Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 21   No. 34

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmos
R' Aharon ben Shlomo z"l
whose Yohrzeit will be 26 Iyar
and Elsie bas Henry z"l

Parshas Bamidbar

When did the Ohel Mo'ed Travel

"And the Ohel Mo'ed, shall travel among the camps, the camp of the Levi'im; just as they encamped so they traveled, each tribe in its place, according to their flags" (2:17).


We find later (10:17) that Gershon and Merari dismantled the Mishkan and traveled after the Camp of Yehudah, in order that the Mishkan (alias the Ohel Mo'ed) be set up by the time K'has arrived with the Aron and the other Holy Vessels, behind the Camp of Reuven.

That being the case, asks the Oznayim la'Torah, how can the Torah write here that the Ohel Mo'ed traveled behind Reuven?


He therefore explains that it was not the boards and the curtains that constituted the real Ohel Mo'ed, but the Holy Vessels. Consequently, as long as they remained in their place, the Mishkan cannot be said to have traveled. And it is therefore correct to say that the Mishkan traveled when K'has broke camp with the Aron and the Holy Vessels.


Similarly, he comments, we could ask why the Torah writes here that the Camp of the Levi'im traveled , when the majority of the tribe (Gershon and Merari) had already traveled after the Camp of Yehudah?

However, he explains, in the same way as the Torah calls the Aron and the Holy Vessels the Ohel Mo'ed, as we just explained, so too, does it call K'has, who carried them, the Camp of the Levi'im. And so, it was only when K'has broke camp that the Levi'im traveled.


One Kedushah Remains, One Doesn't


The author suggests another slant to the Pasuk, based on the Halachah that, once the Aron and the Mizb'chos moved, the Machaneh Shechinah (alias the Azarah) lost its sanctity, and Kodshei Kodshim (Korbanos that are eaten by the Kohanim) became Pasul be'Yotzei (invalidated because they had exited their boundary).

He therefore explains the Pasuk as follows "And (even when) the Ohel Mo'ed travels, the Camp of the Levi'im remains (intact) among the camps ". In other words, the sanctity of the Camp of the Levi'im, and certainly of the Camp of Yisrael - in which Kodshim Kalim (Korbanos that were generally eaten by their owners) remained unaffected by the move, and any Kodshim Kalim animals that remained could be be eaten by their owners as they traveled through the desert.


Gershon, K'has & Merari
(Adapted partially from the Oznayim la'Torah)

"And these were the sons of Levi Gershon, K'has and Me-rari" (3:17).

Here, where the Pasuk is discussing primarily the census, it lists the three families that comprised the Camp of Levi, according to their order of birth. If we look at the end of the Parshah and at the begin-ning of Naso, however, where the Torah is concerned with the Avodah that the Levi'im performed and what they carried in the de-sert, we will find that the Torah changes the order, giving K'has precedence over Gershon. This, the Oznayim la'Torah explains, is based on their order of importance (not surprisingly, considering that the three redeemers, Moshe, Aharon and Miriam, were members of that family and that it produced the Kohanim).


And their order of importance is evident in what they carried when they travelled. K'has carried the Holy Vessels - the Aron, the Shul-chan, the Menorah and the two Mizb'chos, the very purpose of the Mishkan and what it was built to house. Gershon carried the cur-tains - which the Torah refers to as 'Mishkan', and which covered and protected the Holy Vessels on top as well as on all four sides. Merari carried the boards, which served as props, to hold up the cur-tains, and the accessories of the Chatzer.


This explanation fits nicely with what we wrote in the opening piece 'When did the Ohel Mo'ed travel?'

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

One Month Later

" on the first day of the second month of the second year " (1:1)'

Rashi points out that it is due to His love of Yisrael that G-d counts them at every opportunity. In this instance, he explains, the Mishkan was completed on Rosh Chodesh Nisan (and the Shechinah descended upon Yisrael) and He counted them on Rosh Chodesh Iyar.

If the Mishkan was completed on Rosh Chodesh Nisan, then Yisrael ought to have been counted on Rosh Chodesh Nisan! Why did He wait until Rosh Chodesh Iyar, asks the Oznayim la'Torah?

And he explains that the resting of the Shechinah that warranted the counting needed to be of a permanent nature (there were other times when it rested on them for a short time, such as in Egypt and at Har Sinai, occasions that did not warrant Yisrael to be counted).

Now we find that sometimes permanence is determined by a thirty-day interim period (such as the fixing of a Mezuzah in Chutz la'Aretz). Therefore G-d commanded Moshe to wait thirty days when the Hashra'as ha'Shechinah would be considered permanent before counting them.


The Or ha'Chayim, which we cited some years ago, explains that G-d deliberately waited a month, because it was on Rosh Chodesh Iyar that the sum total of K'lal Yisrael reached the figure of six hundred and three thousand, five hundred and fifty - exactly the same figure as Yisrael were before they began building the Mishkan (See following Pearl).


No Coincidence


To explain why the Torah goes into such detail concerning the date of the current census, the Oznayim la'Torah explains that it is in order to highlight the fact that the numbers tallied with the numbers six months earlier, before the Mishkan was built. This we know from the half-Shekel which they donated then, from which the sockets for the Mishkan were manufactured (See Pikudei, 38:26). We might otherwise have thought that the census here actually took place before the Mishkan was built (bearing in mind the principle that 'the Parshiyos do not necessarily follow their chronological order).

Therefore the Torah assures us that this command was given after the Mishkan was completed, and that the two censuses tallied.

To explain this remarkable 'coincidence', he points out, we need to say a. that the Torah reckons birthdays, not from according to the actual birthday of each individual, but from the first of Tishri, and b. that, on the merit of busying themselves with the building of the Mishkan, nobody died during the six-month interim period - a miracle in and of itself.


The Census & Temurah

"Count the numbers of the congregation of the B'nei Yisrael " (1:2).

Yisrael are counted here as a sign of G-d's love (see opening Rashi). And the fact that Yisrael surrounded the Aron in the manner described in the Parshah, they resembled the Administering Angels that surround G-d's Throne, a further demonstration of that love.

When the nations of the world saw this, they became jealous of Yisrael, and wanted to know why Yisrael merited this love and not them. To which G-d responded that He only rests his Shechinah on families that are pure (See Rashi, Pinchas 26:5), a standard to which the nations of the world cannot emulate.


To explain the juxtaposition of the current Parshah to that of Temurah, which precedes it; the Oznayim la'Torah continues: What will happen if, in the course of time, Yisrael and the nations switch roles, that Yisrael sin in this area and the nations make good? Perhaps G-d will give us up and accept another nation in our stead?

Therefore the Torah writes, before embarking on the Parshah of the countings "One may not exchange one Korban for another - even a bad one for a good one". As the Gemara says in Gittin (57b) 'Just as we swore never to exchange Him for another god (ke'Vayochol), so too, did He swear never to exchange us for another nation!'


Pride before the Fall

"The Flag of the Camp of Efrayim " (2:18).

Wherever the Torah mentions the tribes, observes the Oznayim la'Torah, it inserts Yosef together with either Efrayim or Menasheh (See for example, above, 1:10, 1:32, Sh'lach L'cha 13:11 and Pinchas 36:29).

Why then, he asks, does it omit his name in the current Pesukim?


Quoting the Zohar, he explains that this was a punishment for the conceited way in which he treated his brothers. And he suggests that the Zohar is referring to the episode in Parshas Mikeitz, where he denigrated them by accusing them of being spies and incarcerating them, and when he later boasted that a man of his calibre was able to divine.

Interestingly, the Gemara in B'rachos 55a, gives a similar reason to explain why Yosef was the first of the brothers to die.

And the commentaries there struggle to explain Yosef's pride.

* * *

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