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    Where are you? – Mass’ei

    You can’t help listening in to people on mobile phones. In the street, on the train, in bank queues – wherever you happen to be people are making calls or answering them.

    Almost every call begins, “Where are you?” It is not meant as a philosophical question. Nor is there any philosophical implication in the other common question, “How are you doing?” But read today’s sidra and you see that questions like these ought – at least sometimes – to have a deeper content.

    Mass’ei begins, “These are the journeys of the Children of Israel when they went out of the land of Egypt” (Num. 33:1). It is not so much the journeys that are enumerated but the stopping places. This leads to Rashi to ask why the list was necessary. Presumably the people needed no reminder of where they had been. But the Torah’s purpose was to show the lovingkindness of the Almighty.

    He not only ordained that they should move and migrate through the wilderness but also that they should have stopping places where they could settle, at least for a time, and enjoy some rest and stability.

    “Where are you?” in those days would have been easily answered – “We are en route” or “We have arrived”. Today too, “Where are you?” can mean “Are you making progress in life? Have you settled down for the moment to take stock and recharge your energies?”

    “How are you doing?” is also a good contemporary question – not just, “what is happening?” but “How are you handling it?”

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