Why then the plural form of “these are the journeys”?

The term Mitzrayim (Egypt) derives from the word meytzarim (restrictions; restraints). Mitzrayim, therefore, refers not only to a particular land but also to a condition of both physical and spiritual confinement.

The term Yericho (Jericho) derives from the word rei’ach (smell). It alludes to Moshiach of whom it is said, “veharicho (He will make him to be censed) with the fear of G‑d...” (Isaiah 11:3). Thus Moshiach is called “moir’ach veda’in-he is able to judge a person by merely ‘smelling’ him” (Sanhedrin 93b).

The 42 journeys, therefore, relate to 42 stages of leaving Mitzrayim (personal or national restrictions and confinements), before we reach the true and ultimate freedom of Yericho, the Messianic redemption.

The exodus from the physical Egypt was indeed a liberation, but only relative to the previous slavery. In terms of our ultimate goal it was not yet the true and full freedom. Every one of the 42 journeys represented an additional progression, a liberating ascent relative to the preceding stage. In terms of the final and highest level to be achieved, however, it remained a form of Mitzrayim.

The term “journeys” (in plural form) thus teaches us that we must forever press on, progress and ascend, regardless of past achievements. We are, and remain in, Mitzrayim, of one form or another, until we reach Yarden Yericho-the freedom of Moshiach-may it be speedily in our very own days.