Pkudei - Our Journeys

For the cloud of Hashem was upon the Mishkan by day, and there was fire within it at night, before the eyes of the entire house of Israel in all their journeys
כִּי עֲנַן ה' עַל הַמִּשְׁכָּן יוֹמָם וְאֵשׁ תִּהְיֶה לַיְלָה בּוֹ לְעֵינֵי כָל בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּכָל מַסְעֵיהֶם
Shmot 40:38
Rashi notes on the verse that where it says "מַסְעֵיהֶם" (their journeys) that "The place of their encampment is also called a journey (מַסָּע)...Since from the place of their encampment they resumed their journeys, they are all called “journeys” (מַסָעוֹת)." 

Their Journeys
However the Slonimer Rebbe in Netivot Shalom takes note of grammar of the word "מַסְעֵיהֶם". It is not simply called “journeys” (מַסָעוֹת), but rather "their journeys". Didn't Am Yisrael all travel together? Shouldn't this verse refer simply “journeys” (מַסָעוֹת)?

The Slonimer Rebbe brings in comparison the earlier verse:
And they shall make Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst
וְעָשׂוּ לִי מִקְדָּשׁ וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹכָם
Shmot 25:8
He points out that here, by this verse, it states "בְּתוֹכָם" (in their midst), where as it would seem that it really should say "בְּתוֹכָוֹ" (in it) - since seems to be about Hashem's presence in the Mishkan.

Yet actually, says The Slonimer Rebbe, the verse is very particular in stating "בְּתוֹכָם" (in their midst)  to say that Hashem resides in them, in each and every one us. In order to make oneself suitable for Hashem's presence to rest within, everyone needs to work on themselves  - both physically and especially spiritually. This is further emphasized by other verses like "קדושים תהיו" (You shall be holy) Vayikra 19:2, insisting that we put efforts to develop our spiritual sides.

This is the same point in the verse from our Parshah, "מַסְעֵיהֶם" (their journeys). The verse could have said in general  “journeys” (מַסָעוֹת), but by specifying THEIR journeys, the verse makes this into a personal journey. For in our goal to become holy and a worthy vessel for Hashem's presence to rest in, we all have to undertake journeys - journeys with many stops and then resuming the journey, to ultimately reach a place of spiritual holiness.

Shmot - A Microcosm of Jewish Life
The book of Shmot encompasses a critical period for the Jewish people, and comes to represent the individual journey of every single Jew. Shmot starts off with a period of seeming 'pregnancy' where the Jewish soul is enslaved in a foreign land, and then is soon released in the exodus from a Egypt, a seeming time of giving birth. 

Then Shmot continues with the many journeys of Jewish people, which is reflected by the individual journey of every Jew. The journeys depict a period of growing up and maturing, as seen in the gving off the Torah. 

Ultimately the narrative comes to "make Me a sanctuary", the real purpose in Jewish life, that we should be working toward enhancing ourselves on a special level. 

How do we get there?

That's where the verse we have been focusing on comes in. The very last verse in the book of Shmot. "For the cloud of Hashem was upon the Mishkan by day, and there was fire within it at night" this represents the presence that protects us on our sacred journey, for as we each work hard in our own way to purify ourselves Hashem is a protective force against potential spiritual threats.

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