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Parshas Bamidbar - Vol.
4, Issue 32
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Se’u es rosh kol adas B’nei Yisroel (1:2)
There is a mystical idea that the content of the parsha read each Shabbos is connected to the events of the upcoming week. It is interesting to note that Parshas Bamidbar is usually read on the Shabbos preceding Shavuos. What possible connection could there be between a parsha which deals primarily with counting the tribes and the festival on which the Jewish nation received the Torah?
Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that as Jews around the world excitedly gear up to personally reaccept the Torah and reaffirm their commitments to its study, the evil inclination attempts to derail them. It argues that their Torah study is so limited in quantity and quality that it is insignificant and even, G-d forbid, a waste of time. The yetzer hara shows a person that his more intellectually-gifted friends are able to learn more hours and more pages and to retain their knowledge better than he could ever hope to do. As Jews get excited for the universal custom of staying up all night on Shavuos engrossed in Torah study, a person may be tempted to opt for a good night’s sleep after realizing that the most he could accomplish in an entire night could be learned on an even higher level by the Rav in a mere 10 minutes.
To counter this flawed argument, the Torah precedes the holiday of Shavuos with the reading of Parshas Bamidbar. The parsha begins with Hashem’s command to conduct a census of the Jewish people, but it is written using a peculiar expression. Instead of instructing Moshe to “go count the people,” the words used translate literally as “pick up the heads of the Jews.” Why did Hashem use this awkward expression when commanding Moshe about the census?
Rav Moshe explains that just as a contemporary Jew could get discouraged in his service of Hashem when comparing it to others, certainly one in the wilderness, who lived in the shadows of Moshe and Aharon, could be susceptible to the same fallacy. He may feel that although he is “worth” 1, those around him are “worth” 100, leaving him despondent. Hashem used this peculiar expression because when every Jew realizes that in the census he is counted as the same 1 as every other Jew, he will recognize how valuable his efforts are in Hashem’s eyes. This understanding will allow him to “pick up his head” and hold it high with a newfound self-confidence.
Although others may seem light-years ahead of us in the quantity and quality of their mitzvos, the lesson of Parshas Bamidbar is that everybody is judged separately in Hashem’s eyes, based on a personalized benchmark of what he is capable of doing. A person who overcomes his own struggles to maximize his individual potential should certainly enter Shavuos prepared to accept the Torah with his head held high.
Ish al diglo b’osos l’beis avosam yachanu B’nei Yisroel mineged saviv l’ohel moed yachanu (2:2)
Our Sages teach that everything written in the Torah is recorded because of its relevance to every Jew in every generation. Why are the seemingly trivial details which dominate Parshas Bamidbar, such as the arrangement of the encampments of the various tribes, significant and relevant to us?
Rav Aharon Kotler suggests that although this information seems like historical facts with no practical application to our lives, the parsha is in fact teaching us a very relevant lesson: the value that Judaism places on seder (organization). Instead of allowing the Jewish people to set up their own camping arrangements based on their personal preferences, the Torah insists that they specifically encamp together with other members of their tribe and additionally prescribes the positions of the various tribes relative to one another. This arrangement was in effect for the duration of their 40-year sojourn in the wilderness.
Rashi writes in Parshas Emor (Vayikra 24:10) that the blasphemer was the son of Shulamis bas Divri and the Egyptian taskmaster that Moshe slew. Because his mother was descended from Dan, he attempted to dwell among the tribe of Dan, but they refused him because his father was not from their tribe. Although one person camping out of place (which was still the tribe of his mother) would seem to be insignificant, the tribe of Dan understood the critical value of preserving order and refused to allow him to camp among them. Although the particular laws about the formations and configurations of the encampments do not currently apply to us, the lesson about the value of serving Hashem in an orderly and disciplined fashion is one that we can each apply in our daily lives.
V’nasah Ohel Moed machaneh ha’Levi’im b’soch ha’machaneh ka’asher yachanu kein yisa’u ish al yado l’digleihem (2:17)
In Parshas Bamidbar we are taught that during their 40-year sojourn in the wilderness, the Jewish people had fixed locations for their encampments. Each of the tribes had a specific location relative to the other tribes where its members were to encamp. Three of the tribes encamped in the north, three in the south, three in the west, and three in the east. The tribe of Levi, together with the Ark, encamped in the middle of the circle formed by the other tribes. What lesson can be learned from this setup?
The Chofetz Chaim explains that just as the heart is located in the middle of the body, so too the Ark which contained the Torah and Tablets was located in the middle of the camp so that it would be equidistant from every Jew. Similarly, the Bimah on which the Torah scroll is placed when it is being read is located in the middle of the synagogue. This teaches us that the Torah is equally accessible to every Jew.
The Chofetz Chaim adds that our Sages teach (Taanis 31a) that in the World to Come, the righteous will form a circle to dance around Hashem, who will be in the middle of the circle. Although Jews seem serve Hashem in ways radically different from one another, as long as their intentions are for the sake of Heaven and they keep the mitzvos, they will all celebrate together. At that time we will discover that the Jew who seems diametrically opposed to us is in reality on the other side of the circle but just as close to Hashem.
the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The Torah emphasizes (1:1) that the giving of the Torah at Sinai, which is celebrated on the upcoming holiday of Shavuos, took place in the wilderness. Why did Hashem specifically choose to give the Torah in such a barren location? (Darkei Mussar)
2) The Torah relates (1:47) that in counting the total number of Jews, Moshe didn’t count the Levites. Immediately thereafter, Hashem commanded Moshe (1:49) not to count the tribe of Levi together with the rest of the Jews. If he was only commanded not to do so at this time, why did he previously refrain from doing so of his own accord, and how did he know that this was Hashem’s Will? (Ramban)
3) Parshas Bamidbar contains Hashem’s instructions regarding the placement of the encampment of the various tribes (2:2). The events of the parsha occurred approximately one year after the Exodus from Egypt (1:1). Why didn’t Hashem instruct them regarding the order of the encampments during their first year in the wilderness? (Emes L’Yaakov)
4) Rashi writes (2:2) that the tribes encamped 2000 cubits away from the Mishkan so that they would still be permitted to travel there on Shabbos. As the prohibition against traveling outside of the techum is only Rabbinical in nature, why were they required to encamp within 2000 cubits of the Mishkan? (Ayeles HaShachar)
5) Rashi explains (3:1) that the Torah refers to the sons of Aharon as Moshe’s progeny because whoever teaches Torah to others is considered as if he gave birth to them. As Moshe taught the entire Torah to every single Jew, in what way are Aharon’s children considered his offspring more than the rest of the Jewish people? (Sifsei Chochomim, Kli Yakar, HaEmek Davar, Ahavas Eisan Sanhedrin 19b, Ma’adanei Asher 5768)
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