SALT - Monday, 26 Tammuz 5779 - July 29, 2019

  • Rav David Silverberg
In loving memory of Yaakov Ben Yitzchak Fred Stone,
beloved father and grandfather whose yartzeit is the 25 Tammuz
Stanley & Ellen Stone and their children,
Jake & Chaya, Micah & Adline, Zack & Yael, Allie and Issac,
Ezra & Talia, Shai, Yoni & Caylay, Azzi, Eliana & Marc, Adina, Emunah, Shira,and Gabi & Talia
            Rashi, commenting to the opening verse of Parashat Masei, cites the following explanation from the Midrash Tanchuma for why the Torah lists all of Benei Yisrael’s journeys through the wilderness:
This may be compared to a king whose son was ill, and so he brought him to a distant location for treatment.  When they were returning, his father started counting all the journeys, saying to him, “Here we slept, here we were cold, here your head hurt…”
According to the Midrash Tanchuma, God named the places where Benei Yisrael traveled and encamped during their forty-year trek through the wilderness like a father reminiscing with his son about a difficult, tense journey they took to seek treatment for a serious illness.
            The Imrei Emet (cited in Rav Shmuel Alter’s Likutei Batar Likutei) suggested that the three memories mentioned by the Midrash – “Here we slept, here we were cold, here your head hurt” – were not chosen randomly, but rather allude to specific incidents that took place during Benei Yisrael’s travels.  “Here we slept” refers to the famous tradition that Benei Yisrael slept soundly on the morning of Matan Torah, when they were expected to arise early and enthusiastically rush to behold God’s revelation.  “Here were we cold” alludes to the attack launched by Amalek, whom Moshe later describes as “karekha ba-derekh” – making Benei Yisrael “cold” (Devarim 25:18), and whose attack came as a result of Benei Yisrael’s lack of faith (as Rashi cites from the Midrash in Shemot 17:8).  Finally, the Imrei Emet understood “here your head hurt” as an allegorical reference to Benei Yisrael’s intellectual “ailments” – the times when they questioned God, such as when they worshipped the golden calf.
            Significantly, the Midrash speaks of these events as occurring as part of Benei Yisrael’s trip for “treatment,” like an ill patient on his or her way to a doctor to be cured.  According to the Imrei Emet’s reading, the Midrash points to Benei Yisrael’s failures as part of the process of “healing.”  Growth and improvement cannot be expected to occur instantaneously or smoothly.  The process will include many mistakes and failures, which we must view as opportunities to learn and improve.  Even serious failings – such as the sin of the golden calf, in Benei Yisrael’s case – are part of the “healing” process, and should never discourage us from persisting in our lifelong effort to become better people and better servants of God.