For the week ending 3 August 2019 / 2 Av 5779

Parshat Masei

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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The Torah names all 42 encampments of Bnei Yisrael on their 40-year journey from the Exodus to the crossing of the Jordan River into Eretz Yisrael. G-d commands Bnei Yisrael to drive out the Canaanites from the Land of Israeland to demolish every vestige of their idolatry. Bnei Yisrael are warned that if they fail to rid the Land completely of the Canaanites, those who remain will be "pins in their eyes and thorns in their sides." The boundaries of the Land of Israel are defined, and the tribes are commanded to set aside 48 cities for the Levites, who do not receive a regular portion in the division of the Land. Cities of refuge are to be established: Someone who murders unintentionally may flee there. The daughters of Tzlofchad marry members of their tribe so that their inheritance will stay in their own tribe. Thus ends the Book of Bamidbar/Numbers, the fourth of the Books of the Torah.


Lessons from London

“These are the journeys ………” (33:1)

I recently returned from visiting my mother in London. When I stay there I daven at the local Orthodox shul. It’s an affluent and not overly-observant community, where the emphasis seems more on the “Modern” than on the “Orthodox.” But something happened there that really impressed me. After the morning minyan, with about 20 people in attendance for the prayer service, there was a brit mila. At 8 o’clock there suddenly descended on the shul around one hundred thoroughly secular-looking ladies and gentlemen, dressed for a ball. I thought to myself, “They look so assimilated and yet they’re coming to an event that qualifies as child mutilation to many of their non-Jewish friends!”

Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel taught: "Every commandment that Israel took upon themselves with joy, as for instance brit mila, is still observed with joy, as it is written in Psalms 119:162: I rejoice over Your word.”

The Jewish People are alive and well and living — amongst other places — in London!

The last Torah portion in the Book of Bamidbar, called Masei, chronicles the journey of the Jewish People through the wilderness. The Torah lists the forty-two places where the Bnei Yisrael camped on their way to Eretz Yisrael. What is the reason for these forty-two stops in the desert? There is a mystical concept that the purpose of these encampments was for the Children of Israel to release and gather the sparks of holiness that were trapped in the desert’s emptiness. Each of these stopping places corresponds to a letter of G‑d’s Name, and so by gathering the sparks from each place, a little more of G-d’s Name — i.e. His recognition in the world — was revealed. Three thousand years later, the Jewish People still journey. A hundred years here, two hundred there. On their journeys through Spain, America, China and England the Jewish People “extract” and redeem the sparks of holiness that are trapped throughout the world. When this process is complete, the Mashiach, the anointed one, will gather all the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. And then, “On that day, G-d will be one and His Name one.” G‑d will be revealed as the one true G-d. His Name will then be complete.

Our Sages tell us that the mitzvah of brit mila carries with it the promise of three rewards: The eternity of the royal House of David, the dwelling of the Divine Presence on the Jewish People and the eternal ownership of the Land of Israel.

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