There is something peculiar about our bodies with which we familiar: A person can toss and turn at night, until he finally finds a comfortable sleeping position. But soon after settling into that position, that exact position causes him discomfort, and he is forced to change to a new position. Conversely, a person may wake up in the morning and find his foot or arm in pain, yet the way to remove the pain is to use the limb—while there is initially greater pain, the pain will quickly subside. He can then use that limb in its regular way until he goes to sleep at night, and the next morning he is again in pain. In short, sometimes a repetitive action inflicts pain, and a change is in place.
Klal Yisroel was sent into galus because of their misuse of certain aspects of their lives. The places that they went to and the cultures they visited, had certain tendencies which made them feel uncomfortable, in order to force them to fortify themselves in the area in which they were deficient in their service of Hashem. Yet, every therapy has its price, and caused them pain in other areas, forcing them to move from place to place, similar to our “sleeper” trying to find the proper position. Yet in regards to that specific deficiency, the limb—or that attitude in the case of our galus—was rectified to a certain extent. However, Klal Yisroel’s general lack of proper service to Hashem forces HKBH to send us from one galus to the next, until we are properly healed and have gone through therapy for each of our deficiencies in avodas Hashem. Yes, the “sleeper” found a comfortable position—a place to work on his sleep—but when he becomes too complacent, enjoying it too much, he is woken from his slumber to redefine his next objective in making it through the long night—or the galus.
With this idea, we can possibly understand the words of this week’s parsha:
And Moses wrote their goings forth, stage by stage, by the commandment of Hashem; and these are their stages at their goings forth. (Bamidbar 33:2)
The obvious question is why does the Torah reverse the order of the “goings forth” and the “stages” within the same pasuk and what is the purpose of both phrases? It seems to me that the answer is based on an idea that is brought down by the Chida based on the Mekubalim: The purpose of Klal Yisrael’s journey in the midbar was to infuse each of those places with the kedusha that was lacking there, hence their journey for them was a spiritual workout. The word “maasehim” – their personal travels—and for those places it was “motzaeihem” – it removed—the negative aspect of those places, and by doing so bringing the world to where it should be.
Our Rabbis teach us that this was the prototype for klal Yisrael’s journey through galus, too. We have to perfect ourselves through the difficulties of galus, and each move that we make is because the place we are in has to be “improved” and we too must improve ourselves in that specific environment.
It sometimes seems to us that our galus is endless and we are not accomplishing anything. Yet we believe that each stop and difficulty that we overcome brings us closer to our ultimate success. Yes, it was a long 40 years in the desert, but they endured and came to Eretz Yisrael. We too, after thousands of years, are much closer than ever before to our goal of finishing our galus, perfecting ourselves and the world around us. I would like to give a brocho to all of us as we read this parsha of the tribulation of klal Yisrael: chazak chazak v’nischazek! We can reach the end.