Monday, August 31, 2015

486 - Matos-Masei

In Parshas Masei, when recounting the Bnei Yisrael's travels through the desert, the Torah enumerates each of the forty-two locations where Bnei Yisrael encamped on their journey toward Eretz Yisrael. Why did the Torah feel it pertinent to inform us of the specific spots in the desert where Bnei Yisrael stopped over?

The Ramban (Bamidbar 33:1) quotes the Rambam who explains why Hashem felt it imperative that all future generations know the route they followed through the desert. The Jewish people were miraculously sustained in the desert for forty years. They ate heavenly bread, they drank water which flowed from a rock, and their clothing grew along with them. Yet, after that generations would pass on, and the extraordinary survival in the desert would remain a mere oral legacy, people would begin doubting the awesomeness of what occurred: "After all, there are many people nowadays that reside in the desert." People might contend that the Jews probably never strayed too far from civilization which allowed them to procure the vital provisions needed to get them through their forty year trek in the desert.

Thus, the Torah tells all future generations: Here are all the places of encampment; go check the map. See for yourselves that they were nowhere near any populated towns, and for the most part there was nary an oasis where they pitched their tents. When one has a precise picture of where Bnei Yisrael slept at night, they can begin to imagine what miraculous events transpired and thereby appreciate the awesomeness of Hashem's miracles and the extent of His kindness.

Rav Wolbe adds that this ability to conjure up occurrences of the past, and to depict for one's self images that he has never observed, is the key to emunah. The Rambam describes emunah as "the belief in what is outside the realm of the intellect, as the mind depicts it." As people are wont to say seeing is believing. The first step toward believing is to use one's mind to make an artist's rendering of the events. The strength of one's belief is directly proportionate to the clarity and reality of the picture he conjures up.

Having emunah per se is not a problem. Everybody believes in something. Some believe in communism, some in capitalism and some in socialism and some believe in the numerous other isms floating around. The founders of these ideologies created such a vivid picture of a utopian life for anyone who buys into their doctrine that it inspires the masses to believe in their philosophies because the people "see" the results and feel the anticipated pleasure before anything has actually happened. Our belief in Yetzias Mitzrayim, the splitting of the sea and Matan Torah, hinges on the extent our minds depict these occurrences.

On Pesach we are supposed to feel as if we ourselves went out of Mitzrayim. During the three weeks we should feel as if we were evicted from Yerushalayim. If we depict the Bais Hamikdosh in its glory, its destruction and the ensuing exile, we can begin to mourn what we lost. Looking at pictures of the evacuations of the ghettos and the resulting horrors endured during the Holocaust causes one to feel the pain even if he was not born at the time of these events. The mind is powerful. We can relive events that we never even lived through in the first place! Take a virtual tour of the Bais Hamikdosh with your mind's eye and appreciate the remarkable effect that it had on the entire world. This exercise will not only enable you to mourn what was lost, it will give you the emunah needed to truly believe in and anticipate the final redemption. May we all merit seeing it speedily in our days!

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