Friday, 9 July 2021
"These [are] the journeys of the Children of Israel who came out from the land of Egypt by their hosts ..." (B'midbar 33:1)
Moshe is told to record the individual stages of the Israelites' journey from Egypt in writing so that it should not be forgotten once our people entered the Land. It does not matter that many of the places are no longer identifiable; this is part of the process of positive remembering: "take care lest you forget the L-RD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery" (D'varim 6:12, ESV). Even though you cannot find it, we know that we were there! We must remember where we have been so that we know who we are and why we are here now. More critically, a firm grasp of our past informs and guides us in discerning what we are supposed to do next. The prophets reminded the people time and again to remember the Exodus from Egypt, to "look to the rock from which you were hewn, and to the quarry from which you were dug" (Isaiah 51:1, ESV), to recall the mighty works of G-d, stretching back to Avraham and Sarah, to creation itself. This builds our identity as a people, knowing that we have been called and chosen by G-d: a people set apart from the nations and a people called out from the nations. It gives purpose and perspective, enabling the Spirit to shape our community as a consistent expression of G-d in the world.
One last point. Why did Moshe have to write the itinerary then and there, in the Plains of Moab, before our people entered the Land? Wouldn't it have been more complete if Joshua had written it down a few years later, when it could could included Jericho, Ai and the cities that were taken as G-d's promises to give the Land to His people were being fulfilled? Then start to end it would have covered Egypt to Israel. I believe the answer to that question is essential for us to grasp and understand today. Moshe's itinerary, like Schubert's last symphony, is unfinished because our journey is unfinished. Until Yeshua returns, we are still on the journey. No matter how lush our circumstances may be, how comfortable we may be in retirement, how blessed we are in our current job or ministry position, we cannot put our feet up and take it easy. What matters is being on the journey.
Yeshua challenged his followers with the cost of discipleship - "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head" (Luke 9:58, ESV) - not because He didn't have a home, because we know that in the early years of His ministry He did have a home in Capernaum, but because the life of the kingdom isn't about homes. Following Yeshua is precisely about that: following Him. It is about being on the journey - knowing that there was a starting point, that there have been many steps and stages along the way and that you haven't arrived yet - and being committed to travelling until you get there as Yeshua said: "No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of G-d" (v. 62, ESV). This isn't about whether you own a house or not, it is about whether you are following Yeshua in the walk of the kingdom, whether you are actively participating in the work and call of the kingdom (whatever that means in your circumstances) and whether you are getting to know Yeshua better each day.
This is an excerpt taken from the weekly drash for Mattot/Masa'ei.