July 8, 2021 / 28 Tammuz, 5781 • Parshat Matot - Mas'ei
Issue 674
Dedicated in loving memory of Mrs. Miriam Friedman

"These are the journeys of the Israelites who left the Land of Egypt."

Mas'ei 33:1

The archetype of constricted consciousness is the Land of Egypt. The Hebrew name for Egypt (Mitzraim) means “limits” and “boundaries” (meitzarim). The Exodus from Egypt is thus the archetype for transcending limits in the spiritual life. But here we find an instructive nuance in the way the Israelites’ itinerary is introduced: “These are the journeys of the Israelites who left the Land of Egypt.” This phrase seems to imply that all the journeys were from the Land of Egypt, while technically only the first journey was from Egypt.

By introducing the entire itinerary this way, the Torah teaches us that whenever we go out of Egypt, whenever we transcend one level of life, we should consider our new, expanded level of consciousness a new “Egypt,” a level of constricted awareness relative to where we want to go next. In this way, we are constantly going out of Egypt.

Furthermore, it is not enough to just enhance or ascend at our present level; each leg of the journey should be a complete departure from the previous way we conceived of G-d, of life, and of ourselves.

In this context, it is particularly instructive to realize that not everything that happened along this journey from Egypt to the threshold of the Promised Land was altogether positive. At quite a few stops, the Israelites fell backwards, even retreated, and learned the lessons of Divine living the hard way. Nonetheless, they are all called “journeys”; in the long run they all contributed to the final arrival. This teaches us that in order to progress in life, we must learn how to see every regression as a lesson in how to progress further, and thereby turn every failure into a success.

—From the Kehot Chumash