“Masei” (journeys) A Torah Midrash over NUMBERS 33:1-36:13
” Masei” or “journeys” or “stages” in some translations, describes the encampments of the Israelites starting in “Mitzraim” (Egypt) which comes from the root word “Mtzr” or “m’tzar” meaning “restricted” and ending at last in the promised land, giving the division of “Eretz C’anaan” between the different “matot Israel” (the tribes of Israel.
In Numbers 33:1,2 it reads; “These were the wanderings of B’nei Israel who went out of the land of Egypt under the leadership of Moshe and Aaron. Moshe recorded their DEPARTURES, stage by stage as directed by YHVH; and these are the stages of their DEPARTURES.
We see in these 2 verses that the word “departures” is mentioned twice, once in the beginning of the verse, and then at the end. One way we can look at this is that we can either look back to where we came from, or we can look forward to where we are going, or both! We can say “we departed from… or we can say; “We departed towards…”
It is important to remember where we come from, how we were raised, perhaps even our short-comings, our mistakes, yet NOT to DWELL ON THEM! But concentrate on what the LORD has ahead for us, our goals, family goals, work goals, and ministry goals. Don’t let our lives in Egypt depress us, look forward to our land of Canaan.
We can’t just look at this from a superficial view, saying, “well, so what, they traveled here and there and they finally made it home, they would have made it a lot sooner if they hadn’t complained so much! I mean, they listened to the spies, etc.”. We need to look into the moral, spiritual, and symbolism. It is much more than just, “going from place to place physically”
They started out “restricted” to a place called “Egypt” and that is what “Mitzraim” means from the root word, m-Tz-r, (mem, Tzadik, resh) using the Hebrew letters, “Mitzraim” sounds more plural, so it could also mean “restrictions”. What was restricted? Their FREEDOM! They were surrounded by pagan idolatry, they couldn’t leave! Because they were slaves to Pharaoh. It took the power of Adonai-Elohim the great I AM-YHVH, to get them out using his chosen servant Moshe.
They left on the 15th of Nisan, the morning after Passover. The Word says they left with a “high hand” in some translations, “Boldness” with all “confidence” “fearless” with “valor”. It is interesting that the word “Masei” in the Hebrew is spelled, “mem, samech, ayin, yod” if we could see this word in the ancient Hebrew spelling, the symbols would look like, “water, leaning on a short staff, an eye, and a hand connected to the arm”
So, what could this word symbolize? What does “journeys” mean? Well, here is one idea; the “multitudes march forward, leaning on the staff in sight of the hand!” huh? OK, sooo what does THAT mean? Look at it this way, Moshe lead the way, he walked with a staff, as the custom of all leaders back then, the people kept Moshe in sight, and as he leaned on his staff, they followed, the “hand” leans on the “staff” but who gave Moshe the staff? It was YHVH!
As they journeyed, the kept YHVH in sight! The staff also symbolizes leadership, we lean on HIS leadership, and we have the “hand” in our sight, the “hands” that were pierced with the nails on Calvary. “Journeys” are not only physical, but also spiritual!
The Israelites left Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, now, they left “restrictions” behind, the sacrificed lambs of Passover symbolized Yeshua, the sacrificial lamb, who conquered the curse of sin and death, of HaSatan. Now they are on their way to a new life, just as we begin a new journey starting from the cross of Calvary. The Israelites experienced “bitter waters” at Marah, yet they experienced an oasis at Elim. We experience both bitter times, and times of “refreshing cool waters”. Good times and bad times are part of our wanderings, or “life’s journeys”
They encamped at Mt Sinai, to receive the Torah, to become officially united as a nation. “Am Echad b’Elohim” (One united People of God) We receive Yeshua as our Messiah and LORD, and we receive his WORD, his Torah to guide us through the “wilderness of life”.
Then comes a list of all the places where they stopped, camped, and continued when the Glory Cloud lifted. All these stopping places took place during a period of 40 years. The number “40” symbolizes “testing” The LORD was “trying, testing” his people. Each place they stopped at, they learned new things, they experienced the sacrificial offerings once the Mishkan (tabernacle) was fully erected. Yes, they complained, and Adonai chastised, yet forgave his children. He was with them all through the 40 years of journeys, and He brought them into the promised land through their new leader “Yehoshua” who took Moshe’s place.
Our journeys through life will take us to many “stops” and “settlements” one might consider a “new job” a kind of “Stopping to settle down for a while” just like moving from “house to house” or “apartment to apartment” or “mobile home to mobile home”. Another “journey” in life is the “marriage journey” then there are the “childhood, adolescence, teenage, young adult, middle age, and Senior” journeys. In each journey we learn and experience different things, “bitter waters” as well as “refreshing new waters” all the time being led by “the LIVING WATER!
There will be enemies to fight, the worse kind being “spiritual enemies from the Kingdom of Darkness” who will put traps in our way, stumbling blocks, bad attitudes, issues, carnality, etc. But all these are part of the journeys in life. Aaron’s journey lasted 123 years. Methuselah’s journey lasted 969 years, while Abel’s journey was very short, maybe his journey ended when he was a teen. Enoch’s journey lasted 300 years.
We know not how long our journey will last, it is in God’s hands. What is important is that we learn from our experiences during our “stops” along the way, especially the “education stops” Education is a life-long stop, it should continue all of our days. We have our secular education and our Torah education. Sometimes there are conflicts between them, and we must adjust our ways, to the TORAH ways, not the other way around.
The last stop is the “Canaan” stop, “death” is our trip across the Jordan River that will bring us to the River of Life in the World to Come, In the New Jerusalem, we will receive our share of our inheritance, issued out to us by Our LORD and Messiah, Yeshua HaMashiach, (Jesus the Christ) Then, in the New Jerusalem, begins our “new journey” which will never end.
How can we imagine a journey without end? We really can’t, not with finite minds. “Time” as we know it will be meaningless. Perhaps 100 years on earth will be like 10 seconds in heaven. As Elohim says, “One day is likened unto a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day”
It is said that the “Jew is always wandering/traveling” Is this really true? The Jewish nation was sent out of the land to foreign lands, yes, they were cast out, expelled, but for what eternal and divine purpose? To take the belief in One God, in Adonai-Elohim, Adonai-Echad, YESHUA! To the pagan peoples. Many look at the expulsion as a punishment, yet the big picture is “evangelism”. Rav Shaul (Apostle Paul) was a traveling Jew, He founded many “Kehilot Meshiachit” (Messianic congregations) in many different areas of the middle east and southern Europe.
” Ashkenaz” was a descendant of Japheth, son of Noah, who “journeyed” to what is now Germany, and his descendants to East Europe and Russia (probably after the fall of “Babel”), and “B’nei Israel” (the Children of Israel) in their “journeys” met with the “descendants” of Ashkenaz, intermarried, and thus spreading the belief of ONE GOD to Germany and East Europe, thus we have the “Y’hudim-Ashkenazim” (The Ashkenazim Jewish peoples).
Some say that the desire to “travel” and “journey” is inbred into all Y’hudim, perhaps not all, many Jewish families have stayed in one place for centuries, others, are on the move. I personally like to travel, go to different places. I have traveled to many states in the USA and to about 12 countries in my “life’s journeys” I hope that the LORD will allow me to live to walk across Spain on the “St James Way” (Camino de Santiago) when I reach 66 years old. And of course, to return one last time to Eretz Israel to spend some time with the IDF again.
As we physically journey from place to place, remember that we are also “journeying” spiritually, being guided (hopefully) by God’s WORD, through his Holy Spirit. May you prosper in your journeys through life,
“Buen Camino Peregrino!” (Have a good walk pilgrim!)
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