Gleaned from the Sfas Emes

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Parshas Massei

Comings and Goings

The Torah records where the Children of Israel camped since leaving Egypt...

"And Moshe wrote their departures, according to their journeys by G-d's command. And these are their journeys according to their departures." (33:2)

The verse records, "their departures, according to their journeys" (first ‘departures’, then ‘journeys’) - then repeats, "their journeys according to their departures" (first ‘journeys’, then ‘departures’). What is the significance of each?

There are two aspects in drawing near to G-d: "Turn from evil and do good." (T'hillim, 34:15). Working on either one of these areas strengthens efforts in the other. If we turn away from evil, in obedience to G-d's Will - we will experience a stronger desire to do good. And if we do good because it is G-d's Will - our resolve not to do evil becomes strengthened. But if our turning away from evil is only because that particular variety of evil is distasteful to us - this won't strengthen our desire to do good. And if we do good merely because we are so inclined - this will not bolster our ability to turn from evil.

When the Jews left Egypt for Eretz Yisroel, they began to move away from evil, and towards G-d. That this 'distancing from' and the 'journeying toward' was done with the correct intentions (as above) is hinted in the verse:"their departures" (distancing from Egypt, from evil) were an influence "toward their journeys" (towards Eretz Yisroel, toward spirituality). And "their journeys" (toward Eretz Yisroel, toward spirituality) were an influence for "their departures" (distancing themselves from Egypt, from evil). The endeavors in each aspect had a strengthening influence on the endeavors in the other aspect. (Sfas Emes, Massei 5632)

“Gleaned From the Sfas Emes” - excerpts adapted from a soon to published book, G-d Willing, by Simcha Leib Grossbard.Rabbi Grossbard is author of “The Sfas Emes Haggadah” (Targum Press) and “Kasheleg Yalbinu”, a two volume (Hebrew) work based on Sfas Emes.

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