We have reached the end of the Book of Numbers (Sefer Bamidbar in the Torah) and the culmination of the travels of the Children of Israel through the Desert. The Holy Nation is gathered on the Plains of Moav, across from the Eastern border of the Holy Land, poised to cross the Jordan River.
The goal is in sight and the moment is filled with drama.
I have written before about my favorite road in the world, Route 90, the longest road in Israel, which links Eilat in the south to Metula on the Lebanese border. One can look eastward from this road across the Jordan River and see the Plains of Moav. I always imagine that I see over there the legions of Israel arrayed in their formations, still under the leadership of Moshe Rabbeinu, waiting to enter the Holy Land.
Parshas Masei, the last Torah Portion in the Book of Numbers, opens with the amazing list of the travels of Israel.
What’s so amazing?
What is amazing, my friends, is how we got here. How did we survive those forty danger-filled years, years of spiritual elevation but also rebellion and constant confrontation with our enemies? How did we survive as a spiritual nation, a nation destined to represent the King of the Universe? Even though we angered Him, He still protected us and enabled us to survive and reach this moment.
Indeed, when we reach a significant moment, we are obligated to acknowledge that Hashem enabled us to pass through many obstacles and we have finally arrived: “Shehecheyanu … Hashem has kept us alive and sustained us and has brought us here!” We have to thank Hashem for the fact that we continue to exist and we continue to march toward our goal.
As I write, it is the Seventeenth of Tammuz, the beginning of the Three Weeks, and we have just recited these words: “Remember Your mercies, Hashem, and Your kindnesses, for they are eternal…. Remember Your congregation, which You acquired long ago. You redeemed the tribe of Your heritage, the mountain of Zion, the one where You rested Your Presence…. Remember …. the affection of Yerushalayim, the love of Tzion … do not forget….”
Now, thousands of years later, these words fit our situation perfectly; they are the words we need to go onward. After thousands of years of wandering in the Desert of Exile, we are once again on the border of the Holy Land, poised to enter. Once again, we can look back on all the challenges through which we have passed. Once again, we are surrounded by enemies, but once again we are filled with hope.
“Moshe wrote their goings forth … at the bidding of Hashem.” (Numbers 33:2)
Every step was directed and supervised from Above! Every move was necessary. “Vayisu mai-ramsais … they journeyed from Ramsais in the first month … and encamped in Succos; they journeyed from Succos and encamped in Eisam ….” (Numbers 33:5ff)
Today, once again, Jews are on the move, seeking safety and survival, seeking to return to the Place where Hashem will again rest His Presence on His Nation. As we enter the Nine Days, it is vital to remember that Hashem is watching over all our journeys.
“Chazak! Chazak! V’nischazaik! … Be strong! Be strong! And may we be strengthened!”