Interestingly, the first time the root ch.l.tz shows up in Scripture is in Genesis 35:11, where the Almighty promises Abraham that “…A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come out of your loins.” “Loins” in that text is “chalatza’yim” - the strong body part. The root ch.l.tz also lends itself to festive or royal robes. Yehoshua the High Priest was dressed in such robes in exchange for his filthy ones (ref. Zech. 3:4).
Chapters 33-36 constitute the next Parasha, which is Masa’ey. “These are the journeys of – “masa’ey” - the sons of Israel… (33:1, emphasis added), “and Moses wrote their departures according to their journeys by the mouth of YHVH. And these are their journeys, according to their departures” (v. 2). Although Moshe is entirely familiar with the journeys and the name of each location that the people of Yisrael had gone through, and/or encamped at, the account, which will now follow (vv. 3- 49) is dictated to him “by the mouth of YHVH.” Wondering as to the importance of these technical details, some of the sages, including Rashi, have concluded that this list was to serve as a reminder to the people of YHVH’s watchfulness over them, and of His attention to each and every detail pertaining to their lives and destiny. Thus, the name of each place is used as a device to invoke in them the memory of YHVH’s care for them. According to Maimonides, the names of the places are a testimony intended to verify that they have indeed stayed at the locations mentioned; places where only YHVH Himself could have sustained them, thusly bringing to their minds the miracles which He wrought for them. Sforno adds to this: “’The Lord blessed be He desired that the stages of the Israelites’ journeyings be written down to make known their merit in their going after Him in a wilderness, in a land that was not sown [ref. Jer. 2:2] so that they eventually deserved to enter the land. ‘And Moses wrote’ – he wrote down their destination and place of departure. For sometimes that place for which they were headed was evil and the place of departure good… Sometime the reverse happened. He wrote down too the details of their journeyings because it involved leaving for a new destination without any previous notice, which was very trying. Despite all this, they kept to the schedule…’ In other words, according to Sforno the Torah shows us both sides of the coin. We have been shown an Yisrael “composed of rebels and grumblers, having degenerated from the lofty spiritual plane of their religious experience at Mount Sinai… Now the Torah changes its note and shows us the other side of the picture, Israel loyal to their trust, following their God through the wilderness… They followed Him in spite of all the odds, through the wildernesses of Sinai, Etham, Paran and Zin… that was also a place of fiery serpents and scorpions and drought where there was no water, where our continued existence would have been impossible, were it not for the grace of God…”
Chapter 34 details the extent of the territory of the inheritance. In an era when defined borders did not exist, this was a novelty which underscores, once again, the importance YHVH attaches to the land and to its occupation. About the land of Cna’an it says that it “shall fall to you as an inheritance” (v.2 emphasis added). Additionally, it “… is the land which you shall inherit by lot, which YHVH has commanded to give to the nine tribes and to the half-tribe” (emphasis added). As to the land that was to be occupied by the two and a half tribes, it says in 34:14,15 (according to the Hebrew text), that the two and a half tribes “took” their inheritance. Hence, a clear distinction is made between the land which is apportioned and the land that is taken by choice. It is here that He also appoints those “who will take possession of the land for you” (34:17). Following these instructions, the towns which are to be occupied by the Levites (among the other tribes’ territories), are listed. “Command the sons of Israel that they give to the Levites cities to live in, from the land of their possessions, and you shall give to the Levites open land for the cities” (35:2). “Open land” (or “common land”) is “migrash.” One of the words for “inheritance” is “yerusha” (33:52, 53), in which is embedded the term to “impoverish” (being a reference to the party from whom one’s inheritance is wrested). Both “Yerusha” and “migrash,” which the Levites were to be granted, are of the root g.r.sh (gimmel, resh, shin) with its primary meaning to “cast or drive out.” Hebrew certainly does not conceal or embellish the hard-core ‘facts of life,’ and does not make attempts at being politically correct. As a matter of fact, from Matthew 11:12 we learn that the Kingdom of Heaven is also “seized by force.” Thus, in taking hold of YHVH’s possession (and their inheritance), the Israelites had to “impoverish” and “cast out” the inhabitants of the land. When “Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian… mocking, she said to Abraham, ‘Drive away [“ga’resh”] this slave-girl and her son, for the son of this slave-girl shall not inherit [“yirash” – will cause another to be impoverished] with my son, with Isaac’” (Gen. 21:9,10).
YHVH’s detailed attention to the place He has set apart is seen again in the last chapter of Parashat Masa’ey, where we learn that “no inheritance of the sons of Israel shall turn from tribe to tribe, for each one of the sons of Israel shall cling to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. And any daughter that possesses an inheritance from any tribe of the sons of Israel to one of the family of the tribe of her father is to become a wife of the family of the tribe of her father, so that the sons of Israel may each possess the inheritance of his father. And the inheritance shall not turn from one tribe to another tribe. For the tribes of the sons of Israel shall each one cling to its own inheritance, as YHVH commanded Moses” (36:7-10 emphases added). The word for “turn” here, in future tense, is “tisov” of the root s.o.v (samech, vav, vet). “Sov” is to “turn about or go around.” It is indicative of mobility, unstableness and temporariness. The usage of this verb here lends extra emphasis to the issue at hand: “For the tribes of Israel shall each cling – yid’b’ku, adhere, cleave like glue - to its own inheritance, as YHVH commanded…” In B’resheet 2:24 we read: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother, and will cleave/adhere/cling to his wife and they will become one flesh.” YHVH declares above that He dwells in the midst of the land, among the sons of Yisrael (Num. 35:34); it is no wonder therefore that He is so very particular about the set up of His abode.
or “Parashat Masa’ey”)