by Stuart W.
In this week's Torah portion, the Jews travel from the desert of Sinai to the Wilderness of Paran, their first journey out of the place where they received the Torah.
In this week's Torah portion, the Jews travel from the desert of Sinai to the Wilderness of Paran, their first journey out of the place where they received the Torah. In describing this event, the Torah states: "The Children of Israel journeyed to their journeys from the Wilderness of Sinai, and the cloud rested in the Wilderness of Paran" (Numbers 10:12). Why does the verse state that the Jews traveled "to their journeys"? Wouldn't it have been sufficient to simply say that they traveled?
The Ramban (also known as Nachmanides), a Spanish leader of world Jewry in the 13th century, explains that this verse shows us that the Jews left the desert of Sinai very happily, like a child who runs away from school. Rather than being forced out, they were excited to continue on their travels. He points out, however, that three days after they left, they sinned by complaining for meat. Soon later, Miriam sinned by speaking lashon harah (slander) about her brother Moses, and in next week's Torah portion the spies bring back a bad report about the Land of Israel. All of this occurred while the Jewish people were in that very same Wilderness of Paran. What exactly happened that caused them to sin so rapidly immediatly after leaving the place where they had received the Torah?
The Jews had just received the second tablets less than a year before, and they were on a very high spiritual level. However, at the same time, they knew that they would be leaving Sinai, and would have to go back into the "real world", the world that they were in before they achieved their spiritual growth and were able to receive the Torah. Knowing that they would be leaving the place where they had accepted upon themselves Hashem's sovereignty and His commandments, they felt their yoke and their responsibility lessen, like a child running out of school as the bell rings. Consequently, they allowed themselves to drop to a lower spiritual level.
This fact is true in our own lives as well. When one has experienced a feeling of spirituality at the end of the Yom Kippur service, after a special Shabbat, or even after reciting the daily Shemoneh Esrei prayer, he can choose to do one of two things. Either he can immediately forget what he has just experienced and run out of synagogue glad that he is now free of responsibility, not allowing the moving experience to affect him permanently; or he can use it as a springboard for spiritual growth, using the spirituality that he has already gained to come to a new recognition of and closeness to Hashem.
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