Rebecca Masinter

Matos-Maasei - The Challenge of Transitions

This week we have a double Parsha, Parshiyos Matos and Maasei which bring us to the conclusion of Sefer Bamidbar. At the end of the Sefer, the Torah lists the 42 journeys Bnai Yisrael made in the Midbar from when we left Mitzrayim all the way until we were ready to enter Eretz Yisrael. If you look at the names of the places we camped during the 40 years in the midbar, the names of the places at the beginning are familiar from earlier in the Torah: Marah, Refidim, Sinai, and the camps at the end are also familiar, Midbar Tzin , Hor HaHar. But in the middle are names of camps we haven’t heard of before in the Torah - and the vast majority of our time in the midbar, 38 years, was spent in these unknown campsites! Much of Shmos and Bamidbar detail the 40 years between leaving Mitzrayim and entering Eretz Yisrael. We know a lot about the first two years - the two years of Matan Torah, the Golden Calf, sending the spies, and of Korach. And then we have a 38 year gap. A time when the nation learned Torah from Moshe without sin - the Dor HaDeiah at its finest. And we know nothing about those intervening 38 years - the names of those camps are foreign to us. But at the end of the 40 years we again hear stories of struggle, Mei Meriva, the snakes, Bilaam, places that are familiar for the challenges that occurred there. It is noteworthy that the struggles and sins of the Midbar were clustered around the time of leaving Mitzrayim and the time of entering Eretz Yisrael. The beginning and end of this 40 year period were times of great transition. Transition from slavery to freedom, transition from dependence on people to dependence on Hashem, and then at the end, the transition from the miraculous existence in the desert to a more natural life in our own land. Transitions are challenging. Even for the greatest generation that ever lived, the periods of transition were the times of great struggle and weighty sins. This is something that mothers know well. Transitioning from playtime to sleep-time, or the opposite, transitioning from the school year to summer and back again, from one routine to a new one - transitions are tough. However if we are aware of the inherent challenge of transitions, we can prepare for them. Forewarned is forearmed! We can help our children through the challenge of transitions only if we are aware that the challenge exists. The conclusion of Sefer Bamidbar reminds us how difficult it is for human beings to undergo a process of change. This doesn’t mean that misbehavior is okay at a time of transition. Far from it! But it is a reminder to us of a reality Hashem built into the world and a call to us as mothers to help our children learn to navigate transitions, to make them gentler and easier when possible, because even for the greatest people, transitions are tough.