After that discussion, Harry F asked about the significance of the number forty two, and I didn't know the answer. He said that he seems to remember that there is a name of God that has forty two letters, and perhaps Balak's sacrifices were intended to propitiate that name of God. Of course he is right, and it just highlights my unfortunate weakness of learning and immediately forgetting anything of that sort. One would think that I would at least remember something so important that it explains life, the universe, and everything. As penance, I am posting a translation of Rabbi Pinchas Friedman's dvar torah on this week's parsha (Shvilei Pinchas.) The translation is done, as always, by my dear friend, Dr. Barry Fox.
Makes All Forty-Two Journeys Made by Yisrael in the Midbar
Let us begin our path to enlightenment by examining the passuk at the beginning of the parsha (Bamidbar 33, 1): "אלה מסעי בני ישראל אשר יצאו מארץ מצרים לצבאותם ביד משה ואהרן, ויכתוב משה את מוצאיהם למסעיהם על פי ה' ואלה מסעיהם למוצאיהם"—these are the journeys of Bnei Yisrael, who departed the land of Mitzrayim according to their legions, under the hand of Moshe and Aharon. Moshe wrote their goings forth according to their journeys at the bidding of Hashem, and these were their journeys according to their goings forth. The Ohr HaChaim hakadosh notes that at first the passuk states: "מוצאיהם למסעיהם"--their goings forth according to their journeys—whereas it concludes: "מסעיהם למוצאיהם"--their journeys according to their goings forth—reversing the order.
We can now understand the rationale for the Magen Avraham’s statement in the name of the Tzror HaMor—that it is improper to stop in the middle of the reading of the forty-two journeys. For, we do not want to disrupt the “shem mem-beit” corresponding to these journeys. Hence, we should ask: What is the connection between the “shem mem-beit” and the forty-two journeys travelled in the midbar? Furthermore, what is the significance of these names that we recite every day in "אנא בכח"?