top of page

Matot 5783

July 9, 2023

Rabbi Geier


BSD || Rabbi Geier

Matot 5783

The Torah portions of this week, because we read two portions together, Matot and Masei, bring us a moment of the people where it seems like they never stop, like they are always on the move. Of course, that's not the case. Although they moved from one place to another, as the narrative describes, there were 42 stops made in the desert during the 40 years. But the way the story of each stop is told in this section, that they stopped here and stayed for so long and then continued on and stopped in another place, 42 times, 42 locations, is like a way to show us how exhausting that journey must have been.

If we pay attention to the history of the people of Israel in the Torah, there was always some kind of relocation. It started with Abraham leaving his home, leaving his parents' house, with God's call, with Lech Lecha. From that moment, the long history of relocations began, and there was always a nomadic feeling lingering. Once the people of Israel left Egypt, they didn't simply move from one place to another easily. They went to the uncomfortable desert, not a pleasant place. And later, after some time, they entered the promised land. And of course, at each of the stops or even initially in Canaan, they didn't have a real home to settle in.

Where are those famous tents or dwellings that Bilam Ben Beor, the sorcerer hired by the king of Moab, saw when he looked down at the people of Israel from the mountaintop? In that Torah narrative, everything seemed so peaceful. It seemed like everything was pleasant. And yet, they were in the middle of the desert, some with tents and others with dwellings, resembling residences. And that's what it's about.

The liberation of the people of Israel didn't happen like a revolution. Moses didn't come and change the people, and suddenly they were a free people. Everything needed to evolve. Revolutions usually have heroes, some who follow that hero, and others who die or are somehow expelled from the new core that is formed afterward. The people of Israel didn't have that process. The people evolved gradually.

It probably wouldn't have worked if the spies had given a positive report about the Land they went to investigate. If they had reported that the land truly flowed with milk and honey, if the settlement of the people in the new land had been easy and quick, there wouldn't have been an evolution of the people. The people of Israel were growing, and that's why it wasn't necessary to have heroes. We had teachers, and a great teacher in Moshe Rabbeinu who helped the people evolve, who helped them grow in their souls, in their attachment to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, in their attachment to the law they received at Sinai. None of this would have happened if the changes had been quick, instantaneous.

These stops that the Torah shows us are the necessary stops to grow, necessary to learn with the participation of everyone. It's a people with individuals who make mistakes and learn from them. It's a people without individual heroes. It's the entire people together who moved, who grew, who improved, who learned, who left behind bad habits, who learned together. It was easier with a leader guiding them, of course, but not a hero. It's the teacher who teaches, the prophet who tells them the path to follow, the one who guides and the people then understand. Some are left behind, of course, but the people arrive evolved and with a new way of thinking to adhere to the Mitzvot and to the construction of a better society.

Matot-Masei teaches us that the present and the future are not built by delegating everything to others, but it requires each member of a society, a community, a congregation, to commit to growing together, walking together, and guiding together.

May The Lord help us to achieve this.

bottom of page