Parashat Masei discusses the places that Bnei Yisrael stopped at throughout the journey through the Midbar. The obvious question is why the Torah chose to now go back and list the locations Bnei Yisrael stopped at. The Sfat Emet explains that from here we learn how to redeem the world. As Jews, we may think a strict observation of Torah’s laws suffices; but we can do much more. We can seek out the potential for good in unexpected places. The whole world was created for God’s glory. The places listed in the Parasha were not remarkable, but when the Jews camped in these places they were elevated and even made worthy of being immortalized in the Torah.
Every act that a person performs for the sake of Heaven is an act of redemption. In the language of the mystics, every object has a holy spark, called a Nitzotz. However a shell hides the object’s holiness. The shell is called a Klippah. By using an object for a Mitzvah, we break through the shell and free the spark of holiness.
The Sfat Emet makes an observation that bears out this point. In last week’s Parasha, the Jews went to war against Midyan. They were victorious and returned with booty captured from the Midyanites. The returning soldiers were told how to Kasher and purify the captured utensils. The Sfat Emet points out an oddity in the language of the Pasuk that states that Elazar spoke to the soldiers going to war. But hadn’t these soldiers actually had just returned from the war?
The Sfat Emet answers that there is an important lesson here. Although these soldiers were returning from the war against Midyan, they were about to embark on a more difficult war. Each soldier was going to the struggle with his greed and desire for luxury in order to utilize the captured vessels for holy purposes. In the case of the soldiers they found a holy use for the captured gold. Their example is a lesson for all of us, as we should never give up the battle against our immoral basic instincts.