Matot-Massei: Pack this in your bags – it doesn’t weigh anything
When travelling, the most important thing to take with us doesn’t weight anything at all.
Now that at long last many of us can think about travelling once again, we can derive a lot of inspiration from Parshat Massei. There the Torah tells us about the journeys of the Israelites in the wilderness (Bamidbar 33:2):
“Lemaseihem al pi Hashem,” – “They journeyed according to the word of Hashem.”
In Parshat Beha’alotecha (Bamidbar 9:23), added details are given:
“Al pi Hashem yachanu, v’al pi Hashem yisa’u,” – “According to the word of Hashem they camped and according to the word of Hashem, they travelled.
The Chassidik master Rav Usher of Riminov commented that we can learn from here how important it is, regardless of whether we are at home or on our way, to take Hashem with us always. He writes that it is usually far easier to be committed to a life of kedusha and tahara, holiness and purity, when we are at home.
The Torah in Parshat Tzav (Vayikra 6:5) tells us about the perpetual fire on the altar. The Torah there says,
“V’haeish al hamizbeiach tukad bo; lo tichbeh.” – “The fire upon the altar shall be established upon it. It shall never be extinguished.”
In the very next verse, again the Torah says, “lo tichbeh” – “it shall never be extinguished.” The Gemara in the Yerushalmi, Masechet Yuma, tells us that we are told twice to extinguish the fire because this is an allusion to the fire of our Judaism within us. We should not extinguish it when we are at home and it shall not be extinguished when we are away from home. And the Torah says “tukad bo” – “it shall be upon it” which can also be understood as, “it shall be always within us ourselves.”
I’m always inspired by so many people who make a point while away from home of going to the ‘nth degree’ in order to guarantee that they can keep kosher properly, that they can learn, that they can be involved in Jewish community life. It’s so wonderful when people, wherever they are in the world, will always pop into the local community; look into its history; take an interest in what is going on there; learn from what the opportunities are and how their lives can be Jewishly enriched as a result of the vacation that they are enjoying.
In this way we can fulfil the words of the Torah that we all know by heart from the shema: “Veshinantam levanecha vedibarta bam.” We should teach our families to grow up in a Jewish, way we should speak words of Torah and practise the mitzvot, and where? “Beshivtecha bveitecha uvelechtecha vaderech,” – equally when we are at home and when we are on the way.
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