Friday, August 05, 2005

These Are The Journeys

The weekly portion of Masei starts off with almost 50 verses listing the journeys of the Jewish people in the desert. Why the extensive list that some might find boring and uninformative?

My old friend R. David Silverberg quotes the Rambam (Moreh Nevukhim 3:50), one of whose explanations is:

The Torah feared that later generations might deny the miraculous nature of this experience by claiming that Benei Yisrael traveled a route either close to inhabited regions or equipped with necessary resources for survival. By specifying the particular route Benei Yisrael took during this period, the Torah makes it perfectly clear that they could not possibly have survived this journey without the Almighty's supernatural protection and provisions. For this reason God instructed Moshe to record in detail all the stations that comprised Benei Yisrael's travel route from Egypt to Canaan.
However, Rabbi Silverberg offers his own answer to this question:
As the Rambam observed, this list demonstrates that Benei Yisrael traveled a route did not even come near any inhabited areas. Perhaps, then, its purpose was to emphasize the cultural autonomy of the Torah which Benei Yisrael received and studied during these years. It precludes any attempts to dismiss the Torah's laws as an adaptation of other codes prevalent among the various nations and cultures of the time, emphasizing that the Torah that Benei Yisrael brought with them to Canaan had been acquired in isolated, desert terrains. By extension, then, it is not subject to changing trends or cultural developments in surrounding civilizations. Just as it was born in isolation, so must the Torah be preserved in isolation, independent of the cultural forces around us.

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Favorites More