The opening pasuk of Parshat Masei says “Eileh masei B’nei Yisrael asher yatzu mei’eretz Mitzrayim letzivotam” — “These are the journeys of the Children of Israel who went forth from the land of Egypt according to their legions.”

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Chassidut, known as the Alter Rebbe (1745-1812) in his work Likkutei Torah asks why does the pasuk say “masei” — “journeys” — in the plural? Immediately after the first journey, weren’t the Jews already out of Egypt?

Superficially we may be able to answer this question in the following way:

At the beginning of the enumeration of their journeys the Torah says, “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).

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

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 (Egypt). The first was a short trip, after which they immediately returned to Egypt, and after their second departure from Ramseis, they encamped in Sukkot. Thus, the word “Masei” in plural would seem to be proper.

However, the Alter Rebbe’s question is more profound. The words “eileh masei” — “These are the journeys [of the Children of Israel who went forth from the land of Egypt]” refers to all the 42 journeys and encampment, when they left Egypt with only with one trip (or two), but not 42, ?

The Rebbe in Likkutei Sichot (vol. 2) offers the following beautiful explanation:

The encampments began after the Exodus from Egypt and culminated with the arrival at Yardein Yericho — 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 “Vaharicho beyirat 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 — of our ancestors, 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.”

My dear Bar Mitzvah, now that you have become a full-fledged member of Klal Yisrael, you, too, will be embarking on a series of travels during your lifetime. You will be going from level to level in your personal development and continuously achieving more exalted heights. The road may not be easy at times, but do not be discouraged by the various limitations, restraints, and obstacles your Yeitzer Hara will put in your way. Just as our forefathers had their ups and downs, but never abandoned their hope, and ultimately reached their destiny, so will Hashem help you to reach the highest levels in eretz tovah v’rechavah — in the good and beautiful land.

You have a great mission ahead of you and we all wish you alei v’hatzlach — go up and succeed.


Your Bar Mitzvah parshah is Masei (which is the concluding parshah of Chumash Bamidbar.)

When one concludes a volume of Torah it is customary to make a siyum. For example upon completing the study of a Gemara (a volume of Talmud), the person recites a special prayer, and it is customary to deliver a Talmudic discourse. The same is relevant also when concluding any volume of Torah in Nigleh or Chassidut. At various Yud Tes Kislev farbrengens we were privileged to hear from the Rebbe siyumim on Sefer Likkutei Amarim — Tanya (either on the entire Tanya or a section), and on occasions he delivered a siyum on Rambam.

A popular custom at a siyum is to connect the end with the beginning and the beginning with the end. Thus, demonstrat­ing the eternity of Torah and that there is no end.

Consequently, I will endeavor to make a siyum on Chumash Bamidbar, connecting the end and beginning.

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 (Midrash Rabbah, Songs of Songs 1:3,1).

The final pasuk states, “Eilah hamitzvot vehamishpatim asher tzivah Hashem beyad Moshe el benei Yisrael b’Arvot Moab al Yardein Yereicho” — “These are the commandments and the ordinances that Hashem commanded through Moshe to the Children of Israel in the Plains of Moab, at the Jordan by Yericho” (36:13).

According to derush — homiletic interpretation — our pasuk can be expounded to allude to the abovementioned dialogue that took place prior to kabbalat haTorah — receiving the Torah — 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” andneir (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 authored by the Kabbalist of Sefad, Rabbi Mordechai HaKohen, originally published in 5470-1710).

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, the Yom Tov that commemorates the giving of the Torah in the Wilderness of Sinai. Simultaneously, it is emphasized to remind us that Hashem consented to give the Torah thanks to the guarantee of our children.

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

My dear Bar Mitzvah, your parents have earnestly fulfilled this pledge of “Baneinu orvim otanu.” They have given you a profound authentic Torah education coupled with an atmosphere of Chassidut and yirat Shamayim. Hopefully, you will now dedicate the formulative years that are ahead of you to diligent and assiduous Torah study. Thus, you would assure the continuity of Torah and be a source of unlimited Yiddish and Chassidish nachas to your family and Klal Yisrael.

Hatzlachah Rabbah and Mazel Tov.