This week’s music: https://youtu.be/LFbf7YqcT1Q
“Lo Yilmedu Od Milchamah, No More War”
This week’s Torah portion, “Masei,” Travels, begins by what seems to be a simple listing of the 42 stops that the “B’nai Yisrael” made in the desert as they made their way on the exodus from “Mitzraim” to entering the Holy Land of Israel. Many of the great commentators on the Torah wonder why the Torah would need to list all of the stops made on the way in their journey in such great detail. No stop was left off of the Biblically recorded itinerary. It is interesting to note that at each junction along the journey the description is the same (Bamidbar 33.5-49). “ Vayisu,” and “they travelled” from a specific location, “vayachanu” and “they camped” in the next location, as if to say to us, they left one place behind and then they camped, paused and assessed where they had arrived.
The Ramban, Nachmanidies, teaches us that when “B’nai Yisrael” were travelling in the desert, in each location they would be charged with picking up “lost sparks” of souls along the way. As soon as Moshe Rabeinu saw that their job was completed at that stop, he would sound the command for them to all move on to the next destination. This continued until “B’nai Yisrael,” Jewish nation, entered The Holy Land of “Eretz Yisrael.” Once they came into The Land, they no longer needed to venture out. The mass light of all of the nation being in Israel was sent out around the world, attracting all holy sparks homeward.
Unfortunately, as we know 2,000 years ago we were exiled from The Land by Hashem. Thus, says the Ramban, our job was reinstated. Any place we would choose to go we would once again have a very specific task at hand. As The great scholar known as The “Meshech Chochma,” Reb Meir Simcha of Dvinsk taught, the scenario would always be the same. We arrive in a new land, with little in hand. We work hard to set down roots, establish homes, succeed in business and industry, even in the field of medicine and finally in government when seemingly suddenly with little warning the government says “get out! You are no longer welcome here.” We can’t understand why. What did we do? The Ramban explains with great clarity and certainty, you have accomplished what Hashem sent you there to do. The job is over. It is time to move on.
For the past 2,000 years “B’nai Yisrael,” the Jewish people, travelling from country to country, working hard, finding “success”, enjoying life, feeling welcomed and comfortable in their new habitat, even feeling like we are living at “home,” only to be told time and time again with little to no exception, time for your people to leave our country.
So it continues. We continually move on, unknowingly going to the next destination to gather together more “missing sparks” that will eventually be drawn to the beauty of our true home, “Eretz Yisrael.”
The Prophet, “Yeshayahu ben Amotz” teaches all of Israel past, present and future, about Judah and Jerusalem (Chapter 2.verses 1-5). “and it will be in the end of days…all of the nations will be flowing like a river to the mount of the house of God.” Have you ever stood in the middle of “the square” in The Old City of Jerusalem? On any given day you can be there from 10am – 2pm and hear no less than 20 languages being spoken by groups ascending on “Yerushalayim” from all over the world. What is our job? “v’yoru drachav,” the “navi Yeshayahu” declares, “you need to teach His ways, and then everyone will walk in His manner. “Ki mitzion tetze Torah,” because the Torah is going of out of Zion.” Baruch Hashem, there is so much Torah going forth worldwide out of Zion. “Torat Eretz Yisrael” is being taught and studied all over the world.” u’dvar Hashem me’Yrushalem, the word of God is coming from Jerushalem.” The word used here is not Yerushalyim but rather Yerushalem. The true teaching of His ways can only go our if we make Jerusaelm “shalem,” complete in Peace. As teachers we need to be complete together. It is our job to bring “shlemut,” completion, to the world. When that happens, says the Prophet in the name of God, “lo yis goy el goy cherev, no nation will lift a sword against another, v’lo yilmedu od milchama, and war will no longer be taught.”
So where do I start? I am particularly fond of the idea which numerous Chassidic masters speak about in the name of their great teacher, The Baal Shem Tov ( Master of the Good Name). I recently saw this teaching in a book called “Degel Macahneh Efraim” ( The flag of the camp of Efraim), written by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Efraim, grandson of The Holy Baal Shemtov. He quotes his grandfather as giving over that in everyone’s journey in life there are 42 “spiritual encampments,” mirroring the 42 stops that “B’nai Yisrael” made in the desert as they prepared to enter “Eretz Yisrael.” These are the moments when I need to assess my life’s journey and see where have I come from, be fully aware of where am I now and be clearly focused on where am I going to.
So basically what I need to do every step on my personal journey, physical and spiritual, is to look at myself as honestly as I can and ask myself, who was I? Who am I now? Who would I like to be? How do I get closer to my soul’s goal in this world? Once I do that it becomes so clear that only with “shlemut” can those questions be answered and translated into and honest collective reality.
Whatever is going on for us now is but one more stop on our collective journey.
Each stop along the way, camping there just long enough to pick up the “sparks” that needed to be collected and brought home. Whatever the personal task, the goal remains the same. How can I get home? Friends, we are mamash half way there. The other half, we know, Hashem can make happen, “kheref ayin”, like the bat of an eyelash. It seems that for that to finally happen, all we need to do is each do our individual fixing, look at each other with eyes of Peace to get together, and shine the brightest light of hope and unity to the whole world. That light, as the “navi” teaches, must be sent out form our home in “Yerushalem, Eretz Yisrael.” This song of Peace “l’shem shamyim,” must be sung together in our Holy Land. As is written in Psalms (Chapter 137.4), how is it possible for us to sing Hashem’s songs on foreign soil?