150/929 Moshe’s Travel Log of Forgettable Moments. Bamidbar 33.

Some moments are unforgettable, some you work hard to forget, and then there are those for which forgetting just comes naturally. It is these last ones that Moshe feels compelled to record for posterity on the banks of the Jordan, in chapter 33.

The miraculous splitting of the sea is given three words. The giving of the Torah, the manna, the quail, the great military victories- none. Nor do we hear about the complaints, the sins, the ensuing plagues. The highs and the lows are easy to remember; they don’t require mentioning now. We do hear of a whole list of places that have been unmentioned until now. The period between the second and 40th year in the desert, during which nothing of note happened, during which God’s voice was not heard in the camp, finally gets some attention. But why? Wouldn’t it be better to let those days sink easily into oblivion?

No, teaches Moshe. “And Moshe wrote the starting points of their journey (motza’eihem lemaseihem) by God’s word, and these are their journeys to their starting point (maseihem lemotza’eihem).” If you want your journey to bring you to a whole new point of departure, you need to understand exactly where it began. If you want to know where you are, you have to know where you’ve come from. Every step of the journey until now has brought you to this point. The good, the bad, certainly, but especially the boring and the mundane. It is in these that can be found the small moments of chesed, God’s for us, and our own as well. “Thus says the Lord:  I remember for your sake the loving-kindness of your youth, the love of your newlywed days, when you walked after me in the desert, in an unsown land” (Yirmiyahu 2:2).

 

About the Author
Avidan Freedman is the rabbi of the Shalom Hartman Institute's Hevruta program, an educator Hartman Boys High School in Jerusalem, and an activist against Israeli weapons sales to human rights violators.
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