"אלה מסעי בני ישראל אשר יצאו מארץ מצרים לצבאתם ביד משה ואהרן"
“These are the journeys of the Children of Israel, who went forth from the land of Egypt according to their legions, under the leadership of Moshe and Aharon.” (33:1)

QUESTION: The word “eileh” — “these are” — seems superfluous. The pasuk could have just said, “masei b’nei Yisrael” — “the journeys of the Children of Israel”?

ANSWER: In addition to the Egyptian exile, the Jewish people suffered additional exiles under four Monarchies: Edom-Rome, Media-Persia, Babylon and Greece-Syriaאדום, מדי, בבל, יון. The first letters of the words “Eilah masei b’nai Yisrael” — “These are the journeys of the Children of Israel” (אלה מסעי בני ישראל) are a hint to the four exiles which will come after the redemption from Egypt.

In addition, the opening words of the parshah not only alludes to the exiles, but also to the redeemers and the ultimate redemption through Mashiach. The first letters of the words, “Eileh masei” (אלה מסעי) are an "א" and a "מ" and suggest our redeemers. The redemption from Egypt was through Aharon and Moshe אהרן) and (משה. The saving of the Jewish people from annihilation in the days of Achashveirosh was through Esther and Mordechai אסתר) and (מרדכי, and the ultimate redemption, after which there will no longer be any exile, will come through Eliyahu and Mashiach אליהו) and .(משיח

(נחל קדומים ועי' פרדס יוסף החדש)


"אלה מסעי בני ישראל אשר יצאו מארץ מצרים לצבאתם"
“These are the journeys of the Children of Israel, who went forth from the land of Egypt according to their legions.” (33:1)

QUESTION: Why does the pasuk say “masei” — “journeys” — in the plural? Immediately after the first journey, weren’t the Jews already out ofEgypt?

ANSWER: The encampments began after the Exodus from Egypt and culminated with the arrival at Yardein Yeriecho — the Jordan by Jericho. The word Mitzrayim (מצרים) can also be read as “meitzarim” ((מיצרם — restraints — that is, boundaries and limitations. “Yereicho” (ירחו) etymologically stems from the word “rei’ach” ((ריח — smell and aroma — and it alludes to Mashiach, of whom it is written “Vaharichobeyirat Hashem — “He will be imbued with a spirit of fear for Hashem” (Isaiah 11:3). Also, the Gemara (Sanhedrin 93b) says of Mashiach that “Morach veda’in” — “He will judge right and wrong through his sense of smell.”

The Torah is eternal. Not only does it record the actual departure from Mitzrayim — Egypt — but also conveys a message for posterity. It is incumbent upon every Jewish neshamah which descends to this earthly world to make “masei” — “journeys” — to progress in stages in order to detach itself from its own “meitzarim” — limitations and restraints — and go from strength to strength. As a person rises from one level to the other, he must deal with new and subtler restraints. Upon successfully accomplishing his mission, he is ultimately ready for Yereicho — the revelation of Mashiach — and to come to “the good and bountiful land.”

(לקוטי תורה - לקוטי שיחות ח"ב)


"אלה מסעי בני ישראל אשר יצאו מארץ מצרים לצבאתם"
“These are the journeys of the Children of Israel, who went forth from the land of Egypt according to their legions.” (33:1)

QUESTION: From the first encampment till the final one at Yardein Yereicho — Jordan by Jericho — there were forty-two encampments. What is the significance of forty-two?

ANSWER: Hashem has different names, each serving a distinct purpose. There is a forty-two lettered name (שם מ"ב) of Hashem which according to the Kabbalists, is the holiest of all His names. It is comprised of the first letters of the forty-two words ofthe “Ana becho’ach” prayer composed by the Tanaitic sage Rabbi Nechunia ben Hakanah. The Siddur, at the end of each of the seven verses of “Ana becho’ach,” prints an acrostic of the first letters of the six words of the verse. These letters, according to the Kabbalists, are the forty-two letters which spell this exalted name.

In the Gemara (Kiddushin 71a) Rabbi Yehudah states in Rav’s name: “The forty-two lettered name of Hashem is entrusted only to him who is pious, meek, middle-aged, free from bad temper, sober and not insistent on his rights. And he who knows this name is heedful thereof (not to use it lightly), and observes it in purity, is beloved above and popular below, feared by man, and he inherits two worlds, this world and the future world.”

Furthermore, Hashem created the world with this forty-two lettered name (Zohar II, 234b), and it facilitates a Jew’s endeavors to ascend spiritually from level to level. For this reason, every morning as we prepare to ascend spiritually, through prayer, we recite “Ana becho’ach” before“Eizehu mekoman.” Likewise for the ascent through the minchah prayers, before “Ashrei” we say karbanot (portions dealing with sacrifices) and conclude with “Ana becho’ach.” Before going to sleep we recite “Ana becho’ach” in Kriat Shema al Hamitah, since the neshamah prepares itself to be rejuvenated and to rise to a higher spiritual sphere. And on Friday night, after reciting six Psalms corresponding to the six days of the week (see Siddur Otzar Hatefilot), as we prepare to enter the holiness of Shabbat, “Ana becho’ach” is also recited.

The forty-two encampments correspond to the forty-two letters of Hashem’s name. Leaving Egypt to reach Eretz Yisrael was a process of elevation (aliyah) and the forty-two lettered name helped the Jews in this endeavor.

(לקוטי תורה)

* * *

The words "אלה מסעי בני ישראל" — “These are the journeys of the Children of Israel” — are an acronym for the four galiot — exiles — in which the Jews were persecuted and subjugated under four monarchies: Edom/Rome (אדום); Media/Persia (מדי); Babylon (בבל); and Greece (יון). The forty-two lettered name accompanies the Jewish people throughout all their travels during the exile and assists them in reaching the ultimate redemption.

(נחל קדומים - ילקוט ראובני)


"ויכתב משה את מוצאיהם למסעיהם על פי ה' ואלה מסעיהם למוצאיהם"
“Moshe wrote their goings forth according to their journeys at the bidding of G‑d, and these were their journeys according to their goings forth.” (33:2)

QUESTION: 1) Why does the pasuk start with “motza’eihem lemase’eihem” — “their goings forth according to their journeys” — and concludes in the reverse,“mase’eihem lemotza’eihem” — “their journeys according to their goings forth?” 2) Why does it say “al pi Hashem” — “at the bidding of G‑d” — only with “motza’eihem lemase’eihem”?

ANSWER: During the forty-year sojourn in the wilderness, the itinerary of the Jewish people from Egypt to Eretz Yisrael consisted of forty-two encampments. While most of them were on the physical journey forward, strangely enough, some were in the opposite direction, back toward Egypt. When the Jewish people submitted to Hashem’s Will, they moved forward, coming closer to their destination. At other times, however, they rebelled and wanted to return to Egypt (see Rashi 21:4).

The word “motza’eihem” refers to their point of origin, and the word “mase’eihem” refers to their destination. Moshe recorded all the forty-two encampments, most of which were in the direction of “motza’eihem” — from the origination point (Egypt) — “lemase’eihem” — enroute to their destination (Eretz Yisrael), and all these were “al pi Hashem” — “at the bidding of G‑d.” Among the forty-two encampments, there were also some which were, however, “mase’eihem” — from their destination (Eretz Yisrael)“lemotza’eihem” — back to their origination point (Egypt) and these were not “al pi Hashem” — “at the bidding of G‑d.”

(כלי יקר)


"ויסעו מרעמסס בחדש הראשון...ממחרת הפסח...ויסעו בני ישראל מרעמסס ויחנו בסכת"
“They journeyed from Ramseis in the first month...on the day after the Pesach-offering...the Children of Israel journeyed from Ramseis and encamped in Sukkot.” (33:3,5)

QUESTION: Why does it repeat that they journeyed from Ramseis, only mentioning the encampment in Sukkot the second time?

ANSWER: Describing Hashem’s loving care of the Jewish people, the Torah says, “You have seen what I did to Egypt and that I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Me” (Shemot 19:4). What did Hashem mean when He said, “And brought you to me”?

According to Targum Yonatan ben Uziel (ibid.), on the night of Pesach when the Jews were to eat their Pesach-offering, Hashem took them on clouds from Ramseis and brought them to Mount Moriah, where the Beit Hamikdash was to be built, and there they ate their Pesach-offering. Immediately afterwards, He returned them to Egypt and the following morning they left Ramseis.

Consequently, the Jews journeyed twice from Ramseis. The first was a short trip, after which they immediately returned to Egypt, and after the second departure from Ramseis, they encamped in Sukkot.

(חזון עובדיה - מצליח יחיאל עובדיה ז"ל)


"ויסעו מחרדה ויחנו במקהלת ויסעו ממקהלת ויחנו בתחת"
“They journeyed from Chareidah and encamped in Makheilot. They journeyed from Makheilot and encamped in Tachat.” (33:25-26)

QUESTION: Of what significance to us are the names of their places of encampment?

ANSWER: Hashem told the prophet Hoshea, “Ephraim is united in idol-worship, [lit. joined to idols] let him alone” (Hosea 4:17). From this our sages (Bereishit Rabbah 38:6) derive that the power of peace and unity is so great that even when the Jewish people sin, if unity prevails, G‑d does not rebuke or punish them.

The word “chareidah” in Hebrew means “fear” (see Bereishit 26:33). The word “makheilot” can be associated with the word “hakheil,” which means “gather together” and the word “tachat” can mean “lowering down.” Thus, the Torah is teaching us that “vayise’u meichareidah” — the Jewish people can journey away and not have to fear retribution for their iniquities if “vayachanu bemakheilot” — they are encamped in unity. However, if “vayise’u mimakheilot” — they journey away from their unity — and disharmony and animosity prevails, then “vayachanu betachat” — they will be encamped at a lower level — and, G‑d forbid, they will be punished for any iniquities which were previously not taken into consideration.

(חתם סופר)


"ויעל אהרן הכהן אל הר ההר על פי ה' וימת שם... בחדש החמישי באחד לחדש."
Aaron the Kohen went up to Mount Hor at the word of G‑d and died there... in the fifth month on the first of the month.” (33:38)

QUESTION: The passing of Aharon is first recorded in Parshat Chukat (20:22 - 29) but there is no mention there of the date. Why is it mentioned here?

ANSWER: Aharon passed away on Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av, which is in the middle of the three-week period known as bein hameitzarim — “between the straits.” His passing was a very sad event and the entire Jewish community mourned (20:29). Parshat Masei is always read in the middle of the three weeks and very close to, or on, Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av. Therefore, it is appropriate to indicate the date of his passing in this parshah.

* * *

It is particularly appropriate, as we recall the passing of Aharon, to reflect upon his love for his fellow Jews and to endeavor to emulate him. We should love peace and pursue peace, love our fellow creatures and bring them near to the Torah (Pirkei Avot 1:12).

One of the primary causes of the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash was sinat chinam — baseless hatred and animosity (Yoma 9b). Through true Ahavat Yisrael we will speedily merit its rebuilding.

(לקוטי שיחות חלק כ"ג)


"דבר אל בני ישראל ואמרת אלהם כי אתם עברים את הירדן אל ארץ כנען...ואבדתם את כל משכיתם"
“Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan to the land of Canaan...And you shall destroy all their prostration stones.’” (33:51-52)

QUESTION: Why, when Moshe told them about their coming into Eretz Yisrael, did he command only the destruction of the places of idol worship, and not any other mitzvot connected with Eretz Yisrael?

ANSWER: One of the main reasons for the destruction of the first Beit Hamikdash was idol worship (Yoma 9b). According to the Gemara (Arachin 32b), had Moshe come to Eretz Yisrael, he would have nullified the evil inclination to worship idol, and consequently, the Jewish people would not have been exiled and would have remained in Eretz Yisrael forever. (See Likkutei Sichot, vol. 19, p. 346.)

In his last address to the nation, Moshe told the people, “You are crossing the Jordan to enter Eretz Yisrael. You and not I! Therefore, you will be confronted with the inclination to worship idols, which, G‑d forbid, may cause the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash and exile from the land. Hence, I am commanding you to destroy all their places of worship; thus, the possibility of idol worship will be eliminated and you will remain in Eretz Yisrael forever.”

(בית יעקב ר' יעקב הכהן ז"ל טראב – מסלתון ראב"ד ביירות), ועי' פרשת דרכים דרך הקודש דרוש שמיני)


"ואת הערים אשר תתנו ללוים את שש ערי המקלט אשר תתנו לנס שמה הרצח ועליהם תתנו ארבעים ושתים עיר"
“The cities that you shall give to the Levites: The six cities of refuge that you shall provide for a murderer to flee there, and in addition to them you shall give forty-two cities.” (35:6)

QUESTION: In contemporary times, where are the cities of refuge?

ANSWER: In the verse “Shema Yisrael, Hashem Elokeinu, Hashem echad there are six words, and in the paragraph of “Ve’ahavta” — “You shall love [G‑d your G‑d]” — till “uvisharecha” — “and upon your gates” — there are a total of forty-two words. The verse of “Shema Yisrael” accentuates kabbalat ol malchut shamayim” — accepting the yoke of heaven — and the paragraph of “Ve’ahavta” deals with absolute love of Hashem.

When a Jew, G‑d forbid, commits a sin, he is killing part of hisnefesh — spiritual existence (see Igeret Hateshuvah, 4). The spiritual cities of refuge of Jew are the forty-eight words of “Shema Yisrael.” Through prayer and absolute submission to the yoke of Heaven and love of Hashem, a Jew achieves His forgiveness for his iniquities.

(אוהב ישראל)


"והקריתם לכם ערים ערי מקלט תהיינה לכם ונס שמה רצח מכה נפש בשגגה"
“You shall designate cities for yourselves; cities of refuge shall they be for you, and a murderer shall flee there, one who takes a life unintentionally.” (35:11)

QUESTION: Undoubtedly, there were more people making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year, than slayers running to cities of refuge. Why were there signs on the crossroads showing the way to the cities of refuge (see Makkot 10b) and no signs showing the way to Jerusalem?

ANSWER: One of the reasons why crime has become rampant in our times is that the media continuously reports it. The constant publicizing of crimes plants in some people’s minds the idea that crime is glamorous and exciting. If a “gag order” were imposed on reporting crimes and violence, and if the media would only report good deeds, our society might be safer.

Similarly, it is inappropriate for an unintentional murderer to continuously ask for directions while fleeing to a city of refuge, since people might begin to talk about having met a murderer. Talking about crime can encourage some feeble minded people to perpetrate crime. Therefore, signs are put up to eliminate the need for the murderer to talk to people and the possible consequences which such conversation might produce.

Making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year, by contrast, is a very important mitzvah. Our rabbis intentionally did not instruct the mounting of signs so as to make it necessary for people to stop and ask for directions and, thus, get into conversations about the mitzvah of aliyah leregel — pilgrimage. In turn, the people they had spoken to would relay to their family and friends their pleasant conversations with travelers going up to Jerusalem in order to be close to Hashem. Such reports would arouse in the hearers the desire to also perform mitzvot and come closer to Hashem.

(ושננתם ח"א)


"כי בעיר מקלטו ישב עד מות הכהן הגדל ואחרי מת הכהן הגדל ישוב הרצח אל ארץ אחזתו"
“For he must dwell in his city of refuge until the death of the Kohen Gadol, and after the death of the Kohen Gadol the murderer shall return to the land of his possession.” (35:28)

QUESTION: According to the Mishnah (Makkot 2:6), “The mothers of the Kohanim Gedolim would supply the residents of the cities of refuge with food and clothing so that they would not pray that their sons should die.”

Why did the mothers donate supplies and not the Kohanim Gedolim themselves?

ANSWER: Life in a city of refuge was comfortable. The unintentional murderer was given safety and sustenance. If the Kohen Gadol himself would have been the provider of the food and clothing, it would have encouraged a poor person to flee to the city of refuge claiming to be an unintentional murderer so he could remain there with guaranteed room and board until the Kohen Gadol died.

Therefore, it was not the Kohen Gadol himself who provided for the residents, but his mother. Consequently, it was possible that the Kohen Gadol’s mother would die shortly after his arrival and the Kohen Gadol would survive her by many years, thus leaving the refugee without a guaranteed source of income as long as the Kohen Gadol was alive. Hence, it would not be beneficial for him to pretend to be an unintentional murder because he could end up living many years in a city of refuge without financial aid.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר)


"אלה המצות והמשפטים אשר צוה ה' ביד משה אל בני ישראל בערבת מואב על ירדן ירחו"
“These are the commandments and ordinances that G‑d commanded through Moshe to the Children of Israel in the Plains of Moab, at the Jordan, by Jericho.” (36:13)

QUESTION: Torah is eternal. The end is joined to the beginning, and the beginning to the end (see Sefer Yetzirah 1:7, Likkutei Sichot Vol. 14, p. 25). How does this concept apply to the end and beginning of Bamidbar?

ANSWER: Prior to giving the Torah to the Jewish people, Hashem requested a guarantee that it would be studied and observed. Only after the Jews proclaimed, “Baneinu orvim otanu” — “Our children will be our guarantee” — did Hashem agree to give them the Torah.

According to derush — homiletic interpretation — our pasuk can be expounded to allude to the abovementioned dialogue that took place prior to kabbalat haTorah, and as follows: “These are the commandments and ordinances Hashem gave through Moshe to the Children of Israel, be’arvot — due to the surety — Moab — [given] by the fathers. The word “Yardein” (ירדן) is a composite of two words, “yad” and neir (candle), and the pasuk is saying that “al yad” — through [the offering of] “neir” — the children, who are the candles of the fathers — the Jews merited to receive the Torah which, in turn will bring them “Yereicho.” The word “Yereicho” is etymologically derived from “rei’ach” — “aroma.” The implication is that the Torah was received thanks to our parents offering their candles — children — as surety and it will provide “Yereicho” — a great spiritual aroma — which will bring spiritual contentment (see Sefer Siftei Kohen).

The opening pasuk of Bamidbar states that Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Tent of Meeting, which was in the Wilderness of Sinai. The Wilderness of Sinai is specifically mentioned here because this parshah is always read the Shabbat before Shavuot, which commemorates the giving of the Torah in the Wilderness of Sinai. It is emphasized to remind us that Hashem consented to give the Torah only for the guaranties offered, our children.

Thus, the closing and opening pasuk speak of the same thing — Hashem’s giving the Torah thanks to our assurance that our children will receive a Torah true education.