By Rabbi Yitzchok D. Frankel
Agudath Israel of the Five Towns
They journeyed from the Mountain of Hashem a three-day distance, and the Ark of the Covenant of Hashem journeyed before them a three-day distance to search out for them a resting place. The cloud of Hashem was over them by day when they journeyed from the camp.
Rashi comments: “A three-day distance. They went a journey of three days in a single day, for the Holy One Blessed Is He wanted to bring them into the Land immediately.”
Rashi is teaching us that Klal Yisrael covered a three-day journey in a single day. Perhaps this is alluded to in the pasuk itself: “The cloud of Hashem was over them by day when they journeyed from the camp.” There is no mention of their having traveled at night (i.e., b’eish layla). We can therefore conclude that the entire journey took one day (they did not even travel the following night).
The following pesukim (ibid. 35–36) state:
“When the Ark would journey, Moshe said: ‘Arise, Hashem, and let Your foes be scattered, let those who hate You flee from before You.’
“And when it rested, he would say, ‘Reside tranquilly, O, Hashem, among the myriad thousands of Israel.’”
Rashi comments: “When the Ark would journey. Because the Ark would go ahead of them by three days journey, Moshe would say: ‘Halt and wait for us.’”
If, as we cited from Rashi above, Hashem transported them on a three-day journey in a single day in order to have them enter Eretz Yisrael immediately, how could the Aron have been three days journey ahead of them? Does this mean that the Aron was already in Eretz Yisrael?
In addition, we find in Parashas Devarim, “Eleven days from Chorev, by way of Har Seir to Kadesh Barnea” (Devarim 1:2).
If the entire journey to Kadesh Barnea was supposed to have taken eleven days, then traveling three-days’ worth in a single day would still have left them a great distance from Eretz Yisrael. How then can Rashi state that Hashem transported them on a three-day journey in a single day because He wished to bring them in to Eretz Yisrael immediately?
We must therefore explain as follows: Rashi did not literally mean that they were to enter Eretz Yisrael immediately following this three-day journey; rather, in their travels towards Eretz Yisrael they traversed a great distance in a short time. Initially three days’ travel in one day and ultimately even faster, eleven days’ in three.
Let us now analyze the journey from Chorev to Kadesh Barnea: Rashi on the pasuk we cited from Parashas Devarim comments that they managed the eleven-day journey in three days: “Eleven days from Chorev. Moshe said to them: . . . You have no shorter route from Chorev to Kadesh-Barnea than the route to Har Seir, and even it is a journey of eleven days, yet you traversed it in three days” (Rashi, Devarim 1:2).
Once we are depending on this faster form of divinely inspired travel, we must ask: Is the Hand of Hashem limited that He was unable to transport His nation through the entire eleven-day journey in a single day? We must therefore conclude that Hashem desired to bring them into Eretz Yisrael as swiftly as possible, but as a nation they were not yet ready and still needed time to develop (see Machat shel Yad Parashas Beshalach “Circular Reasoning”). This was ultimately proved true when the Jewish people sinned at Kivros Hata’avah and Kadesh, which delayed our entrance into Eretz Yisrael for 38 years. Hashem, although rushing as per His desire, nevertheless gave Bnei Yisrael the free-choice opportunity to bring about their own expression of reluctance to really enter at this time. v
Rabbi Frankel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Now in print: Machat shel Yad Vayikra.