Parshas Masei is a bright conclusion to the first four Books of Moshe, where we read how the Jewish people had completed all their difficult journeys in the desert and how they finally stood ready to enter their homeland. Consequently, most of this Parsha concerns the various laws which would become relevant after the Jewish people would actually enter their Land.
However, amid all this “good news,” we read here a rather negative chapter about “Cities of Refuge” for murderers, and further laws of unintentional and intentional murder (v. 9-33).
Now admittedly, designating Cities of Refuge is a mitzvah connected with entering the Land, but why does the Torah then digress to discuss further laws of unintentional and intentional murder (v. 16-33) which could have been included in another Parsha?
According to conventional thinking the Torah’s primary meaning is its literal interpretation, and more spiritual interpretations are present only in the form of metaphor and allusion. However, Rabbi Yeshayah Hurwitz (1560-1630) taught, “The Torah speaks about the upper worlds and alludes to the lower worlds” (Shaloh 13b), i.e.the Torah’s primary meaning is its spiritual message, and the fact that this is expressed in physical terms “alludes” to the counterpart of that message in the physical world, which is a reflection (“allusion”) of the true, spiritual reality.
On this basis it could be argued that the Torah’s primary intent here in discussing murder is a form of spiritual “murder,” of which a person may be guilty after completing numerous spiritual “journeys”:
It is explained that the 42 journeys in the desert are all described as “journeys out of Egypt (Mitzrayim),” because each “journey” of spiritual growth that we make ultimately leads to a feeling of restriction and limitation (meytzar) with our prior accomplishments, and this in turn inspires a further “journey” of growth.
However, having completed numerous journeys, our spiritual aspirations become greater, and consequently, we might find our current spiritual state not only “limiting,” but totally unacceptable. Perhaps, when the person reflects upon all the time that he wasted in the past and all the God-given talents that he failed to utilize effectively, he will feel that his current spiritual standing is outrageous —like an act of murder!
A person’s desire to grow will always be proportional to the void that he feels. Thus, by coming to an awareness that one has committed spiritual “murder,” one will surely be motivated, not only to improve, but to make a quantum leap by which one’s perfection of tomorrow bears no resemblance to that of today.
(Based on Sichas Shabbos Parshas Matos-Masei 5749)