July 20, 2024
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On the 20th of Iyar, 2449, the Children of Israel left Sinai (Bamidbar 10:12) after spending almost a year there. The subsequent places mentioned in our Parasha are: the Paran Desert (ibid), Taveira (11:3), Kivros Hataavuh (11:34), Chatzeiros (11:35) and, once again, the Paran Desert (12:16). The Paran Desert being mentioned a second time doesn’t mean they had left it. This desert is quite large (and these locations might be near each other), so the three places between the two mentions of the Paran Desert were all in that desert. As a matter of fact, most assume that the first stop in the Paran Desert was [what would eventually be called] Kivros Hataavuh (see Rashi on 10:12), so only four locations are actually being referred to. The Paran Desert might have been mentioned at the outset just to tell us that they left the Sinai Desert and entered the Paran Desert before getting into specifics. It’s also fair to assume (as Yoel Elitzur does, on page 442 of “Places in the Parasha”) that Taveira and Kivros Hataavuh didn’t have names prior to the incidents that led to these names. The generic “Paran Desert” was, therefore, to describe where they went before the names were given (see Seforno on 12:16).

The second “Paran Desert ‘’ refers to Kadesh, from where the scouts were sent (13:26; see Ramban on 12:16, although Seforno there says they really camped opposite Kadesh, (not in it). What about Taveira? Although mentioned before Kivros Hataavuh in our parsha, it’s not mentioned at all in the stops listed in פרשת מסעי (towards the end of Sefer Bamidbar) where it says they went from the Sinai Desert to Kivros Hataavuh (33:16) and then to Chatzeiros (33:17). Why isn’t Taveira included there?

The most common approach to explaining the absence of Taveira in the list of encampments is that Taveira and Kivros Hataavuh are the same place (see Ibn Ezra on 10:33, Rabbeinu Bachye on 11:5 and Chizkuni on 10:12 and 11:3). It was named Taveira after some were consumed by God’s fire (11:1-3), but renamed Kivros Hataavuh after the “very great smiting” (11:33), when those who desired meat died and were buried there (11:34). Ramban (11:3) adds a twist, suggesting that only the edge of the camp, where the fire burned, was called Taveira, whereas the whole city (or area) was called Kivros Hataavuh. I’m not sure why they would only name a small section Taveira if there had been no name for the area yet (Sifre suggests that the fire was a reminder not to complain, so they may have been focusing just on that reminder, not the location). Either way, since it wasn’t a separate stop, Taveira wasn’t listed among the encampments. (Based on this, only three separate locations are referred to in our parsha.)

Although Ibn Ezra in Bamidbar says that Taveira and Kivros Hataavuh are one and the same, in Devarim (9:22) he suggests the possibility that not every stop was listed with the encampments in פרשת מסעי. (Ramban on Bamidbar 12:16 seems to accept this possibility.) If they stopped somewhere for only a day, it didn’t make the list, so even if Taveira was a separate location, because they didn’t stay long, it wasn’t mentioned there. It should be noted, though, that there’s no mention of any travel between Taveira and Kivros Hataavuh, implying that they were not two separate stops. But that doesn’t mean they had to be the same place.

According to Seforno (Bamidbar 10:33) and Malbim (11:3), they never camped at Taveira (which is why it isn’t listed as one of the stops). Rather, this incident occurred on the way to [the place eventually named] Kivros Hataavuh, while they were traveling. Rashi (11:1) seems to be saying the same thing: “They said, ‘Woe is to us, how exhausted we’ve become from this three-day journey, for we haven’t rested from the afflictions of traveling.’” Before dissecting Rashi’s wording, allow me to explain why I put the comma after the words “three days,” despite a popular printing/translation putting the comma before them.

When the Torah says they traveled a three-day journey from God’s mountain (10:33), Rashi (based on Sifre) says they didn’t really travel for three days. They did travel a distance that normally takes three days, but they did it in just one day. If the comma (in his commentary on 11:1) is before the words “three days,” he would be saying that they were tired from traveling for three days—which they didn’t do. Putting the comma after “three days” means that he isn’t referring to how long it took them to travel, but how far they traveled—a distance that normally takes three days to traverse.

Rashi’s description of the complaint is based on Sifre (84), although Sifre doesn’t mention three days (only the distance they traveled—36 mil). Sifre says they were complaining about how exhausted they were, and Rashi adds that it was a three-day journey. Although Midrash Aggadah does say their complaint was that God made them travel for three consecutive days, we don’t know if this Midrash was written/compiled before or after Rashi wrote his commentary. Either way, Rashi himself (like Sifre) says they attributed their exhaustion to the distance they traveled, not how long the trip took. [Now back to our regularly scheduled dissection of Rashi’s wording.]

You’ll notice that Rashi didn’t say “We didn’t rest until we traveled a three-day journey,” but “We haven’t rested,” indicating that they were still traveling. Had they already reached that first destination, they likely would have appreciated what God had intended—getting them to the Promised Land sooner—rather than complaining about how exhausting the trip was after they already had a chance to rest.

Nevertheless, because Rashi mentions the three-day journey, Taveira must have been located near the end of that trip, and therefore close to Kivros Hataavuh. But since they never stopped at Taveira (at least according to Sefornu, Malbim and Rashi), it wasn’t included in Moshe’s list of encampments.


Rabbi Dov Kramer did not discuss how עזרה להבין, a commentary on אבן עזרא, explains an approach that אבן עזרא (on 10:31/33) rejected—that the Paran Desert mentioned in 10:12 refers to the same place as the Paran Desert mentioned in 12:16, with the ארון ברית השם waiting where the מרגלים were sent from while the nation was in קברות התאוה and חצרות—mostly because it doesn’t impact תבערה not being mentioned in פרשת מסעי.

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