“And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it,
for I have assigned the land to you to possess.” (Numbers 33:53)
Parashat Mas’ei is the last parasha (portion) in the book of Numbers and opens with the words, “These are the marches of the Israelites who started out from the land of Egypt…” (Numbers 33:1) It continues with a dry listing of every single stop on the Israelites’ route as they wander in the desert. Maimonides (the great 12th century Spanish Jewish philosopher) infers from this roll-call of place names that there is a good reason for every journey in the Torah, even if we don’t know what it is.
Even though there is one book remaining in the Torah (Deuteronomy), the Israelites are done wandering in the desert. Their next move will be across the Jordan River into Canaan to conquer and settle the land. It is fair to say, then, that the record of the journeys in Mas’ei represents a unique moment: the last time the entirety of the Jewish people is united in time and space. Once the Israelites cross into Canaan, each tribe will settle in its allotted portion, north, south, east, and west. When the Temple is destroyed, the Jews will be dispersed throughout the world. The result is not a single journey of the Jewish people, like in Mas’ei, but rather, multiple journeys of masses of Jews wherever they found themselves.
Fast forward 3,000 years and you arrive at the JCC: a community created by the intersection of its members’ unique Jewish journeys.
Good Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom