In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Prov.3;6 ב”ה
Bemidbar – Entering the Wilderness as a Legion 5777
This Fourth Book resumes the factual narrative. It shows us the relationship of the nation of Israel, as it actually is, to the ideal of its calling as outlined in the Third Book. The section of Hosea is from the Haftarah for this Parasha (Haftara הפטרה= “parting,” “taking leave”. These are sections of texts from the books of the Prophets which are read along with the Torah Portion; the content of the texts will thematically connect. This practice may have begun in response to the persecution of the Jews under Antiochus Epiphanes which preceded the Maccabean revolt, wherein Torah reading was prohibited, or may have been instituted against the Samaritans, who denied the canonicity of the Prophets (except for Joshua), and later against the Sadducees. It is also possible it began after some act of persecution or other disaster in which the synagogue Torah scrolls were destroyed or ruined – it was forbidden to read the Torah portion from any but a ritually fit parchment scroll, but there was no such requirement about a reading from Prophets, which was then substituted as a temporary expedient and then remained. Hosea takes us to a future time when Hashem will again bring His people into a wilderness place and minister to us there. Again, we will be wooed by Hashem and taken ‘to the Chuppah’ to become His prepared Bride. With Shavuot approaching this coming week,let us make these last few days really count,& open our hearts in the deepest way.
Hosea 2; 1And the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which shall neither be measured nor counted; and it shall come to pass that, instead of saying to them, “You are not My people,” it shall be said to them, “The children of the living God.” 2 And the children of Judah and the children of Israel shall be gathered together, and they shall appoint for themselves one head, and they shall go up from the land, for great is the day of Jezreel….5And I will visit upon her the days of the baalim, to whom she burnt incense, and she adorned herself with her earrings and her jewelry, and went after her lovers, and she forgot Me, says the Lord. 16 Therefore, behold I will allure her and lead her into the desert, and I will speak comfortingly to her heart. 17And I will give her her vineyards from there and the depth of trouble for a door of hope, and she shall dwell there as in the days of her youth, and as the day of her ascent from the land of Egypt. 18And it shall come to pass on that day, says the Lord, you shall call [Me] Ishi, and you shall no longer call Me Baali. 19 And I will remove the names of the baalim from her mouth, and they shall no longer be mentioned by their name. 20And I will make a covenant for them on that day with the beasts of the field and with the fowl of the sky and the creeping things of the earth; and the bow, the sword, and war I will break off the earth, and I will let them lie down safely. 21And I will betroth you to Me forever, and I will betroth you to Me with righteousness and with justice and with loving-kindness and with mercy. 22And I will betroth you to Me with faith, and you shall know the Lord.
Bemidbar- is known as the Book of Counting’s (Numbers). The accounting at the beginning of sefer Sh’mot: 1; 5 All the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number, but Joseph was already in Egypt. Bemidbar also begins with an accounting: These are the numbers of the Israelites according to their fathers’ houses. The total number of legions of the camps was six hundred and three thousand, five hundred and fifty. (Bem.2;32) One could estimate a population of close to two million including the women, children and elderly. How could a group of this kind possibly survive and be provided for in an “uninhabited” desert?
מדבּר Midbar (wilderness) is also מדבּר m’daber (“to speak”). Later in this sefer the people complain and ask for meat, Moshe in turn frets to God, and God responds that he and the people would see (in regard to their desires being filled, and meat/food provided) His WORD come to pass. Bemidbar 11; 21 But Moses said, “The people, among whom I am, are 600,000 on foot; yet You have said, ‘I will give them meat, so that they may eat for a whole month.’ 22 Should flocks and herds be slaughtered for them, to be sufficient for them? Or should all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to be sufficient for them?” 23 The Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.”
What is it that the legions of Hashem, their families, the Whole Body is truly nourished by? What truly fed them? Matthew 4; 3The tempter came to Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 But Yeshua answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” [Yeshua Quoting from the Torah Devarim 8;3]
Bemidbar deals primarily with the laws and history of the mishkan during the wilderness years. It is more than a chronicle of events but interprets them as well. It becomes clear that the mishkan – and later Temple – were to serve as a permanent substitute for the incredible experience at Sinai. The Sanctuary served the same purpose of the mountain, yet was mobile. By the Sanctuary being in the midst of camp, ‘Sinai would stay with them.’ Just as they camped around mountain, they would camp around the sanctuary. Bemidbar contains commandments regarding to safeguard the Sanctuary; how the tribes were to encamp around it; how the priests were to dismantle and transport it but there is so much more inside. This is the story as we’re going through the desert. This is our story now, for anyone’s journey toward emet- toward clarity. We begin Sefer Bemidbar toward the end of the Omer Counting period because we are meant to be encouraged, there will be challenge, misstep, foul along the way but Hashem has entrusted US to RECIEVE His Torah. Sometimes, the closer you get to the right place, the less it might feel like you’re on your way to the right place, the more questions you may have while you’re on the way, the more you may begin to feel you’re not really sure quite what is going on. And many fall along the way toward that path to redemption. Like a child who is being weaned. You start to give the child bread, you still nurse him until he or she is completely off of nursing. It is so hard to change your natural way of life, habits, in one time. Throughout the desert journey, approaching the Mission’s Center (erets Yisrael) Hashem began to remove them from this miraculous way of nature (provision in the desert). God needed the people to be aware of living in a reality where they don’t have their rabbi/teacher (Moshe) coming in at every chance that comes and tells them ‘stop! don’t do it!’ Hashem begins to regulate them to a world of nature, which in comparison to a world of miracles seems to a like darkness.
B’reshit is the book of… Creation
Sh’mot is the book of…Redemption
Vayikra is the book of…Serving God
Bemidbar is the book of…Mistakes
What you learn is so deep inside of you, the Torah is part of your blood, we have to make so many mistakes. We are on our way to eretz Yisrael. What is this journey from Har Sinai to Yerushalayim all about? In any trade, to learn, create and accomplish…there will be mistakes. The higher the stakes the bigger the mistakes you make. The shoemaker to the doctor. In marriage. Arriving,getting to the place of clarity will never come without first falling a few times. Mishlei 24;16 For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of calamity. Sefer Bemidbar does the job of Bechukotai- carving Hashem into us– through what? The inevitable- mistakes. There’s no other way of getting to erets Yisrael than to make mistake after mistake after mistake after mistake. What are we made out of, that we can keep making so many mistakes and keep believing we’ve got a shot? Why didn’t we give up on ourselves based upon looking at these mistakes and shortcomings? This is what comes from the positive aspect of being ‘Stiffnecked’.
- Matthew 5;6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
- Tehillim 63:1 A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. 3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips will praise You.
Why would sefer Bemidbar begin with several censuses? The first being a “total count of the entire עֲדַת community”- this is a word we will want to take note of, when are the people called a “community”? See the contextual examples:
#5712 edah עֵדָה – an appointed meeting, an assembly, the congregation, a private domestic meeting, a family, a swarm (of bees).
- Sh’mot 12;3 “Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, ‘On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers’ households, a lamb for each household.
- Sh’mot 16;2 The whole congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.
- Vayikra 4;13 ‘Now if the whole congregation of Israel commits error and the matter escapes the notice of the assembly, and they commit any of the things which the LORD has commanded not to be done, and they become guilty; 14 when the sin which they have committed becomes known, then the assembly shall offer a bull of the herd for a sin offering and bring it before the tent of meeting.
#5707 (masc. n) ed עֵד – (a prince), witness, that which testifies, testimony.
- Devarim 17:6 “On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.17 “The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
#5749 (v) owd עוּד – to call, to witness, to invoke, to bear witness, to affirm solemnly, to chastise, to enjoin, to set oneself up, to stand upright.
- Devarim 30:19 “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, 20 by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”
You can see from these words that who we are as a community/congregation has everything to do with functioning in our purpose. One way we do this is through our testimony as witnesses. Witnesses to the emet (truth) in these words, testifiers to the Author’s goodness, righteousness, grace, compassion and Justness. What makes us salt and light- it is our taking His testimony (through His Torah) into the world- conspicuously. Why take the census? Bemidbar beginning as such lays out several ideas. The community is to be united in one collective vocation- being light to the nations and practicing and sharing His Torah (Teachings and Instructions), ‘walking in them’. At the same time, each member of the community is made aware that he personally “counts”. For the community to be enabled to perform its purpose and mission as a whole, every one of its members must remain true to his duty and purpose, devoted to the vocation he shares with the all the others.
1 Corinthians 12; 12 The body is a unit, though it is comprised of many parts. And although its parts are many, they all form one body. So it is with Messiah. 13For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free, and we were all given one Spirit to drink. 14For the body does not consist of one part, but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact, God has arranged the members of the body, every one of them, according to His design. 19 If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you.” Nor can the head say to the feet, “I do not need you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts we consider less honorable, we treat with greater honor. And our unpresentable parts are treated with special modesty, 24 whereas our presentable parts have no such need. But God has composed the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, 25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its members should have mutual concern for one another. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
The Third Book (Vayikra) concluded with a numbering of the nation’s herds in terms of groups of flocks, by their owners, for the purpose of consecrating these creatures to God. The Fourth Book, sefer Bemidbar (“in the wilderness”) now opens with the command to have the nation, too, numbered as the flock of God, as it were, for its Shepherd, in accordance with its Divinely ordained familial and tribal groupings. As with the animals, so the individual members of the nation, too, now pass, one by one, beneath the staff of their Shepherd so that each one, in his own right, may be counted as a member of God’s flock. Yechezkiel shows us a mirror of Hashem regathering His people after the exile, even making mention to the ‘wilderness’ B’midbar, and passing them under His Rod in order to judge them (but see that this judgment is meant to bring them IN-to covenant. In the end, despite His judgments, He did not repay the people according to the extent of their transgression, error and willful sin. He is merciful.
Yechezkiel 20; 33“As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “surely with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out, I shall be king over you. 34“I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out; 35 and I will bring you into the wilderness מִדְבַּ֖ר of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgment with you face to face. 36“As I entered into judgment with your fathers in the wilderness בְּמִדְבַּ֖ר of the land of Egypt, so I will enter into judgment with you,” declares the Lord GOD. 37“I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; 38 and I will purge from you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they will not enter the land of Israel. Thus you will know that I am the LORD. 39“As for you, O house of Israel,” thus says the Lord GOD, “Go, serve everyone his idols; but later you will surely listen to Me, and My holy name you will profane no longer with your gifts and with your idols. 40“For on My holy mountain, on the high mountain of Israel,” declares the Lord GOD, “there the whole house of Israel, all of them, will serve Me in the land; there I will accept them and there I will seek your contributions and the choicest of your gifts, with all your holy things. 41“As a soothing aroma I will accept you when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered; and I will prove Myself holy among you in the sight of the nations. 42“And you will know that I am the LORD, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the land which I swore to give to your forefathers. 43“There you will remember your ways and all your deeds with which you have defiled yourselves; and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight for all the evil things that you have done. 44“Then you will know that I am the LORD when I have dealt with you for My name’s sake, not according to your evil ways or according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel,” declares the Lord GOD.’”
#7626 (Masc. N) shevet שֵׁבֶט- a staff, stick, rod; the scepter of the king; a measuring rod, crook or spear; a portion measured out; a TRIBE.
- Ber. 49:10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples….49:28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them. He blessed them, every one with the blessing appropriate to him.
- Sh’mot 21:20 “If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod and he dies at his hand, he shall be punished.
- Sh’mot 24:4 Moses wrote down all the words of the LORD. Then he arose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel.
- Vayikra 27:32 ‘For every tenth part of herd or flock, whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the LORD.
I find it very fascinating that we are reading about this accounting of the Flock of Hashem alongside the layout for the Tribal gathering and residing. The fact that this word can also be translated as the scepter of a king (and in at least two cases found in Bemidbar this usage is in prophetic connection to Yeshua- Ber.49;10 & 24;17) is very meaningful. The prophet Micah connects us to the journey toward eretz Israel and God says He will show His people miracles. We should note well for ourselves and the future- miracles are not what fosters faith. Miracles do not enjoin a lasting belief. When we hunger and thirst, when we suffer losses…this is the trial which will probe the depths of our love for Hashem. If we can be comforted and find peace even in the surmounting challenges in wilderness places WITH Hashem then we will understand what it means to be truly filled.
Tehillim 23;1 The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. 3 He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff שִׁבְטְךָ, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Micah 7;12 It will be a day when they will come to you from Assyria and the cities of Egypt, from Egypt even to the Euphrates, even from sea to sea and mountain to mountain. 13And the earth will become desolate because of her inhabitants, on account of the fruit of their deeds. 14 Shepherd Your people with Your בְשִׁבְטֶךָ scepter, the flock of Your possession which dwells by itself in the woodland, In the midst of a fruitful field. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old. 15“As in the days when you came out from the land of Egypt, I will show you miracles.”
#5375 (v) nasa נָשָׂא – to lift up the hand, to lift up one’s head, to lift up the eyes, to lift up one’s countenance, to lift up the voice, to lift up the soul, to take up, to bear or carry, to endure, to bear with, to suffer, to bear one’s sin, to bear one’s punishment, to pardon, to take, recieve, take hold of, accept, to take the sum of, to offer gifts, to lift up oneself, to be proud.
Sh’mot 34; 6Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; 7who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”
Bemidbar 1; 1The Lord spoke to Moses in the Sinai Desert, in the Tent of Meeting on the first day of the second month, in the second year after the exodus from the land of Egypt, saying. 2 Take the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by families following their fathers’ houses; a head count of every male according to the number of their names. 3From twenty years old and upwards, all who are fit to go out to the army in Israel, you shall count them by their legions you and Aaron. 4With you there shall be a man from each tribe, one who is head of his father’s house…..17Then Moses and Aaron took these men, who were indicated by [their] names, 18and they assembled all the congregation on the first day of the second month, and they declared their pedigrees according to their families according to their fathers’ houses; according to the number of names, a head count of every male from twenty years old and upward. 19As the Lord commanded Moses, so did he count them in the Sinai desert….46 The sum of all those who were counted: six hundred and three thousand, five hundred and fifty. 47But the Levites, according to their father’s tribe were not numbered among them. 48The Lord spoke to Moses saying: 49Only the tribe of Levi you shall not number, and you shall not reckon their sum among the children of Israel. 50But you shall appoint the Levites over the Tabernacle of the Testimony, over all its vessels and over all that belong to it; they shall carry the Tabernacle and they shall minister to it, and they shall encamp around the Tabernacle. 51When the Tabernacle is set to travel, the Levites shall dismantle it; and when the Tabernacle camps, the Levites shall erect it; any outsider [non Levite] who approaches shall be put to death. 52The children of Israel shall encamp, each man by his own camp and each man by his division. 53The Levites shall encamp around the Mishkan of the Testimony, so that there be no wrath upon the congregation of the children of Israel and the Levites shall keep the charge שָׁמַר of the Mishkan of the Testimony. 54And the children of Israel did according to all that the Lord had commanded Moses thus did they do.
Counting of the able bodied men, 20 years of age and up for the legions.
Counting of the Kohanim for service from the age of 1 month!
Counting of the firstborn for redemption.
Count as defined by Merriam Webster :
1) to include in a tallying and reckoning
2) to have value or significance
Bemidbar 3; 1These are the descendants of Moses and Aaron on the day that the Lord spoke to Moses at Mount Sinai. 2These are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadab the firstborn Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 3These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed kohanim, whom he consecrated to serve as kohanim. 4Nadab and Abihu died before the Lord when they brought alien fire before the Lord in the Sinai desert, and they had no children. Eleazar and Ithamar, however, served as kohanim in the presence of Aaron, their father. 5The Lord spoke to Moses saying: 6 Bring forth the tribe of Levi and present them before Aaron the kohen, that they may serve him. 7They shall keep his charge שָׁמַר and the charge of the entire community before the Tent of Meeting, to perform the service of the Mishkan. 8They shall take charge שָׁמַר of all the vessels of the Tent of Meeting and the charge of the children of Israel, to perform the service of the Mishkan. 9You shall give over the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they shall be wholly given over to him from the children of Israel. 10You shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall keep שָׁמַר their kehunah; any outsider [non kohen] who approaches shall be put to death.
# 8104 Mishmeret מִשְׁמֶרֶת- custody, charge,keeping, observance.
(related to Shamar, which will always hearken back to the original job of Adam: “to cultivate it and keep it (gan Edan. 2;15 ) The last ‘charge’ the Sons of Israel were given in Vayikra:
22; 26 ’But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you 27 (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled); 28 so that the land will not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you. 29 ‘For whoever does any of these abominations, those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people.30 ‘Thus you are to keep שָׁמְר My charge מִשְׁמַרְתִּי, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the LORD your God.’”
The first thing we see in Bemidbar is this ‘legion’ of Hashem’s people being brought together by family. Next God repeatedly ‘charges’ the Kohanim with the Mishkan and it’s vessels, to GUARD them and their services. What is the connection between serving Hashem, guarding the Mishkan and the legion- making war? (Think- the Kingdom and battles; holy battles…)
- Ephesians 6;10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God, so that you can make your stand against the devil’s schemes.12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this world’s darkness, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore take up the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you will be able to stand your ground, and having done everything, to stand.
- James 4;7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
- 1 Timothy 6;11But you, O man of God, flee from these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession before many witnesses.
I think it is fascinating that the men of Israel were ‘counted’ from the age they would be capable to ‘bear arms’ while the Kohanim ‘counted’ from the age of one month! I believe this teaches us that even from infancy a child can be reared in a sanctified manner. Preparing for the Priesthood of the Kingdom! Matthew 18;10 See that you do not look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
#6633 (v) ts’va– צְבָא – to go forth, to muster. Strongs: go forth, wage war, fight, serve.
[ Only contexts in Torah]
- (Women use the mirrors to fight for their families; see handout.) Sh’mot 38:8 Moreover, he made the laver of bronze with its base of bronze, from the mirrors of the serving women who served at the doorway of the tent of meeting.
- Bemidbar 4:23 from thirty years and upward to fifty years old, you shall number them; all who enter to perform the service to do the work in the tent of meeting. 24 “This is what applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall enter to perform service in the work of the tent of meeting.
- (For their own protection, for crowd control, to guard the valuables both by man and God’s standards of riches,some of the Kohanim must have been armed. Even the tunic of the Kohen Gadol is described as being donned as a ‘coat of mail.’ Shemot 28;32)
- Bemidbar 31:7 So they made war against Midian, just as the LORD had commanded Moses, and they killed every male.
- (These battles were for conquest of erets Yisrael in order to allow Hashem to transfer the guardianship of the Land from the current residents to His Chosen Tenants. The Land is His and He has the right to fill it with those He chooses. He explains that the land could no longer tolerate the level of corruption the Canaanite’s perpetrated- Vay.18;28. These were ‘specific to that time orders’ and this command did not extend for battles of extended conquest, beyond God’s specified borders. Ber. 17;18, Shem. 23;31, Joshua 1;3)
- Bemidbar 31:42 As for the sons of Israel’s half, which Moses separated from the men who had gone to war—
- (The goal of plunder and spoil, theft was not permitted for the Israeli army. To this day the IDF is the most humane army in the world, practicing rules of engagement which are unheard of among other military forces. )
#6635 (masc.n) tsava צָבָא – army, host, host of heaven, inhabitants of the earth, whatever fills the earth, warfare.
- Sh’mot 12:17 ‘You shall also observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this very day I brought your hosts out of the land of Egypt; therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as a permanent ordinance.
- Bemidbar 1:45 So all the numbered men of the sons of Israel by their fathers’ households, from twenty years old and upward, whoever was able to go out to war in Israel, 46 even all the numbered men were 603,550….52 “The sons of Israel shall camp, each man by his own camp, and each man by his own standard, according to their armies. 26 and his army, even their numbered men, 62,700….28 and his army, even their numbered men, 41,500….30 and his army, even their numbered men, 53,400.
- Bemidbar 4:2 “Take a census of the descendants of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, by their families, by their fathers’ households, 3 from thirty years and upward, even to fifty years old, all who enter the service to do the work in the tent of meeting.
- Bemidbar 4;15 Aaron and his sons shall finish covering the Holy and all the vessels of the Holy when the camp is set to travel, and following that, the sons of Kohath shall come to carry [them], but they shall not touch the sacred objects for [then] they will die. These are the burden of the sons of Kohath for the Tent of Meeting. 16The charge of Eleazar the son of Aaron the kohen: oil for lighting, the incense of spices, the continual [daily] meal offering, and the anointing oil; the charge for the entire Mishkan and all that is in it, of the Holy and its furnishings. 17 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron saying: 18Do not cause the tribe of the families of Kohath to be cut off from among the Levites. 19Do this for them, so they should live and not die, when they approach the Holy of Holies. Aaron and his sons shall first come… …and appoint each man individually to his task and his load. 20 They shall not come in to see when the holy [vessels] are being wrapped up, lest they die….31and this is the charge of their burden, according to all their service in the tabernacle of the congregation
# 4852 (masc.n) massa מַשָּׂא- bearing, carrying, a burden, a load, something uttered, a sentence, singing, a GIFT. [The context of massa is only in our Parasha, and as follows:]
- (read 23;1-9)Sh’mot 23:5 If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.
- Num 11:11 And Moses said unto the LORD, Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? and wherefore have I not found favour in thy sight, that thou layest the burden of all this people upon me? ….17 And I will come down and talk with thee there: and I will take of the spirit which is upon thee, and will put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone.
- Devarim 1;12 How can I myself alone bear your cumbrance, and your burden, and your strife?
The next section of Parasha Bemidbar is taken with the detailed description of the encampment.
- And when the Israelites camp, each individual shall be in his designated camp, and every person by his own degel according to their armies. (Bamidbar 1:52)
- Every individual of the People of Israel shall camp by his own degel, according to the otot (insignia) of their father’s house. They shall camp at a specified distance around the Tent of Meeting. (Bamidbar 2:2)
The three different words are used to instruct them as to the particular formation in which the people are to arrange themselves: mahaneh, degel and tzava. Mahaneh means “camp”, tzava – army. The word degel, which most people familiar with modern Hebrew would translate as “flag”, is in fact a division within the army. The description of the otot is unquestionably of flags. Degel, used today in common parlance as “flag” originally referred to a division of people for either military or civilian purposes. Thus, the otot, the variously colored flags, were symbols used to organize people into degalim, divisions or battalions.
Shemot 19;1 In the third month after the sons of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that very day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 When they set out from Rephidim, they came to the wilderness of Sinai and camped in the wilderness; and there Israel camped in front of the mountain.
- This new book, the Book of Bamidbar, immediately follows the completion and consecration of the Mishkan, which was built in order to provide a conduit to holiness, to turn the singular experience of Mount Sinai into an ongoing dialogue with God.
The Israelites experienced and perceived something at Sinai that they wished to take with them. At the foot of Mount Sinai, the Jews experienced an enlightened moment of clarity, a moment of profound unity and love. It is taught that the degalim of the Jewish People are parallel to the degalim of the angels, at the foot of Mount Sinai they were allowed to glimpse the heavenly order and to grasp its significance. The earthly reality was inspired by a vision of the harmonious formation of the angels. The angels are, in a sense, the “army of God.” The degalim of angels are organized around the Throne of God, like sentries or bearers of the Divine Throne, the Seat of God in heaven. The Israelites hoped to imitate not only the formation of the angels that expressed unity, but also the manifestation of God’s proximity and imminence. Thus, the building of the Mishkan; a way their Sinaitic enlightenment could be recreated ‘permanently’.
They sought to imitate the angels’ clarity of purpose and
total dedication to their respective tasks.
They knew that, being human, they would be unable to maintain that level of focus after leaving Mount Sinai. The Mishkan, they knew, would help keep them centered – literally and figuratively – like the angels. However, the human experience is quite different; we need little convincing to be obedient and faithful. While we may hope to emulate the angels, we are not like them in disposition or capabilities – for better and for worse. So it is with the degalim: The heavenly divisions are organized according to the manifestation of God expressed by each angel’s task. For example, it is taught, the angels charged with missions of judgment or punishment are grouped together; angels charged with missions of mercy form another group. If, like each angel, every human being knew their precise place (degel), the exact role which they are meant to accomplish in this world, surely much of the angst of human experience would be resolved. However, man is ultimately unlike the angels. While angels are created for only one task, man is multifaceted. Woe to the person who after fulfilling one task, even if it is a Divinely mandated task, feels they have completed their role on earth. While it may be possible that out of a long life of physical and spiritual toil it was ultimately one gesture, one action, one tikun that justified or merited an individual’s entire existence, such “spiritual calculus” is far removed from human comprehension, and is foreign to the life dictated by Torah values.
There are tasks that must be accomplished through human effort, and when the task at hand is of a spiritual nature, the Jewish People is called upon to take up the formation and the focus they learned from the angels. The conquest of the Land of Israel was such a task. It is a holy task, and the soldiers need to know that God is in their midst and they need to march forward with the same confidence with which angels set out to perform a divine mission.
Each member of the camp was uniquely positioned, fully aware of the unique role they were to play in the greater mission, each turning their focus away from their own ego and towards the Aron at the center of the camp.Today, even though so many have lost sight of the camp, and are no longer aware of any degalim, when the unity of purpose and the focus and sanctity created by the degalim as they surrounded the Aron Kodesh are a distant dream, we may, at the very least, remind ourselves that these goals are achievable. We are, despite the time and the distance that separates us, still children of the God of Israel. We are still able to connect to the covenantal words of the Torah that were gifted at the foot of the Mountain; the enlightenment of Sinai is still ingrained in our collective soul. If we regain our focus, retrain our sights on the holiness that lies at our collective center, we will already be much closer to accomplishing our own Divine mission. – ‘Edited’ From Rabbi Ari Kahn on Bemidbar
We have discussed how misconstrued the “guarding” of the Torah and fulfillment thereof has become. Torah has been portrayed as a burden rather than a gift. I pray that as we embark on this wilderness journey you will realize how very much you count and how important every moment you invest it. To know that the Torah can also be received as Mission instructions, As the Battle Plan, as Marching orders. Shavuot is the celebration of receiving the Torah at Sinai, it is also at that time that the Spirit was ‘poured out’ at Pentecost. How much about the Feasts of the Lord involves preparing for the Moed? What is the preparation for Shavuot?
Without the Torah, we don’t have the Feasts. So in some sense Shavuot, is most important. Pentecost, the Spirit poured out…without that, we won’t have any desire to pursue Torah, nor will we have any true success in properly applying the word of Hashem. Anyone can read the bible and even to some extent understand its words. Without the Spirit it remains in the idea stage without actualization.
Part of the preparation for Shavuot has been the Counting of the Omer period which is swiftly coming to an end. These last few days to Count come with a profound lesson.
It is NEVER too late.
Every single day Counts. Each one of us Counts. Let us make this day Count.
How long does it take to turn your life around? An instant!
Success is NOT dependent upon accomplishment or achievement at all. It depends upon that instant that one turns to His Heart to be healed. I pray a blessing of childlike innocence when approaching this regalim. I pray that wherever God takes you in your walk you will do so with the strength and confidence of a member of the Legion of Hashem, mustered according to your specialized function. Where we are supposed to be, doing what we’re supposed to do. EVEN, perhaps especially, when we are spending time in what seems to be uninhabited space and time. May Hashem pour out on you His truth and many gifts at this and every season.
Resources: See Homepage and My Resources entry on this blog for sources I use for study and entries. Much of this entry was learned; came from- Rabbi Ari Kahn: http://archive.rabbiarikahn.com/, Bill Cloud: billcloud.org and Rabbi Shlomo Katz: shlomokatz.com.