Thursday, July 24, 2014

Forty-two Journeys

By Rabbi Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh Yeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh
"All of her pursuers caught her between the boundaries (bein hametzrim)" [Eichah 1:3]. The Maggid of Kuznitz said: "'Her pursuers' can be read as two words – "Rodef yud-heh," which means to pursue G-d – He wrote that one who searches for the holy Shechina, the Presence of G-d, will find it during the Three Weeks (between the seventeenth of Tammuz and the Ninth of Av). These are great times, since the prophets promised that all the fast days would be transformed to holidays. And even Aharon the High Priest said, referring to the seventeenth of Tammuz, "Tomorrow is a holiday for G-d" [Shemot 32:5].
The Haftarah that we read at the start of the Three Weeks (Bein Hametzrim), describes how Yirmiyahu saw a vision of a staff of wood from an almond tree. Rashi writes from the Midrash, "the time from when an almond starts to bud until it is ripe is twenty-one days, the same as the time between the seventeenth of Tammuz and the ninth of Av."
There are 21 types of holy days when special sacrifices are brought in the year, as described in the Torah portion of Pinchas (Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, Pesach, seven days of the holiday of Matzot, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and eight days of Succot and Shemini Atzeret). The 21 days of the Three Weeks are the foundation of the sanctity of the holidays. When in the future they will be revealed as additional holidays, the total will be forty-two. This is the number of stops that we encounter in this week's Torah portion. "These are the journeys of Bnei Yisrael" [Bamidbar 33:1]. Starting with the Exodus from Egypt and up to the Jordan River at Jericho, there were forty-two stops. The GRA wrote that these forty-two journeys encompass within them the stages of the future redemption. What is the secret of this number?
When Moshe said that the people would ask him, "What is His name?" [Shemot 3:13], the Holy One, Blessed be He, replies, "I will be what I will be... 'I will be' sent me to you" [3:14]. The Meshech Chochma notes, "The numerical value of 'e'heyeh' is twenty-one. 'I will be what I will be is twice that, or forty-two. This refers to the long version of the Holy Name, which has forty-two letters. And whoever knows this name is feared by the creations (Kedushin 71)."
The same concept can be seen with respect to Tefillin. The name of G-d appears twenty-one times in the four sections of the Tefillin. Adding the two Tefillin on the hand and on the head together, we again reach the total of forty-two. This is what is referred to in the Talmud: "'And all the nations of the earth will see that you are called by G-d's name, and they will fear you' [Devarim 28:10]... This is the Tefillin worn on the head" [Berachot 6a].
The Tefillin on the head shows that there is open Divine guidance, and that on the hand, which is normally covered, shows that there is hidden guidance. G-d told Moshe that sometimes the guidance will be exposed to all, as in the verse, "I will be what I will be" and at other times it will be hidden, as in the phrase "'I will be' sent me to you."
The Talmud tells us about a religious debate between a Tzeduki and Rabbi Yehoshua (Chagiga). The Tzeduki turned his head away, hinting that the Holy One, Blessed be He, does not look at us, while Rabbi Yehoshua raised his hand, as a sign that "his hand is still stretched out over us." While we might not be seeing revealed guidance as in the Tefillin on the head, the hidden guidance of the Tefillin on the hand continues to exist.
And that is what the Holy One, Blessed be He, promised Shlomo at the dedication of the Temple. "And my eyes and my heart will be on you for all the days" [Melachim I 9:3]. The eyes and the heart signify the Tefillin on the head and on the hand, implying revealed guidance. But this is only during the day and not at night, during the exile. Then, the guidance will be hidden.
Two Talmud scholars lived in the Shaarei Chessed neighborhood of Jerusalem, Rabbi David Baharan and Rabbi Betzalel Goldstein. One time Rabbi David told his friend that he had studied the words of the GRA, and he felt that he understood the secret of the forty-two journeys of Bnei Yisrael. In reply to the insistent requests by his friend, Rabbi David explained that before the coming of the Mashiach three significant events will take place, and they will be followed by the arrival of the Mashiach: 5707-5708 (1948) - the War of Independence; 5717-1718 (1957) – the Sinai War; and 5727-5728 (1967) – the war for Jerusalem.

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