Machshava – Rabbi David Shamsi

All Roads Lead to Hasham

In this week’s parasha, the Torah recounts the travels of Bnei Yisroel after they left Egypt until they reached the border of the Promised Land.  But why bother recounting all of these stops en route to the destination?  What is the message for us?

Rabbi Yehuda Aryeah Leib Alter, more commonly known as the Sfat Emet, after his commentary on the Torah, writes that if we count all the stops Bnei Yisroel made throughout their trek, the total is 49.  These 49 stops are equivalent to the 49 levels of impurity that Bnei Yisroel plummeted to while in Egypt.  Each stop Bnei Yisroel took in the desert en route to Israel signified that they were one step closer to attaining complete spiritual purity.

However, this is problematic; After all, included in that total number of 49 stops are seven stops that Bnei Yisroel made while running back to Egypt to flee from enemies. How could seven steps backward toward Egypt represent seven steps forward in spirituality?

The answer is that sometimes the only way to ascend in spirituality is to fall first.  In the words of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov:  “When a person falls from his level, he should know that this is sent from Heaven.  The reason for the fall is to spur the person to make even greater efforts to draw closer to God.”  May we all merit maintaining our hope of drawing close to Hasham – even if we find ourselves confronted with the same challenge we thought we overcame a decade ago.

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