Themes of the parasha:
In order to understand this parasha, it is important to
read Mattot, the preceding parasha, which teaches us how
to improve our moral and spiritual qualities. This work
of self-improvement is now completed in Massey, which
describes the physical stages accomplished by the bnei
Yisrael, from the time of the exodus from Egypt. It then
commands the children of Israel to settle the promised
land, defining the boundaries of Israel, the leaders who
will take possession of the land, the number of Levitical
cities and cities of refuge, the laws governing murder
and manslaughter, the laws of inheritance within each
tribe, and ends with a Massoretic note.
A. The Stages
Principle meaning: Modia
Elle massey benei Yisrael,
"These are the stages of the children of Israel.."
Thus begins the final parasha of the book of Bamidbar
This book contains:
63,530 LETTERS, 16,368 WORDS, 1,288 VERSES, 36 SECTIONS
The completion of this parasha
marks the completion of 249,913 letters in the four books
of the Torah, out of a total of 304,805 for the entire
Pentateuch (the Tanakh as a whole has 1,159,705 letters).
Each letter of the Tanakh contains a message which needs
to be deciphered, a call for love and a moral lesson.
This is how Rashi has taught us to understand the Tanakh.
In the desert described in
Bemidbar (in the desert), we have accomplished 63,530
stages or letters: the word midbar (desert) represents
the emptiness of the desert, but it is also linked to
medaber "he who speaks": it is against the
emptiness that surrounds us that the word one's beloved
is heard. This was the case for the children of Israel
in the desert, and this is the case for all of us. This
is why we have been given the teachings of the Torah.
In the first 49 verses, the
parasha describes each of the stages in the journey of
the children of Israel, as they went forth out of Egypt
towards the promised land. What is the meaning of these
Rashi writes: lama nikhtevu
hamassaot hallalu? Lehodia hassadav shel makom (why are
these stages in the journey described? In order to make
known to us the benevolence of the Creator). Readers will
have noticed the word "Modia," which I have
adopted as the name of this site, and they now understand
its meaning: to makes known to us the stages since the
beginning of creation, describing every step on the way,
till the realization of the ultimate goal.
Rashi's commentary echoes
Psalm 89, 2:
"hassde hashem olam ashira, le dor va dor odia emunatekha
I will sing of the mercies of Hashem forever, with my
mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations."
We should all review our lives and the history of the
Jewish people in this light, in order to see, amidst trials
and tragedies, the signs of Hashem's benevolence.
King David goes even further
(Psalm 119, 71):
"tov-li khi uneti
It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
lemaan elmade hukeikha
that I might learn thy statutes."
Readers should study Rashi's
first commentary on each book of the Torah, for he always
refers to this theme of Hashem's benevolence throughout
these stages. In particular, readers should study Rashi's
first commentary on this parasha.
Summary of the 42 stages (refer
to Rashi's commentary)
The first year (year 2448): 12 stages from the time of
Ramses to the revelation at Sinai.
The second year (year 2449): 3 stages from the time of
kivrot hataava, the tombs of desire, Hatzerot and Ritma
; this is the stage of the construction of the sanctuary,
the spies and the punishment of Myriam (Bemidbar 12, and
The period till the 40th year: 19 stages in the desert
till the death of Aharon on mount Hor.
The 40th year (2488): the final 8 stages leading to the
Jordan at Jericho, as described in the last verse of Bemidbar
The Stages Year since the creation
7. Sea of Reeds
8. Sine desert
12. Sinai desert
20. Mount Sefer
34. Mount Hor
41. Hills of Abbarim
42. Plains of Moab
12 stages from the time of Ramses
till the revelation at Sinai.
the 19 stages in the desert till the death of Aharon on
the final 8 stages till the Jordan at Jericho.
The Shla's commentary
In the third part of his commentary
(Derekh Hayim, Way of Life), the Shla interprets the meaning
of the stages in relation to our lives:
" the exile is a result
of our sins;
" the need to move in order to go and live in a place
where it is easier to study the Torah and to live according
to the Torah;
" the expression tze ulemad (go out and study), which
constantly appears in the Talmud, means that in order
to study we must move away from our daily pre-occupations
and preconceptions, just as Moshe did with the burning
bush (read Shemot 3, 3).
" the concept of "exile" - the state in
which the Sages put themselves before studying and before
Shabbat (moving awayfrom the daily pre-occupations of
" in other places, the Shla also includes the exile
of Adam from the garden of Eden in this trajectory, giving
meaning to the long stage which we pass in this world
and which is only a temporary stage in our development.
B. The mitzvot in the parasha
These are mitzvot nos. 408
to 413, which command us:
" to establish Levitical
cities and cities of refuge for those who commit manslaughter
(35, 2 and 35, 11);
" to protect those who commit manslaughter until
they are brought to judgment (35, 12);
" to deliver the manslayer to a city of refuge;
" to prohibit a witness to a murder from being part
of a tribunal (35, 30;
" to refuse payment of a ransom in exchange for a
death sentence (35, 31);
" to refuse payment of a ransom in exchange for the
exile of a manslayer to a city of refuge (35, 32).
The meaning of the mitzvot
in relation to the parasha
The Shla showed us that the
preceding parasha taught us how to make our neshama holy;
this parasha teaches us how to make the body holy. This
relates to the work we need to do on ourselves during
the period between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av
(refer to the commentary on the month of Tamuz).
The Jewish people has been
saved physically from slavery in Egypt and spiritually
from assimilation. The aim is not to settle in a country
of refuge and subscribe to another form of slavery, by
adopting foreign values; the aim is to become a holy people,
kaddosh, who live in keddusha, holiness.
In relation to this, the Shla
explains that murder is the greatest sin against the Creator,
for man was created in His image and His likeness.
The Shla also shows that those
who commit manslaughter are involved in a complicated
process of divine judgment, and that they will exile themselves
to a city of refuge until the death of the high priest,
the Cohen gadol.
Why is this? Because the death
of the high priest is when Hashem's benevolence will manifest
itself and repair the world ; indeed the death of a tzaddik
(a righteous man) liberates, for himself and for others,
the flux of benediction, in particular that which governs
life and the birth of children.
Lama nikhtevu hamassaot hallalu
? lehodia hassadav shel makom.
"Why are these stages in the journey described? In
order to make known the benevolence of the Creator"
(Rashi on Bamidbar 33, 1).
On the subject of Hashem's
love, which is expressed so well by Rashi in his commentary
on the first verse of this parasha, read Rashi's first
commentary on the books of Bereshit, Shemot, Vayikra and
Poem on the stage of each