Hallel: Rosh Chodesh Sivan: An Introduction to Second Paragraph
“They journeyed from Rephidim and arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai and encamped in the Wilderness; and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain.”“Why did the verse need to review and explain from where they traveled? Did we not already know that they were previously encamped in Rephidim? We know that they traveled from there. The point is to compare their journey from Rephidim to their arrival at the Wilderness of Sinai; just as there are rival in the Wilderness of Sinai was in a state of repentance so was their journey from Rephidim in a state of repentance (Rashi 19:2).” Why is it so important for us to know that they were already in a state of repentance when they left their previous camp in Rephidim? Why does the Torah choose to teach us that they began their journey in repentance from a verse describing the end of the journey, rather than teach us at the beginning of the journey that it was in a state of repentance?
The only way that they could achieve, “on this day,” the sense of a, “beginning,” was if their journey leading them to this place and to this moment was a journey of repentance; they were not escaping their past, the mistakes they had made in In Rephidim. They began their journey as a process of re-turning to God, to the relationship they had when He saved them in Egypt and at the Splitting of the Sea, when when He provided them with Manna, and when He “transforms a rock into a pond of water.”
One can not access the Covenant of Torah without beginning the process as a journey; a journey to reconnect with the Creator, Sustainer, and Guider of history.
We already know that they were in the Wilderness of Sinai. Why does this verse have to repeat that they arrived in the Wilderness of Sinai? Why does the verse have to repeat that they, “encamped in the Wilderness,” and why does the verse have to repeat that, Israel encamped there”?
The first is pointing out that although they left a defined place, Rephidim, they were perfectly willing to go to a Wilderness. They were willing to make their camp in the Wilderness; they were not searching for a place, other than a place where they could reconnect with God. They camped in the Wilderness of Sinai in a place reminiscent of the rooms in which they ate their Pesach Offering, a place they created for themselves when they brushed the doorposts and the lintel with the blood of the Offering, with full faith that God would protect them. They were re-creating that moment of intimate connection with God.
“Opposite the mountain.” “Opposite,” or Neged, takes us back to the first mention of the word Neged in the Bible: “God, the Lord, said, ‘ It is not good that man be alone; I will make him a helper corresponding, Negdo, to him’ (Genesis 2:18).” Although God declares that He will provide Adam with a “helper corresponding to him,” He first takes Adam through a process in which the man experiences that, “he did not find a helper corresponding to him (Verse 20).” The Children of Israel had to first understand that they had yet to develop and actualize the full potential of a relationship with God, before they could experience Revelation. When the verse informs us that they camped, “opposite the mountain,” it is telling us that they camped searching for a relationship, just as Adam was searching.
A journey whose end indicates that it began with repentance, a journey that ends with the re-creation of their most intense moment of connecting with God, and a journey of a search for a relationship that concludes with a camp that reflects that the people are prepared for a relationship. The Children of Israel were not focused on the Mountain, but on the, “in between,” the space between the mountain and their camp; the focal point of the give and take of the relationship. This is the theme of the second paragraph of this Hallel.