We have come to the end of the book of Numbers with this week’s parasha, Maase’ei. It is most often paired with last week’s portion Mattot, but separated in a leap year. The Portion begins with the recounting of the journey of the Children of Israel: “These are the marches of the Israelites who started out from the land of Egypt, troop by troop, in the charge of Moses and Aaron” (Num. 33:1).
One rabbinic teacher asks Why does the portion begin with the word “Eileh”? It begins this way because the travels of the Children of Israel would begin with the study of Torah. The Hebrew word “Eileh” =These. But this word introduces important sections of the Torah including, “Eileh HaMishpatim” (These are the statutes in Exodus) “Eileh HaMitzvot” (These are the commandments in Leviticus), Eileh HaDevarim (These are the words in Deuteronomy).
One way to understand the opening of this Torah portion is to imagine that the march toward the Promised Land began with the study of Torah. In fact our tradition would teach that the Promised Land is the ability to study Torah. As it says in Mishnah Peah –The Study of Torah is equal to all of the mitzvot!
The emphasis on the study of Jewish ideas, principles and texts is to edify the soul and the spirit. The emphasis on Jewish study in our tradition is to elevate the mind and the heart and the work that you do daily in the world. Sadly, for most Jews if they studied Jewish ideas it stopped at Bar or Bat Mitzvah, often leaving you with a 13 year olds’ perspective of Jewish life.
So if you haven’t explored the meaning of life, the meaning of your life through Jewish texts or ideas, philosophy or mysticism I encourage you to encounter as an adult the richness of our tradition. If
the Children of Israel could study before they went on their way marching toward the Promised Land we
might take some time to shape our own lives on our journey through our week! It will help frame your day and your life in a deeper and more meaningful way.
L’olam Ya’asok Adam BaTorah V’Achar Kach Yeitzei La’Derech”; A person should make sure to learn Torah before embarking on any journey.