This week we read the double portions of Mattos and Masei. Masei means journeys, and the parasha begins with a recitation of the encampments of the Jewish people. As we arrive close to the end of the Torah we recount the journey from Egypt to the Land of Israel.
Rashi in his commentary on the Chumash (Numbers 33:1) explains that the Children of Israel made camp 42 times. From the 42, he subtracts 14 that were in the first year of the Exodus and 8 that were after the death of Aaron. This leaves 20 journeys from camp to camp after God decreed that the Israelites would wander 40 years as a punishment for believing the evil report of the Meraglim (Spies) about the Land up to the time (the death of Aaron) when they were close to the Land. So, during the almost 40 years of wandering, there were only 20 journeys, a sign that God tempered his justice with mercy.
At the end of the great trek, as our ancestors are about to enter the Land, God again commands them to enter and live in the Land of Israel.
For me, the parasha’s story of the Israelites is much like our journey in life. As Scouts, we hike toward a great goal – to live according to the Scout Oath and Law. Along the way there are many stops. Recall that at some stops, the Israelites’ journey included difficulties and disasters: worshipping the golden calf, complaints about the lack of food, difficulties with the tribes the Children of Israel encountered along the way. Sometimes, the people brought on their own troubles by sinning, and were punished. But by continuing to go toward a good goal – entering the Land of Israel where the people would live in holiness – and with God’s help and mercy, they achieved their purpose.
Set good goals for yourself and pursue them, and you will be successful.