Parshat Maasei- Friday, July 25, 2014 - 27 Tammuz 5774

Torah Reading: Mass'ei (Numbers 33:1 - 36:13)  
Haftorah: Jeremiah 2:4 - 28 & 4:1 - 2             
Pirkei Avot: Chapter 2 
Shabbat Candle Lighting: 8:00 PM 
Shabbat ends: 9:05 PM 

Multiple Journeys
If there is one word that describes all of existence it is “journeys,” the subject and title of this week’s parsha—Masei.
The Soul’s Journey
First, “journeys” describes what our souls have gone through to come into this world and inhabit physical bodies. The soul originates in the divinely spiritual world of Atzilus (Emanation) and must descend through myriads of levels of reduced consciousness to be able to relate to and inhabit a physical body. Every level the soul passes through is a journey and every journey is traumatic.
The Journey of Life
Second, the term “journeys” describes what we do from the moment we are born until the moment the soul leaves this world and passes beyond. Every moment of life is designed to take us from one level of spiritual enlightenment to another.  We were not intended to rest in this world; life is a perpetual journey. 
Indeed, the journey of life is a journey in reverse. Birth is the culmination of the soul’s journey downward into a corporeal reality which obscures its original awareness of G‑d and its spiritual consciousness. Life after birth reverses that downward trend. Through every passing stage of life, when the soul engages in G‑dly activities its original high level of G‑dly awareness is gradually restored.
Chassidus teaches us that the soul actually reaches an even higher “place” than the one it occupied prior to its journey down below. Otherwise, why would a compassionate and loving G‑d compel the soul to lose its original radiance and enter a hostile environment, punctuated with constant struggle? There must be some benefit to the soul in its descent and struggle. Indeed, the descent into our world empowers the soul to rise to an even higher “proximity” and intimacy with its Divine Source.
The Cyclical Journeys
Third, we go through mini-journeys every year, month, week and day. For example, Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of a journey that will culminate at the end of the year. The same is true of all other segments of time. These journeys help us to set goals and realize them. They also condition us to be goal oriented so we can have a smooth and successful life’s journey. 
The Longest Journey
Fourth, there is the primal journey which commenced at the time of Creation. When G‑d created the world, He did so with a plan and purpose. The world has gone through many periods of development and maturation on its way to the Messianic Age. This protracted and arduous journey has taken humanity through many twists and turns but will lead us, inexorably, to our destination: the Final Redemption.  This journey assumed an even greater clarity and urgency at Sinai, when G‑d gave us the Torah. It is the Torah which provides us with the roadmap, navigational skills and the energy to reach our goal.
Historically speaking, this journey has been a rather bumpy one for us, with many detours and periods when we might have strayed off the road. Thank G‑d, as the Rebbe told us repeatedly, we are presently at the very end of this journey; on the very threshold of the Final Redemption.
The Many Challenges 
There are many challenges along the way in our journeys.
First, we must know our destination. Even Jews who are steeped in their Judaism, study Torah and perform the Mitzvos with joy may not be aware of the ultimate destination or even that there is a destination at all.  However, reaching the destination is an integral part of Judaism. Chassidic literature instructs us that “G‑d desired a dwelling place in our lowly world.”   In the beginning or middle stages of the journey, knowledge of its destination and objective was not so crucial; the focus was on the journey itself.  Now, as we reach our overarching goal, awareness of destination and objective is of paramount importance.
Second, one must be careful not to make a wrong turn. History is replete with distressing stories of individuals and groups who decided that they knew the way better than their Torah leaders and mentors. As a result of their straying, many Jews were tragically lost to Judaism. Even in the days of the Holy Temple, when G‑d’s presence was revealed beyond all doubt, there were movements that deviated from Judaism. Inevitably their descendants were lost to the Jewish people. In the days of the First Temple there were Jews who rationalized a parallel idol worship. In the Second Temple era the Hellenists and Sadducees rejected fundamental parts of Judaism.
GPS: Geulah Positioning System
To reach our destination we must make use of our spiritual GPS, Geulah Positioning System. Torah is the ultimate guide that shows us where we are going and how to get there. But, in order to not distort the Torah’s directions, we need the inner dimension of Torah articulated in the illuminating teachings of Chassidus. In addition to the emphasis Chassidus places on the final destination, it is also assists us to deal with our egos’ distortion of the message. Our egos drive us to make Torah conform to what we want rather than to what G‑d wants.
For the GPS to work efficiently we cannot be content with the inner teachings of the Torah; we also need a Rebbe, a spiritual, egoless leader who steers us in the right direction.
One of the instructions our Rebbe gave us was that each and every one of us should have a mashpia-mentorA personal mentor who will be objective in guiding us will ensure that we won’t fall into the trap of going in the direction of our egos. The qualifications of the mentor, the Rebbe stated, are that he or she must be kind, compassionate, and modest.
“Happy is the One who Waits”
A third challenge in our life’s journey, and particularly in the ultimate journey towards the Messianic Age, is maintaining a high level of interest, enthusiasm and anticipation for the Redemption. Judaism requires not only belief in Moshiach and Redemption but to hope for it, desire it and eagerly anticipate it.  According to Chida (an 18th century Sage), the very act of hoping for and anticipating Moshiach is what hastens his coming.
Not surprisingly, the longer we have waited and hoped for salvation the more difficult it is to maintain this high level of anticipation. The closer we get to the end of our journey, this challenge becomes more pronounced. After traversing the same road for millennia we can easily appreciate how some have lost their enthusiasm for the Redemption; tragically, they let go and gave up. We have experienced so many bitter disappointments that it is hard to maintain the same level of excitement about the Redemption we had in the past. Ideally, our expectations for Redemption should increase the closer we get to the end.  In practical terms, the length of our journey has weakened the faith and excitement of some. Disillusionment with Moshiach’s delay is arguably our greatest challenge today.
This might explain why the Biblical Book of Daniel, speaking of the end of days, says: “Happy is the one who waits.” Waiting and anticipating Moshiach are great virtues, particularly in these end times, precisely because the longer we have waited the greater the challenge and therefore the greater the praise and reward. 
Moreover, according to Rashi the praise for waiting refers not to one who has waited at the beginning or the middle of the journey. It refers specifically to the one who sees “Moshiach revealed and then concealed.” In other words, when we see the positive changes in the world which demonstrate s Moshiach’s impact on the world and then there is a pause, that is the moment when waiting and anticipating Moshiach is most challenging.
There might be a hint to the focus on generating desire for Redemption in this week’s parsha. After listing all of the 42 journeys the Jewish nation traversed in the desert, the Torah enumerates the boundaries of the Land of Israel. When the Torah speaks of the final stretch of land on the eastern boundary, it uses the term V’hisavisem, which is translated as “turning,” referring to the eastern borders you will find when you turn east. However, the Chassidic work Tiferes Shlomo, translates it as “and you shall desire.” He interprets this to mean that your journey towards the Promised Land must be one of desire. A Jew must work on generating his or her desire for the Redemption when we will return to the entire Land of Israel and live within the original boundaries described in the Torah.
The lesson for our time is clear: Even when we have completed the 42 journeys of our history, even as we have circumnavigated and encompassed all of our boundaries save for the last one, it is crucial that we don’t lose any of our faith, hope and desire for the Redemption.
One may connect this novel translation to the literal reading as “turning.” We have turned the final corner and should have reached our destination, but that has not yet occurred. We should, nevertheless, not lose any of our desire and enthusiasm for Moshiach and Redemption.
This lesson is particularly relevant and poignant now. We have entered the period known as the “Three Weeks,” when we reflect on the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash and hope and pray for the imminent rebuilding of the Third Bais Hamikdash. When things appear bleak, especially when they appear bleak, we must muster all of our inner faith and generate even more profound feelings of faith and anticipation for the Final Redemption. 
Moshiach Matters
There is no need to create the desire within a Jew to fortify himself and to take action to hasten the daybreak of the Redemption.
All that is needed is to wake him up from his slumbers. Once that is done, there is no doubt that he will do whatever he can to bring about the Redemption.
(The Rebbe, 5751)