Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Masei

Normally, the Thursday night parsha post on this blog slot contains a thought said over by R' Frand in his satellite shiur. Since the shiur is now on hiatus through Elul, I will be substituting with divrei torah found in other sources. This week I have attempted to summarize a vort from R' Mansour which can be found at and have tied it into a thought I wrote on years ago. As always, if the p'shat appears to be incorrect, it is a result of my efforts to convey the thought that I found in the sefer or shiur.

R' Mansour noted that there are 42 stops which are enumerated in Parshas Masei. He explained that each of the stops has significance and gave the classic example that the 25th stop was in Chashmona. Hundreds of years later, the Chashmonaim would lead the Jews in a rebellion against the Yevanim and miracles would occur on the 25th of Kislev.

R' Mansour then began a fascinating discussion wherein he connected the Jews travails in Egypt and the desert to the four exiles. R' Mansour tied each of the exiles to the first four words of the parsha - Eleh Masei B'nei Yisrael: Eleh begins with an Alef which signifies Edom; Masei begins with a Mem which signifies Maddai; B'nei begins with a Bet which signifies Bavel and Yisrael begins with a Yud which ties to Yavan.

R' Mansour then explored this concept more deeply by looking at the trup on the first pasuk. The word Eleh has an (azla) geresh - showing that the Jews would be exiled. The word Yisrael has a revi'i, signifying that the Jews would be exiled four times. However, the Jews also pray for the redemption from galus on a daily basis in shmoneh esreh. We say three (and sometimes four or five) times per day - u'mavi goel l'vnei b'neihem - mavi is spelled Mem Bet Yud Alef - Hashem, the goel will redeem us from the galuyos of Madai, Bavel, Yavan and Edom.

R' Mansour also tied his discussion into the exile of Egypt. We mention yitzias mitzrayim in our prayers in the morning and evening and have many mitzvos to remember the leaving of Egypt. Although Egypt is not listed among the four exiles, it actually was the paradigm of exile and each of the four exiles are an offshoot of the exile in Egypt. R' Mansour explained that on the night of the seder we drink four cups, to signify one of the four exiles. It is well known that the four cups connect with the four languages of redemption which appear in chumash. On the surface the words all appear to be similar - you took us out, you saved us, you redeemed us from Egypt and you brought us. However, these l'shonos are not merely redundant - they are symbolic of the four exiles that we will be in - each very different and the four times that we will be saved from exile (bsd).

R' Mansour quoted the Belzer Rebbi who noted that we went down to Egypt four times and we left four times. The brothers of Yosef went to Egypt to get food, then they went back to get Binyamin, they then came down again with Binyamin and left again to get Ya'akov, they went down a third time with Ya'akov and left to bury Ya'akov. They came back from burying Ya'akov (the fourth trip down) and left the fourth and final time when Hashem redeemed the Jews from Egypt.

Leaving the vort said by R' Mansur, it is worth noting that Masei also discussed personal exile which is required by an unintentional killing. In Masei 35:9-34, the Torah discusses the establishment of "Arei Miklat" - cities of refuge where people who killed b'shogeg (translated for our purposes as unintentionally) would travel to escape the goel hadam - the avenger of the blood of the deceased. The Torah devotes a great deal of time to the discussion of the establishment of the cities and to which types of acts would qualify as unintentional and allow for the killer to seek refuge.

Prior to actually detailing the laws of the Arei Miklat, the Torah alludes to their establishment. In Masei 35:6, the Torah indicates that Hashem directed the Jews to set up six cities which will be Arei Miklat and that the levi'im will have an additional forty-two cities in addition to those six cities. The sefer Ohev Yisrael (as brought in the Ma'ayana Shel Torah) teaches that the six cities are in accordance with the six words which comprise the Shma Yisrael. The Ohev Yisrael then says that the words "V'aleihem Titnu" that on those six cities you should provide an additional forty-two cities (totalling 48 cities) are in accordance with the forty-eight words of the V'ahavta portion of the Shma. The Ohev Yisroel explains that the six words of the Shma and the forty-eight words of the V'ahavta are our cities of refuge, providing a place for all the Jews to seek protection, even if they committed an evil deed. By accepting Hashem through the recitation of the shma, the Jew will gain the protection from the goel hadam - the negative angels that are created as a result of his act.

The Chidushei Harim (also brought down in the Ma'ayana Shel Torah) explains the manner in which the city of refuge functioned. He states that if a person killed unintentionally and is so guilt wracked that there is nowhere that he feels comfortable due to his bitterness and self loathing over the killing, then Hashem says to the person - I have a place for you, the city of refuge will take you in. On the other hand, if the person is not distraught over the killing and is comfortable where he resides, the city of refuge will not take him in and he will not have a place in the ir miklat.

The Ma'ayana Shel Torah then brings the Sfas Emes who analogizes this concept taught by the Chidushei Harim to the high holidays. If a person feels true guilt over his misdeeds during the year and pours out his heart on Yom Kippur and accepts on himself to repent from his sins which cause him to feel that he has no place in this world, then Hashem says to the person - I have a place that can take you in -- the walls of the Sukkah will envelop you and protect you from evil.

I once heard a similar thought from R' Zev Cohen of the Adas Yeshurun in Chicago. He talked about how after the person has gone through Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur and poured out his heart, he enters the Sukkah which is Hashem's way of giving the Jews a big reassuring hug.

I would like to discuss one additional point. The Rambam in Hilchos Rotzeach 8:5 writes that the Beis Din must prepare paths to the ir miklat and widen them as required. They must also smooth out the path and prepare bridges. If the way to the ir miklat requires one to take a road that forks, the Beis Din must set up a clear sign so that the person can swiftly get to the ir miklat and escape the goel hadam.

I feel that the acts that the Beis Din does are precisely like what Hashem does for us before the High Holidays. The chazal teach us "Haba Litaher Misayin Oso" - one who wants to repent, Hashem helps him to do so. The same way that the Beis Din set up the road to allow access to one who truly agonizes over his acts and wants to seek refuge in the ir miklat, so too Hashem makes our way to teshuva accessible before Yom Kippur so that we can be enveloped in the protective hug of the sukkah.

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