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What is the significance of the numerical correspondence between the 42 camps or waypoints mentioned in the recounting of the forty years of wandering (Bamidbar 33) and the fact that 42 of the 48 Levite cities mentioned in the same parsha (Masei) are of the ordinary non-refuge kind (Bamidbar 35:6)?

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Reb.Cabin, welcome to Mi Yodeya and thanks for your interesting question! I hope you stick around and enjoy the site. –  msh210 Jul 22 '12 at 16:20
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Although there were halachic differences, the 42 cities also functioned as cities of refuge (no source at the moment) –  Menachem Jul 22 '12 at 17:13
    
@msh210 thank you for the kind welcome and edits with links to ויקיטקסט. I wasn't aware of that great site! –  Reb.Cabin Jul 23 '12 at 17:15
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related judaism.stackexchange.com/q/1641/759 –  Double AA Oct 14 '12 at 15:06
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Note that according to some mefarshim (the Tur is one of them I think) there were an additional 6 waypoints due to backtracking (I don't know how he gets that number, but it's intresting in the context of your question - 42 and 48 total!) –  YEZ Jul 20 at 3:24

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R. Shlomo Kluger in his sefer Imrei Shefer here explains that the 42 cities that Yisrael gave to the Levites corresponded to the 42 journeys which Yisrael made in the wilderness and thus required 42 places of rest, each of which Hashem changed from being a very desolate place into a place to live. Therefore, Yisrael needed to repay this kindness to Hashem, and they did so by giving to the Levites who were servants of Hashem 42 cities in which to live since they had no land of their own, one city for every place that they had rested.

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See Targum Yonasan (Devarim 6:10) who says that after Aharon died Amalek attacked. Some Jews ran back towards Mitzrayim by six journeys. The b'nei Levi chased them and fought with them. There were casualties on both sides and although the survivors returned, the b'nei Levi concluded that their losses were as a result of not mourning for Aharon properly. Here is the full text:

יונתן דברים פרק י

ו) וּבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל נְטָלוּ מִן כּוּפְרָנֵי בֵּירֵי בְּנֵי יַעֲקָן לְמוֹסֵרָה תַּמָּן אַגַח עִמְהוֹן עֲמָלֵק כַּד מְלָךְ בַּעֲרָד דִּשְׁמַע דְּמִית אַהֲרֹן וְאִסְתַּלְקוּ עֲנָנֵי יְקָרָא וּמִדְעָקַת עַל יִשְׂרָאֵל עַל קְרָבָא הַהוּא בָּעוּ לְמֵיתוּב לְמִצְרַיִם וְהַדְרֵי שִׁית מַטְלִין רְדָפוּ בְּנֵי לֵוִי בַּתְרֵיהוֹן וּקְטָלוּ מִנְהוֹן תַּמְנֵי גְנִיסַן וַהֲדָרוּ לַאֲחוֹרֵיהוֹן אַף מִבְּנֵי לֵוִי אִתְקְטִילוּ אַרְבַּע גְּנִיסַן אָמְרוּ דֵין לְדֵין מַאן גָּרַם לָנָא קָטוֹלָא הָדָא אֶלָא עַל דְּאִתְרְשַׁלְנָא בְּמִסְפְּדָא דְאַהֲרֹן חֲסִידָא וּקְבָעוּ תַּמָּן מִסְפְּדָא כָּל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כְּאִלּוּ תַמָּן מִית אַהֲרֹן וְאִתְקְבַר תַּמָּן וּבְכֵן שַׁמֵּישׁ אֶלְעָזָר בְּרֵיהּ בְּאַתְרוֹי

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Welcome to Mi Yodeya. I'm having trouble seeing how this answers the question. –  YEZ 15 hours ago

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