The Degel Machaneh Ephraim notes that whereas the opening verse in parshas Masai, “These are the journeys of the b’nei Yisrael who started out from the land of Egypt, in accordance with their troops, in the charge of Moshe and Ahron” does not reference Hashem’s guiding these travels, the second verse, “And Moshe recorded the starting points of their various marches as directed by Hashem” does. Why is the all-important detail of these journeys being in accordance with the will of Hashem omitted from the first pasuk and only included in the second? The tzaddik answers with the following beautiful idea.

As the Chassidic masters revealed in their works, the travels of the Jewish nation in the desert were founded upon the deepest secrets of creation. With every step, our ancestors were bringing about the most awesome spiritual unifications. Each leg of their odyssey was paving the path for all future generations to come. However, the B’nei Yisrael were not necessarily aware of these secrets. The Jews traveled with simplicity, following the bidding of Moshe. Still, although they may have been unsure of the purpose of their difficult and circuitous route, they plodded on with perfect faith that there was indeed a deeper meaning to their journey. Moshe Rabbeinu was the only one who was privy to the secrets, the aspect of “Al pi Hashem” which served as the foundation for these challenges. He alone was aware of the awesome rectifications being accomplished in the difficult travels of the Jewish nation.

The Degel explains that because the Jewish nation wasn’t aware of the secrets of their mission, the first verse, in which the B’nei Yisrael are mentioned, does not make reference to the aspect of “al pi Hashem” – the hidden mystical agenda of their odyssey. It is only in the second verse, in which only Moshe Rabbeinu, who understood these secrets, is mentioned, that the Torah refers to the fact that Hashem was directing these paths in accordance with the awesome reasons He had for doing so.

The tzaddikim revealed that just as the fledgling Jewish nation did at the outset of our glorious history, each and every individual Jew in every age must similarly undergo forty-two travels in his or her own emotional and spiritual life. While many of these journeys seem difficult, arduous, and even meaningless or absurd, it is important to remember that they are founded upon the deepest secrets of creation and touch the core of our particular soul’s mission in this world. Although we may not be privy to the deeper meaning of these travels, the true tzaddikim who are an aspect of “Moshe Rabbeinu” are guiding us along the way with teachings founded in their deep and abiding wisdom.

Every Jewish soul must travel 42 journeys in this lifetime. Each step is founded upon unfathomable secrets.

Rebbe Ephraim of Sudlykov
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R’ Yaakov Klein is the founder of the Lost Princess Initiative, an author, musician, and lecturer devoted to sharing the inner light of Torah through his books, music, and lectures.

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