(א) אֵ֜לֶּה מַסְעֵ֣י בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָצְא֛וּ מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרַ֖יִם לְצִבְאֹתָ֑ם בְּיַד־מֹשֶׁ֖ה וְאַהֲרֹֽן׃ (ב) וַיִּכְתֹּ֨ב מֹשֶׁ֜ה אֶת־מוֹצָאֵיהֶ֛ם לְמַסְעֵיהֶ֖ם עַל־פִּ֣י יְהוָ֑ה וְאֵ֥לֶּה מַסְעֵיהֶ֖ם לְמוֹצָאֵיהֶֽם׃
(1) These are the stages of the children of Israel, by which they went forth out of the land of Egypt by their hosts under the hand of Moses and Aaron. (2) And Moses wrote their goings forth, stage by stage, by the commandment of the Eternal; and these are their stages at their goings forth.
(א) אלה מסעי רצה האל יתברך שיכתבו מסעי ישראל להודיע זכותם בלכתם אחריו במדבר כארץ לא זרועה באופן שהיו ראוים להכנס לארץ:
(1) אלה מסעי, G’d wanted all the journeys to be recorded in order to compliment the Jewish people who had followed him blindly through the desert where nothing grew, so that as a reward for their faith they would deserve to enter and inherit the land of Israel.
(א) אלה מסעי. למה נכתבו המסעות הללו, להודיע חסדיו של מקום, שאף על פי שגזר עליהם לטלטלם ולהניעם במדבר, לא תאמר שהיו נעים ומטלטלים ממסע למסע כל ארבעים שנה ולא היתה להם מנוחה, שהרי אין כאן אלא ארבעים ושתים מסעות צא מהם ארבעה עשר, שכלם היו בשנה ראשונה, קודם גזרה, משנסעו מרעמסס עד שבאו לרתמה. שמשם נשתלחו המרגלים, שנאמר (במדבר יב, טז) ואחר נסעו העם מחצרות וגו' (שם יג, ב) שלח לך אנשים וגו' . וכאן הוא אומר ויסעו מחצרות ויחנו ברתמה, למדת שהיא במדבר פארן. ועוד הוצא משם שמונה מסעות שהיו לאחר מיתת אהרן מהר ההר עד ערבות מואב בשנת הארבעים, נמצא שכל שמנה ושלשים שנה לא נסעו אלא עשרים מסעות. זה מיסודו של רבי משה הדרשן.
(1) These are the journeys - these are the stages. Why are each of the these stages listed? To inform the reader about the kindness of God. For even though there had been a decree that they would wander about in the desert, it was never said that they should perpetually wander for forty years and have no rest. For when one looks at the list there are no more than forty two stages. Remove 14 from that number which were all in the first year before the decree, for “the traveled from Ramses” until they came to Ramatah - for it was from there that the spies were sent, as it says (Numbers 12), “And afterwards the nation traveled from Hazterot etc. “Send for yourself men [to spy]...” And here it says that they left Hatzerot and camped in Ramatah - this teachers that it is in the Wilderness of Paran. And one must remove from the count another eight journeys which were after the death of Aharon from when they were at Hor HaHar until the reached the plains of Moav in the fortieth year. What emerges from this is that in the entire 38 years of wandering, they did not have to make more than twenty journeys. This interpretation is based on the opinion of Rabbi Moshe HaDarshan.
(ג) אלה מסעי - משל למלך, שהיה בנו חולה. הוליכו למקום אחד לרפאותו, כשחזרו התחיל אביו מונה כל המסעות, ואומר: כאן ישננו, כאן הוקרנו, כאן חששת את ראשך. כך אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא למשה: מנה להם כל המקומות היכן הכעיסוני, לכך נאמר: אלה מסעי:
These are the journeys - a parable of a king whose son was sick: They went to a [far-off] place to heal him, and on their return his father began to list all of the [parts of] their journey, saying: Here we slept, here we were chilled, here you had a headache. So too said the Holy Blessed One to Moses: list for them all the places they caused me frustration.
(18) Adam himself is alluded to in these three portions. Prior to his sin, Adam can be viewed as having been ראש המטות, "the (spiritual) head of all human tribes." Our sages describe the ministering angels surrounding Adam as paying homage to him, eager to hear his words of wisdom (Bereshit Rabbah 8,9). When the Torah says of the progress of the Jewish people in the desert in Numbers 33,2: "These are the departures of the Jewish people according to their journeys," this is a veiled reference to Adam who had been expelled from Paradise and forced to reside in various parts of the earth, a constant traveller. At the end of the same verse, the Torah reverses the description of these journeys by describing them as "their journeys according to the points of their departures." This refers to the journeys that man has been sentenced to, both Adam and his descendants who were to be dispersed all over the globe. This is beneficial to them. Adam's task originally had only been "to work it and to preserve it intact," meaning that he was to observe G'd's laws simply in a contemplative fashion. As a result of the expulsion, knowledge of G'd would become widespread; wherever man would reside, sanctity would find a home. This is what is meant when the Torah describes Adam's expulsion in the words: "G'd sent him forth from Gan Eden, to work the soil he had been taken from" (Genesis 3,23). The term לעבוד, used for Adam's task henceforth is the same as the term the Torah uses when he had still been in Gan Eden. When Adam, i.e. Israel or mankind, fulfil their task in their respective journeys, i.e. מסעיהם, they will eventually return to their מוצאיהם, their point of departure, i.e. Gan Eden. The return referred to will be posthumous. This is why the Torah reversed the expressions in verse 2 of chapter 33.