Seemingly, the travel to the promised land could necessitate only one two stops - Crossing the Red Sea and at Mt Sinai to receive the Torah. Theoretically, the next stop would be Arvot Moab, before crossing Jordan.

Factually, acc to WIKI, there were 2 extra stops before the Red Sea, 7 stops before Mt Sinai, and 29 stops before reaching Jordan.

IIRC, G-d provided all the conditions for a safe and enjoyable stay at any time. So from people's view, all places were/felt the same, if they stayed inside the cloud.

According to Pshat (taking it physically and not metaphorically), Why dragging millions of people across with their houses and livestock the wild desert through 42 places, journey after journey, was important in G-d's eyes needed?

  • @Al Why quote Wiki, when you can quote the actual Pesukim which give the same facts?
    – DonielF
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 20:06

2 Answers 2


What a wonderful question! Your assumption, however, is not accurate according to the Ramban quoted here:

וטעם ובהאריך הענן - לומר כי אם יאריך הענן על המשכן ימים רבים," והמקום ההוא איננו טוב בעיניהם והיו חפצים ומתאוים מאד לנסוע מן המקום, אעפ"כ לא יעברו על רצון השם. וזה טעם ושמרו בני ישראל את משמרת ה' ולא יסעו - כי מיראת השם ומשמרם משמרת מצותו לא יסעו. וכן אם יהיה הענן ימים מספר כשנים או שלשה ימים, והיו העם יגעים מאד "וענה בדרך כחם, יעשו רצון השם ללכת אחרי הענן

This Ramban also explains some of the purpose of the journeys על פי עבודת השם.

Also, this was a punishment for either leaving הא סיני כתינוק הבורח מבית הספר according to the Ramban. If not for this sin, they might have entered Eretz Yisroel immediately "ושמא אלמלא חטאם זה היה מכניסם לארץ מיד" So this was a punishment.

According to Rashi, it was at least partly due to the מתכוננים. "נסעים אנחנו אל המקום - מיד עד שלשה ימים אנו נכנסין לארץ, שבמסע זה הראשון נסעו על מנת להכנס לארץ ישראל, אלא שחטאו במתאוננים. ומפני מה שתף משה עצמו עמהם, שעדיין לא נגזרה גזרה עליו וכסבור שהוא נכנס. "

These quotations may be looked up here http://www.kby.org.il/hebrew/torat-yavneh/view.asp?id=5482

The number 42 is significant according to Kaballah, but you asked for pshat. However this Kabalistic number does have a נפקא מינה according to the Halachos of the weekly reading this פרשה.

  • Thank you. How do you understand "*"והיו חפצים ומתאוים מאד לנסוע מן המקום"? Why would one place be different from another, and ahy bothering wandering around?
    – Al Berko
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 13:20
  • Can you please summarize the reasons, I couldn't infer those from your answer.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 13:21
  • 1. If they wanted and desired to go to a different place (perhaps the conditions were better in a different place i.e. water to drink or food for their animals or perhaps a deeper explanation: To serve HaShem differently in whatever avoda was applicable to that specific place. Imagine wanting it to be Pesach already but it's still Rosh Chodesh Nisan... (yachol m'Rosh Chodesh)) they could not go. They had to follow the cloud.
    – Meuchedet
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 12:46
  • 2. What reasons are you talking about?
    – Meuchedet
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 12:46
  • "To serve HaShem differently in whatever avoda was applicable to that specific place" can you please elaborate on that - where do we see that keeping mitzvos is different in different locations?
    – Al Berko
    Commented Aug 4, 2019 at 12:55

The 42 stops were needed to get the Jews acquainted with what would be their history: A few years here, then pack up and go; a few years there, then pack up and go.

  • 1
    Do you have a source for this, or is this your own thought? I really like this answer, but I’ve never seen anyone apply מעשה אבות to the דור המדבר, only the סימן לבנים part.
    – DonielF
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 20:05
  • My own thinking. I hope that's allowed here. :-) Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 20:11
  • Of course it’s allowed :)
    – DonielF
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 20:12

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