Parshas Maasei-Likkutei Torah-The 42 journeys of the jewish people in the desert

Parshas Masei


Eileh Maseiy Bnei Yisrael…”

[Likkutei Torah p. 176]


This Mamar speaks of the travels of Bnei Yisrael in the desert, as discussed in this week’s Torah portion. The Jews traveled 42 journeys throughout their 40 years in the desert. The Mamar discusses the meaning and purpose of these journeys, and through doing so it enters into a discussion of the greatness and advantage of Eretz Yisrael over all the other lands. This is particularly pertinent to current events, where the citizens in Eretz Yisrael are experiencing an indiscriminate barrage of rocket and missile fire toward their homes, schools, and all buildings and institutions. Yet nevertheless we directly see Hashem’s providence over the Holy Land, and how He deflects the rockets and removes people out of danger. Besides for learning and understanding the greatness of Eretz Yisrael, we must express thanks to Hashem for all of His miracles and protection, giving open recognition to our Guide and Savior.


Explorations of the Mamar

1.      What is the greatness of Eretz Yisrael over the other lands?

2.      What was the purpose of the 42 journeys that Bnei Yisrael undertook in the desert? What did they accomplish?

3.      What is the meaning of the idea that Eretz Yisrael in the future will spread to all the other lands?


The Question:

The entire episode of journeys in the desert requires explanation. They traveled and encamped, and then traveled and encamped again. What was the meaning of this? For an entire nation of men of all ages, women, and children to randomly travel seems slightly peculiar. The verse states, Vayehi Binsoa Haaron… Kuma Hashem… Veyanusa Misanecha. What enemies were there in a barren desert that had to be chased away by the Aron? We find no wars or battles in the desert during these travels.

The enemies in the desert?

The desert that the Jewish people traveled through is referred to as Midbar Haamim, the desert of the nations. In it are found scorpions, snakes, and other deadly creatures. This is because all the Kelipos receive their vitality from the desert. The purpose of the journeys was to prevent the nurture of evil from holiness and to destroy their existence.

Turning the desert into Eretz Yisrael: This in itself, however, was for a higher purpose, for the purpose of eventually allowing even the Midbar, the desert, to serve as a dwelling place for G-d, as the Sages state that in the future Eretz Yisrael will spread to all the lands of the world. This means that all the lands in the world will be on the same level as Eretz Yisrael is today. Yerushalayim will then spread throughout Eretz Yisrael, which means that the entire Eretz Yisrael will be on the same level as Yerushalayim of today. Yerushalayim itself, however, will then be on a much higher level than Yerushalayim of today as there will be a greater elevation in all the worlds and levels.

The greatness of Eretz Yisrael-Receives the “Shefa of Yetzira”:

The Sages decreed that the air of the Diaspora contains impurity. The Arizal explains this as follows, delineating the difference between Eretz Yisrael and the Diaspora: Every land and country receives all of its blessings and good fortune from the Divine emanation that is drawn down through the upper worlds. The spiritual worlds are the source of all blessing, and lack of this flow would also mean that no blessing would be expressed below. In Kabbalistic wording, this Divine benevolence is defined as “Shefa”. This Shefa descends from the world of Atzilus, from the level of Malchus of Atzilus, into this world. However, it does not descend straight to this world from the level of Malchus of Atzilus, but rather passes through many levels until it reaches there. Malchus of Atzilus must be invested in the Malchus of Beriyah, the Malchus of Yetzira, and the Malchus of Assiyah. Only then does it descend and reach this world. However, in Eretz Yisrael the order is different. The Malchus of Atzilus is invested in the Malchus of Beriyah and Yetzira, but not in the Malchus of Assiyah. Now, although also in Eretz Yisrael the Shefa must certainly pass through Malchus of Assiyah in order to descend below, nevertheless the difference is that it passes through Malchus of Assiyah without being changed or modified. Thus Eretz Yisrael actually receives the Shefa of Yetzira through Malchus of Assiyah. However, in other lands, the level of Malchus of Assiyah changes and modifies the Shefa, turning it into Shefa of Assiyah. This is similar to one who looks at the light of the sun through a clean and clear glass versus through a stained glass window. Although in both cases he is viewing the same sunlight, nevertheless the stained glass window filters and reduces the amount and quality of light that he will see. This is also similar to the difference between a piece of intellect and a parable used to explain it. The parable hides and conceals the intellect within it. In Chassidic terminology, this is called Haavara versus Hislavshus. Haavara is when something is simply passing through, without being affected or changed, while Hislavshus is when it takes on a new and different identity.

The governing angels: Every country has a governing angel, including Eretz Yisrael. This angel has no power of its own and is completely nullified to performing G-d’s will and intent. Nevertheless, Hashem set up that all the Shefa must pass through the hands of the angel of each country, and the form and type of this angel affects the Shefa. The angels of other lands remove the G-dly remnants from the Shefa and make it appear as if it did not come from G-d. The angel of Eretz Yisrael, however, does not change or affect the Shefa and allows it to maintain its G-dly appearance.


A parable:

The above difference between the Shefa of Eretz Yisrael and the other lands is similar to one who is wiring money overseas versus locally. As the overseas transfer carries a fee, the person does not receive the full amount of money that he was sent, as the banks take their part. However, when transferring locally to another branch in that country, there is no fee involved and the money remains the same amount. Both monies are being transferred through banks. However, the overseas bank does not allow the exact amount of money to come in and hence changes its amount. The Shefa that comes to the Diaspora is charged a “fee” from the world of Assiyah that causes it to change from its original quality and quantity. However, although the Shefa in Eretz Yisrael, also passes through the “bank” of Assiyah, nevertheless it is a “domestic transfer” and hence the entire sum comes in without any change in quality or quantity.

Impurity of the Diaspora: The practical difference between the Shefa received in Eretz Yisrael versus the Diaspora:

The Sages decreed impurity onto the lands of the Diaspora. The reason for this is because the Shefa that it receives loses any and all resemblance that it came from G-d. This is caused by Malchus of Assiyah, which changes and reforms the Shefa according to its standards. Assiyah represents the epitome of concealment of G-dliness, in which the Kelipos, which are the root and source of evil, can thrive. This is accomplished through the Shefa in Assiyah investing itself within the garments of nature, hence appearing simply like Mother Nature, a natural and expected occurrence rather than a G-dly blessing and gift to mankind. It allows man to have the feeling that he himself created this Shefa and is responsible for his fortune and blessing. Due to the concealment of G-dliness that comes through the lands in the Diaspora, the Sages decreed impurity in all of these lands. However, in Eretz Yisrael, where the Shefa only passes through Assiyah but does not receive the changes and concealments of Assiyah, there is no decree of impurity on its air or earth. The reason for this is because the world of Yetzira, which is the Shefa that is retained for Eretz Yisrael, does not conceal G-dliness to such an extent.


A parable:

A wealthy father had a number of sons that were in need of monetary assistance. One son had a good job, but also had a lot of expenses, and it did not cover the monthly bills. The father would transfer money directly each month to this son in order to help him financially. The son, of course, was overly grateful to his father for this assistance and recognized the kindness his father showed him. This helped him build his relationship with his Dad, and he showed him respect and gratitude. Another son was in a worse situation and could not hold down a proper job due to a lax lifestyle and lack of responsibility. The father had a good friend that ran a company and he spoke to him about hiring his son, and the father would supplement the payment for the hours when his son was tardy. The son was overjoyed by the newly found job with a nice salary. This job eventually built him up and matured him, and he began a career within the company. The son never knew who was behind him getting the job and how in truth it was his father’s assertiveness and monetary backing that allowed him to get hired to begin with. This difference between the father who directly helps his son’s sustenance and the father who helps indirectly is similar to the difference between the sustenance provided in the land of Israel and that of the Diaspora. While the sustenance for all lands comes from G-d, this is only apparent and revealed in Eretz Yisrael.


In the future the Diaspora will become like Eretz Yisrael:

In the future, the world will become refined and will not conceal at all the Shefa it receives. This is the meaning of the verse, “And the spirit of impurity I will remove from the earth”. This will refine even the lands of idolatry and will cause the nations of the world to unite and call out to G-d.  At that time, the Shefa in the Diaspora will be similar to the Shefa in Eretz Yisrael of now, as it will receive from the level of Yetzira and will merely pass through the Malchus of Assiyah and not receive any change or concealment. This then is the meaning of the statement that Eretz Yisrael will spread through the other lands.



The level of Eretz Yisrael in the future:

In the future, Eretz Yisrael will receive from even a higher level than it receives now, and although its current level will spread to the Diaspora, it in itself will become of a higher level and will not be equal to the Diaspora. It will receive Shefa from the level of Beriyah and not the lower level of Yetzira. The explanation of this matter is as follows: Prior to the sin of Adam, all the worlds were on a higher level than they are now. The sin caused a descent of holiness within every world. For example, the world of Beriyah used to contain the level of revelation and holiness of Atzilus. The sin caused the demotion of Beriyah to its current state, which was then the world of Yetzira. The world of Yetzira used to have the revelation and holiness of Beriyah and the sin caused it to be demoted and be in its current state, which was then the world of Assiyah. The world of Assiyah used to have the revelation and holiness of Yetzira, but the sin caused that it be demoted and have its current state of concealment, which at that time did not exist. Moshiach represents the rectification of the sin of Adam, and hence the worlds will return to their prior state of revelation and Holiness. Thus Yetzira will be on the level of Beriyah of today, and Eretz Yisrael will receive from this new level of Yetzira. The Diaspora will also receive from the new level of Assiyah, which is similar to the level of Yetzira of today.

The purpose of the travels:

The purpose of the travels of Bnei Yisrael through the desert was to refine them so they would be able to receive the Shefa and holiness of revelation of the future from the world of Yetzira. The desert is filled with Kelipos and undesirable forces of evil that disallow the holiness to reign. The Jewish journey hence fulfilled a huge mission in refining the world and removing its evil forces in a preparation for a better future. This is why the verse states that the Aron would travel and the “enemies” would be dispersed. This refers to the Kelipos in the desert, which were subdued in the face of the holiness of the Ark.

Why specifically 42 journeys?

The 42 journeys represent the six Middos of Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferes, Netzach, Hod, and Yesod. As each Middah is itself incorporated from seven Middos, this creates a total of 42 Middos. These 42 levels and aspects of the six Middos of Atzilus were elevated through the 42 journeys. This concept in Kabbalah is referred to as Haalah, or elevation, and is in contrast to the 49 days and counting of Sefiras Haomer, which is Hamshacha, the drawing down of the Sefiros of Atzilus to the world. [These 42 journeys represent the name מ”ב. It is for this reason that many are accustomed, and it is also the Chabad custom, to read all 42 journeys in the Parsha of Maseiy in a single Aliyah and not make an interval in between.[1]]

Why did Hashem create the Kelipos to begin with?

If the Kelipos in the desert are a hindrance to the revelation of G-dliness and holiness, why did Hashem create them there to begin with? The reason for this is because the entire purpose is to deal with the evil and subjugate it, and this in itself is what draws the revelation.


Every Jew goes through 42 Masaos:[2]

The Baal Shem Tov taught that every Jew experiences 42 spiritual journeys throughout his life in order to enter “Eretz Yisrael”, which is the world to come. Being born is the first journey of a Jew. The rest of the journeys he experiences throughout his life. Every journey is a further refinement and elevation. It is the merit and obligation of a Jew to overcome the challenges in his journeys and use them for a further refinement of his spiritual self.



Lessons of the Mamar:

·         Understand that the Diaspora contains an impure spirit that conceals G-dliness. Every Jew, wherever he is found, is charged with purifying the impurity of his area. Whenever you face a spiritual challenge, remind yourself of this.

·         Always recognize and verbalize the kindness that Hashem shows us and understand that all of our blessing comes from Him, even though the Diaspora conceals the blessing in the clothing of nature, making one feel as if it is his skill and productivity that brought it.




[1] M”A 428/8 in name of Tzeror Hamor; Tzeror Hamor Parshas Maseiy: “The Chazan should not stop while reading the Parsha and is rather to read it with one person”; Hayom Yom 23 Tammuz; Kaf Hachaim 428/39

[2] Degel Machaneh Efraim Maaseiy in name of his grandfather the Baal Shem Tov; Likkutei Sichos 4/1083; 2/615; 23/225; Kesser Shem Tov [Hosafos] 30 p. 300

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