Weekly portion Masei describes the journeys that Jews went through in the desert for 40 years. Torah relates us the name of each station and states, which was the next destination. “These are the journeys of the children of Israel who left the land of Egypt in their legions, under the charge of Moses and Aaron. Moses recorded their starting points for their journeys according to the word of the Lord, and these were their journeys with their starting points.” (Bamidbar 33:1-2).
What does Torah want to teach us by describing their travels in details?
One time Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chassidism, sent one of his students to Bessarabia on a mission to prepare kosher wine for the approaching Jewish New Year. According to Jewish law, only Jews are allowed to take part in preparing the wine. If a non-Jew touches it, it becomes forbidden for the Jews. That’s why the whole process had to be done under strict supervision.
Baal Shem Tov’s student, reb Eliezer, went out every day to pick the choicest grapes, wash them, check them for bugs, and he carefully watched that no one touched his vessels. He wanted to prepare as much as possible of the best kosher wine. The month of Elul passed, came Tishrei. Reb Eliezer was saddened by the fact that he couldn’t be next to his Rebbe for the Holidays, but he had to finish his task.
Finally, after many-many weeks of hard work, the wine was ready. He covered the bottles up with coats, loaded them on the wagon, and set home. The news of reb Eliezer’s return quickly passed through Mezhibuzh, and chassidim ran out to greet him. Suddenly a gang of Cossacks overtook the wagon. Their leader jumped off the horse and headed to reb Eliezer.
- Hey, Jew, wait up, - he yelled. – We got news that someone is smuggling vodka. Show me, what have you got in the wagon?
- I don’t have any vodka, - tried to protest reb Eliezer.
- Show me right now what you are hiding, - demanded the Cossack.
--It’s wine, which I made with my own hands. Please, believe me, it never crossed my
thoughts to smuggle anything illegally, - pleaded reb Eliezer.
But Cossack wasn’t paying any attention to him. He began opening bottle after bottle and drinking from each one, thus rendering everything non-kosher. After drinking from
the last bottle he laughed,
- Yeah, true, it’s wine. Fine, go along on your business.
The group turned around and left. Reb Eliezer ran straight to Baal Shem Tov.
- Rebbe, - he cried with tears in his eyes, - I did everything in my power to protect the wine. Why did I get such terrible punishment? All my work, and all the time I spent, was in vain!
- Eliezer, - answered Ball Shem Tov, - you have to understand that Hashemis teaching you a lesson. True, you had to guard the wine, but at the same time you had to pray to Him to keep it kosher. For, in the end, everything is in His Hands. But it was worth it for you to spend all this time and energy to learn this lesson.
Baal Shem Tov teaches that each of 42 journeys relate directly to us, in every generation.
Each Jew came to this world on a mission. Everything that happens to him is precisely arranged to help him achieve that purpose.
Reb Moshe from Kobrin says that the worst thing for a Jew is to become complacent and accept his level, not wishing to elevate himself any longer. Torah teaches us that we must never be satisfied with what we have achieved so far and continue to move forward. That’s why Hashem created time as a cycle, so that each renewal, each new day, new month, New Year, pushes the person for greater accomplishments.
Source: Ohr HaTorah