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    Effort & expenses – Mass’ei

    Mass’ei is the travel diary of Israel in the wilderness, introduced with the words, “And Moses wrote down their goings forth on their journeys” (Num. 33:2).

    The word for “their goings forth” is motza’eihem. Since the root is yatza, to go out, the word could possibly mean “their outgoings”, i.e. their expenses.

    The sages say in Pir’kei Avot, “According to the effort is the reward”, which is the ruling principle of a person with the strange name of Ben Hey Hey (Avot 5:26). We can conclude that the level of one’s outgoings (not only financially but in other senses too) affects the level of their achievement.

    Why is this doctrine attributed to Ben Hey Hey? The answer might have something to do with the fact that the previous teaching in Pir’kei Avot is attributed to another person with a strange name, Ben Bag Bag.

    There is a theory that both were proselytes: Bag could be ben Gerim and Hey is the letter which denotes the Divine Name. Indeed they might even have been one and the same person. Their journey to Judaism entailed outgoings (personal, spiritual, intellectual, emotion and social effort). Because they believed in Judaism they exerted themselves for it.

    Likewise in this week’s portion the Children of Israel invested immense effort and dedication to their trek through the wilderness, so that when they arrived in the Land of Israel they knew they had earned it.

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