In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Prov.3;6 ב”ה
Nasso/Beha’alotcha- Always Ready.
Tzavta V’chibur (“cleaving and attachment”): “cleaving and attachment”; the connection with G-d that is the effect of doing a mitzvah. In Chassidic teachings, the word mitzvah itself – which literally means “commandment” – is said to derive from this root word meaning “attachment.”
“And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49 NASB. See also Acts 1:4)
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. (Acts 2:1 KJV)
At Sinai, the divine wisdom was revealed to man. Obviously, the human mind cannot attain the divine wisdom on its own—it that must be given to it by G‑d Himself. So although G‑d instructed us to study His Torah, desiring that human intellect should serve as the vehicle by which we apprehend His truth, a crucial prerequisite to Torah study is the mind’s total abnegation of its ego. Only after it has voided itself of all pretension that it is capable of attaining the truth of truths on its own, can the mind become a “fit vessel” to receive it. In the words of the Sages, “An empty vessel can receive; a full vessel cannot receive.”.…This was the day on which they undertook the most “exhausting journey” of emptying their souls of intellectual vanity and make themselves fit receptacles of the divine truth. (The Lubavitcher Rebbe)
Why was the Torah given in the desert? To teach us that if a person does not surrender himself to it like the desert, he cannot merit the words of Torah. And to teach us that just as the desert is endless, so is the Torah without end. (Pesikta D’Rav Kahana)
Getting real. How can one truly say, “I am ready to recieve the Torah.” ? I am taking a trip through the last few weeks of my life and trying to comprehend what the overall message (knowing that there is and will be a continuing revelation and ongoing understanding) of the set times (Sabbaths, feasts- Pesach, Omer, Shavuot) coinciding with the learning from the Parashiot, intersecting with world current events and my own micro current events.
We absorbed the learning for this ‘go round’ in sefer Vayikra, how to be a nation of Kohanim and Kings. We learned structure and order and purpose. We learned about what being salt and light functioning in its purpose through what God’s ideal design should look like. In the end, Vayikra left us with the message of the Shemittah and Yovel wherein everything would rest and all property would revert back to its original owner. In some way this lesson can be very much so applied to the people in our lives. Our spouses and children…who are ‘on loan’ to us. Our own very lives…temporary.
A friend aptly summarized this concept one Sabbath: The overall message I hear from Hashem is “Don’t get too attached.” This is not meant to be condescending or (Chas v’shalom- God forbid) coercion that one rely on Hashem, it is meant to be a gentle wake up call to the reality we often delude ourselves into believing is not there. Don’t get too attached. To your gain, your property, your schedule, your routine, your accomplishments, your name, your goals, your projects, your creations, your friends, your family, your community. That is not to say these things aren’t important. We spent much time discussing how very vital community, friends, family are- how important it is to DO and work inside God’s purpose for each one of us. However, becoming too attached to the “norm” or what we have fashioned into comfortable…may cause us much more pain as all that is temporary shifts and takes on its true nature- finite.
I thought that I prepared for Pesach. I thought I was ready to recieve the immense meaning and purpose in that sacred seder night. Before I blinked, it was over. I thought I was counting up fifty days to Shavuot in order to ‘recieve’ the Torah. To do some real in depth learning and connecting, and on my way to the foot of the Mountain everything that possibly could ‘get in my way’… did. What does that mean? Doesn’t God want us to approach and absorb and tune in and connect? Where’s the red carpet, I mean I am going where He wants me to be right? Hashed, in HIS infinite wisdom, boundless love, timeless glory…is teaching His children a lesson so much deeper than the traditions (valuable and moving as they are) of these Appointed times can take us. As I drove to and from emergency trips to the hospital, hung up laundered diapers, scrubbed grimy pans, was puked on, screamed at, pulled and prodded…I got a few moments here or there to reach out for my siddur, or bible and it seemed each time I opened up, something got in the way. But THIS transported me. At the foot of the mountain were real people. Old, with their growing frailty and physical needs; young, with their cries and ‘interruptions’; mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, strangers, pious, and casual… b’nei Adam (children of man).
We discussed the Sabbath being about “staying in your place” in order to allow Hashem to minister to you right where you are at (who you are, where you really ‘live’). The revelation at Sinai, the Matan (gifting) of the Torah was not some big show, “did you see that!” for no one saw or received it the same. Each according to where they were, who they were, the level at which they were able to recieve it. And the revelation of that experience would be taken with them throughout the B’midbar journey. A journey which is wrought with mistakes and challenges.
The real, versus the ideal. Hashem taught me: the son at Sinai didn’t tell his aged mother who needed to relieve herself, ‘Hold on ma, I can’t take you now, I’m having a Sinai experience.’ The mother didn’t tell her crying child, “Honey, you can’t do that right now- I’m receiving the Torah, ok.” The husband didn’t tell his wife, ‘I can’t hold your hand right now my love, I am taking my vows with God.’ Hashem knows each one of us right where we are. He desires us to recieve this magnificent and wondrous work He crafted as a shadow of heaven in order that we might LEARN to live like a Kingdom of Heaven here on earth. He WILL speak to you if you show up every minute of the day, intending to recieve Him in ALL things. Finite, infinite, confusing, revelatory, white hot, and even in the dark dank cold and lonely uninhabited spaces.
When I was about ready to turn around and walk back to my tent, ‘The moment is ruined. I didn’t even prepare enough. I don’t feel holy. I don’t feel worthy, I don’t feel in touch.’ I grabbed my siddur, snuck out to my porch, lay down and began to pray. Mosquito’s immediately and relentlessly attacked me but I pictured them as each one of the things that seemingly ‘kept me’ from connecting with Hashem in the way I thought I should have been at this sacred season. “I know this is a special time. I know I have not ‘accomplished’ what I should. I know my heart is not right, it feels gloomy and depressed and inadequate. Forgive me. Show me how to get close to You.” I thumbed ‘randomly’ through the siddur and this is what He gifted:
Sovereign. Master of happiness in whose presence despair flees with Your great compassion grant me the capacity of welcoming and extending the holiness of this Festival with happiness and joy. Let all who seek You be jubilant, rejoicing in Your presence. Illuminate my life. Teach me to transcend all sadness and sorrow with abiding happiness, for estrangement from You grows out of despair. Revive in me the joy of Your deliverance; may a willing spirit strengthen me. May it be Your will Lord my God, to open for me the gates of Torah, wisdom and understanding, gates of sustenance, gates of life, gates of love and harmony, peace and companionship. I will surely rejoice in the Lord, my whole being will exult in my God, rejoicing in Jerusalem, exulting in my people. May He Who ordains peace for His universe, bring peace for us and for all the people of Israel, Amein.
I went inside my door and kissed the mezuzah for the first time in ages. It hangs there but I rarely even touch it. I know what’s inside but I am ‘too busy’ to acknowledge it. I was revived, encouraged. That five minute session, that one paragraph was my Sinai moment this Shavuos. I went INSIDE and brought into my home song instead of friction, obedience instead of complaint, hope in the place of disappointment, joy where there once was inadequacy. And the mosquito bites, do not itch at all.
Why doesn’t the Torah name a specific date for Shavuot? Besides the temporal explanation that the date of Shavuot was based entirely around the ripening of the barley and wheat in erets Yisrael, which cannot be standardized, I believe the observance for celebrating the giving of the Torah being ‘pending’ is because it is in fact ONGOING. We may receive, should we so choose, to recieve the Torah with the same intensity as at Sinai this very day! This is the power of transformation. So let us go inside this wonderful Divine, eternal and infinite work- with our finitude where nothing is certain except for Hashem and His truth. May He bestow upon you just what you need, where you are at right now. Baruch Hashem!
Life Bemidbar, Life in the desert is preparation for what we are yet to become.
Bem. 4; 2 Take נָשֹׂא a census…. #5375 (v) nassa נָשָׂא- to take up, lift up, swear; to lift up the head; to lift up the countenance; to look upon; to lift up the eyes; TO LIFT UP THE SOUL!
This is how you count- to make someone feel that they really matter.
Parasha Nasso continues with the detailed reckoning of the tribes of Israel. We learned last week that instead of overlooking these texts, oft deemed as ‘boring’ or ‘repetitive’, we may look into the face of the significance herein and learn how very much each one of us counts to Hashem. Counting not just as a number, but as a being who serves a purpose and matters to the Master of Legions (Adonai tsvah’ot). Next we come across the texts which remind us of the reasons for which any member of the community of Hashem would not be able to approach the Mishkan and Holy services/vessels due to a Ceremonial impurity ( becoming tamay- through contact with death; menstruation; tsara’at; etc.) Then we meet the Sotah (‘wayward wife’). Please do not allow it to be lost upon us that on this Sabbath of Shavuot which celebrates the receiving of the Torah…we read about this accused adulterous bride. It was only a short time after Matan Torah that the Bride/Israel committed adultery with an idol and were themselves given the bitter waters (with the ground dust of the golden calf inside) to drink. Those who truly received the Torah and were willing to wait on their redeemer return were found good, faithful and worthy of rest in Him. Those who went through the motions, grew impatient and sought to replace their king with the fleeting and corporeal ended up exposed, cursed and exiled.
The following term is introduced to us in the Parasha in regards to the proper treatment of offerings, gifts, and the approach of the sanctuary of Hashem…when proper adherence to the teaching of Hashem in this matter are not adhered to the outcome is the following, translated as a treachery. Following it’s rare contexts we can see that there is a direct correlation between the treatment of the Holy House of Hashem, the place where He and His Bride can be intimate (if appropriately maintained) and the Marriage, Household, Intimacy between Husband and Wife within the people’s lives.
#4603 (v) Ma’al מָעַל – to act treacherously, to be faithless, to take by stealth, covering, to act covertly, to possess, to have in one’s power.
#4604 (Masc. N) Ma’al מַעַל- perfidy, treachery. (Misappropriation)
- Vayikra 5:15 “If a person acts unfaithfully and sins unintentionally against the LORD’S holy things, then he shall bring his guilt offering to the LORD: a ram without defect from the flock, according to your valuation in silver by shekels, in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary, for a guilt offering.
- Vayikra 6:2 “When a person sins and acts unfaithfully against the LORD, and deceives his companion in regard to a deposit or a security entrusted to him, or through robbery, or if he has extorted from his companion, 3 or has found what was lost and lied about it and sworn falsely, so that he sins in regard to any one of the things a man may do;4 then it shall be, when he sins and becomes guilty, that he shall restore what he took by robbery or what he got by extortion, or the deposit which was entrusted to him or the lost thing which he found,5 or anything about which he swore falsely; he shall make restitution for it in full and add to it one-fifth more. He shall give it to the one to whom it belongs on the day he presents his guilt offering.
- Bemidbar 5:6 “Speak to the sons of Israel, ‘When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind, acting unfaithfully against the LORD, and that person is guilty,
- Bemidbar 5:12 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘If any man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him,
- Bemidbar 5:27 ‘When he has made her drink the water, then it shall come about, if she has defiled herself and has been unfaithful to her husband, that the water which brings a curse will go into her and cause bitterness, and her abdomen will swell and her thigh will waste away, and the woman will become a curse among her people.
- Bemidbar 31:16 “Behold, these caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, so the plague was among the congregation of the LORD.
The Torah seems to be telling us, the Misappropriation of property, sacred things and the marriage relationship are related. What is occurring within the family of the Sotah is a misappropriation of Hashem’s ideal Shalom Bayit- peace between man and wife.
Why is the Sotah found here? We’ve just gone through the reckoning of the tribes and have seen the magnificence of their martial array, each under his own banner, each ready to take up the marching orders and be a functioning individual working for the collective mission…so why “bring it down” with this trial by bitter water? Could it be that Hashem is calling to attention that no matter how it may appear of the outside, if there is brokenness inside, the unity of the House will not be complete? Or perhaps it connects that as the tribes are organized and assembled they are each existing within their own specified boundaries. These are standards of place and no one goes out of line, there…when we remain as such (organized according to the command of Hashem) is no need for jealousy. The Sotah teaches us the dire need to abide in His boundaries. We know that this trial is something the woman must agree to, she is not taken by force, she is the one who has the opportunity to take this oath or not, she and the Kohen do the wave service together, thus he is participating in the vindication (should she be found innocent) of the woman’s morality and in safeguarding the sanctity of marriage demanded by the Sanctuary of the Torah.
Bemidbar 5;21 (then the priest shall have the woman swear with the oath of the curse, and the priest shall say to the woman), “the LORD make you a curse and an oath among your people by the LORD’S making your thigh waste away and your abdomen swell; 22 and this water that brings a curse shall go into you stomach, and make your abdomen swell and your thigh waste away.” And the woman shall say, “Amen. Amen.”
Amein- is an acceptance or confirmation of the words spoken, it will uphold the shape of the proclaimers future life. This is the first place in Torah amen is found. The Sotah’s vow is also the only place in Torah amen is found other than at the end of Devarim when the entire people confirm the responsibilities which come from transgressing the safeguard, charge, commandments, for better or for worse- curses (which are consequences) when violating Hashem.
Devarim 27:26 ‘Cursed is he who does not confirm
the words of this Torah by doing them.’
And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’
The next question would be why does the Torah continue with the special vow of the Nazir? This is a person who willingly abstains from the things that which would cause him (or her) to ‘wind up’ like the Sotah. Sexual relations, contact with the dead (which in effect means space from the sanctuary), drinking of wine or intoxicant. Perhaps the nazir is the ‘cure’ for a sotah-like existence? He too is secluded in part, but his purpose is to be separate in a sort of spiritual isolation with Hashem. In a sense he draws a circle around himself, as it were, within which God alone is permitted. Is this parasha we recieve the Birkat Kohanim -Priestly Blessing- Aaronic Benediction. Naso is concluded by the offerings of the Princes of the Tribes of Israel. Identical offerings recapitulated in remarkable detail (and incredible “repetition”).
What can we learn about the proximity of these “neighbors” in the Torah text?
Although we left parisha Vayikra with this sense of order and absolute uniformity and compliance, we realize that the Sotah teaches us about the reality and hers is the worst example of family dysfunction.
Both the sotah and the nazirite are singled out to be models in society, one for disgrace (or ultimate vindication and blessing: she will bear children and be fruitful) and the other perhaps for appreciation of religiosity, or inspiration and drive for closeness with Hashem.
The Kohen’s blessings bind the entire people together, with their victories and flaws. With their terse observance and “left wanting” passion of faith. Those with secrets no one will ever know, those with a deep need for religious expression…and the Blessing of the Kohanim reminds us what Hashem desires to invest into each and every one of us.
The princes offerings- which they weren’t commanded to bring- were divinely inspired. Each one brought EXACTLY the same gift. This is the representation of a wonderful happy medium to leave off Parasha Naso with. There was no competition, no besting, no attempting to elevate oneself above another or falling into a degradation of the sacred. Each and every tribe came and brought before Hashem the same gift. The Torah takes the time to enumerate these identical offerings because of how extraordinarily pure and perfect this occurrence was. Each tribe comes to understand his personal place within the collective and everything is focused around the Divine Presence.
Bamidbar 9;15 On the day the Mishkan was erected, the cloud covered the Mishkan, which was a tent for the Testimony, and at evening, there was over the Mishkan like an appearance of fire, [which remained] until morning. 16 So it was always, the cloud covered it and there was an appearance of fire at night. 17 and according to the cloud’s departure from over the Tent, and afterwards, the children of Israel would travel, and in the place where the cloud settled, there the children of Israel would encamp. 18 At the bidding of the Lord, the children of Israel traveled, and at the bidding of the Lord, they encamped. As long as the cloud hovered above the Mishkan, they encamped. 19 When the cloud lingered over the Mishkan for many days, the children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord and did not travel. 20 Sometimes, the cloud remained for several days above the Mishkan; at the Lord’s bidding they traveled and at the Lord’s bidding they encamped. 21 Sometimes the cloud remained from evening until morning, and when the cloud departed in the morning, they traveled. Or, the cloud remained for a day and a night, and when the cloud departed, they traveled. 22 Whether it was for two days, a month or a year, that the cloud lingered to hover over the Mishkan, the children of Israel would encamp and not travel, and when it departed, they traveled. 23 At the Lord’s bidding they would encamp, and at the Lord’s bidding they would travel; they kept the charge of the Lord by the word of the Lord through Moses.
The cloud represented the Shepherd’s crook, by means of which God, the Shepherd of Israel, made His will known to the people He was leading: where and when they were to pitch camp, and when and in what direction they were to journey forth. And we are told here that the will and purpose of His guidance seemed unpredictable indeed to those who were to be led by it. There were times when they had to stay in one place for a long period; at other times they were allowed to remain at rest for a few days only. Some of their rest periods lasted only one night or one day and one night, and then again there were times when they have to remain encamped for a whole month of even a year. Since they never had advance indication of how long each rest period would be, it sometimes happened that they made all the arrangements for encampment only to find themselves compelled, just for a few hours later, to pull up stakes and resume their journey, following the movements of the cloud.
Such was the training school of our wanderings thorough the wilderness in which we should have learned for all time to follow God’s guidance with devotion and trust no matter how incomprehensible it may seem to us, whether He commands us to leave a place just when we have become attached to it, or to remain in a position we find most untoward. During that period we should have learned always to do, gladly and cheerfully, whatever God commands; happy at all times beneath the shepherd’s crook of His guidance; content in our own proven loyal obedience; ready to subordinate our own life’s plan to God and to follow His direction, even if it leads to goals we do not know, along paths we do not understand; to remain in our place with patience and endurance, or t move on with never failing courage. So often when looking into Sefer Bamidbar it is easy to focus on the failures, the mistakes made by the people. It is easy to overlook the endurance they displayed as they would journey only after, not before the cloud rose up. The Torah itself seems to be pointing this out to us with the repetitions, and “only according to the utterance of Hashem did they journey forth…” This is one place of extraordinary and special proof of their obedience to Hashem.
(Commentary, Hirsh- Pentateuch)
In perek yud of sefer Bemidbar we get some context regarding several topics. In previous lessons I have submitted that I believed Moshe’s father in law Yitro made a conversion and came into covenant with Hashem, joining the Children of Israel and that in effect he took back home with him the moral standards of the Torah to share with his people. I believe he was there to experience the revelation at Sinai; the surface readings of the following verses seem to verify this concept. There is something important we need to take from passuk chaf tet which will help us understand the depth of a latter verse in this parasha. Moshe believes at this point (having been taken from Mitsrayim, received the Torah) they are going to Israel. They’ll be stopping briefly along the desert, from Egypt to Canaan, an eleven day journey. Onward to the Goal!
Bemidbar 10; 28 These are the travels of the children of Israel according to their legions, and then they traveled. 29 Then Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’s father-in-law, We are traveling to the place about which the Lord said, I will give it to you. Come with us and we will be good to you, for the Lord has spoken of good fortune for Israel 30 He said to him, I won’t go, for I will go to my land and my birthplace. 31 He said, Please don’t leave us, for because you are familiar with our encampments in the desert and you will be our guide. 32 And if you go with us, then we will bestow on you the good which God grants us. 33 They traveled a distance of three days from the mountain of the Lord, and the Ark of the Lord’s covenant traveled three days ahead of them to seek for them a place to settle. 34 The cloud of the Lord was above them by day, when they traveled from the camp.
It is taught, passuk lamed gimel hints to the attitude with which the Children of Israel leave Sinai. First off, this is the first place Sinai is called מֵהַ֣ר יְהֹוָ֔ה Har YHVH. This is to express that the revelation received here, the wisdom being imparted was so magnificent that…although the people knew they were meant to take the Torah to Israel, there still should have been a reverence about the ‘leaving’ of Sinai. It is taught that the people left Sinai, like children leaving school when the “bell rings” to release them. Happy, anxious, ready to be “free” of the holiness there. Almost like, ‘if we stay here any longer we’ll end up with seven or eight hundred more laws…’ If a student understands the value of the wisdom being conveyed in a class, he not only will be attentive during class but he will never want the lesson to end! I heard it compared to the Kotel- the Western wall; there is a tradition that when one is ‘ready to leave’ the Wall he will, while still facing the wall, take a few steps walking backwards before he turns around to leave. It is taught, this is not how the people left Har Hashem. The lesson behind this concept will become clearer.
Recall as we go on with this theme: The people had had their fill of Holiness.
Within this Parasha is one of the “anomalies” found in the Hebrew writing. There are two inverted letter Nun’s (upside down and backwards), like brackets around the following verses:
Bamidbar 10; 35 So it was, whenever the ark set out, Moses would say, Arise, O Lord, may Your enemies be scattered and may those who hate You flee from You. 36 And when it came to rest he would say, Repose O Lord, among the myriads of thousands of Israel.
Some explanations are that these verses break up the two negative things; leaving Mt. Sinai like a bunch of kids leaving Sinai when the bell rings & the murmuring about the ‘food’ that they desire. The people have manna- divine, HOLY food. The people have the portions of meat from the HOLY offerings. The people have had their fill of holiness. What is more these two verses are in “parenthesis” (inverted nun’s) because these are verses which NEVER HAPPENED. These are the verses which were SUPPOSED to take place next. Going straight into the Land of Israel with Moshe leading them in, it never happened.
I pray that Hashem will pour into you the blessing of confidence from His throne. To believe in Him, His holiness, His Light. That when we are stripped completely away what are we? All light, only Light, and this is Him in us. This is His holiness inside of us. The shell of these bodies and the physical and emotional challenges of the flesh are an illusion. The truth is- there only this light. If we choose to perceive it we will become strong enough to accomplish all He has in store for us THIS day, tomorrow and for the trying times ahead. The people did not grasp their own holiness. What happens if they come right into the Land, direct from Mt. Sinai- possessing the holiness of Mt. Sinai (the Torah which is in that Ark LEADING God’s people and seeking out for them their place), having truly internalized this holiness, bearing it, wearing it, wielding it, BEING it?
If the ‘world’ really sensed that we really possessed this holiness, that we were really sincere, that we really have belief …any of our foes, and those former tenants of Canaan would look upon the people of God- see it- and say ‘We’ve been watching the Land for you, please take your homes back.” But, if they sense that we’re not living on that level, that we don’t really believe, that we don’t really think we belong here…then why should they turn around and leave? These verses are still here, even though they didn’t happen. The people left Mt. Sinai without truly grasping that holiness, the nature of the gift of the Torah, the true value of it. The reality that every aspect of Torah is meant to instruct your humanity how to BE Holy. When a person starts walking in Torah, one is often met with challenges from family or friends of ‘other faiths’. Within a Torah community there can arise an unhealthy competitiveness or criticism of one another. Within the day to day journey unbelievers can look at you and say, “I don’t see it.” Even though, they themselves aren’t acquainted with what it is you’re living for. Believers, even those closest to you… may even use faith as ammunition to defeat you. “You aren’t really in touch with God, look what you did.” “I don’t see the fruit of a Torah life.” If you are questioning your own holiness, then it is very difficult for someone else to perceive your holiness. Torah=Teaching. Let us really appreciate the value of what we have been given, not wanting the ‘class’ to end, grabbing as much of it as we possibly can, not picking up and leaving ‘I am out of here’ as soon as someone ‘rings the bell’ on what HASHEM is carving into your life.
“ They traveled a distance of three days from the mountain of the Lord, and the Ark of the Lord’s covenant traveled three days ahead…”
Shouldn’t it say the Ark set out before the people and then the people followed the Ark? The people move on from the Mountain of God. They’re leaving…they’re going… and, miraculously, the Ark still goes before them. The Ark, is still with us no matter where we go. The Talmud documents that inside the Ark were the Broken Tablets. The people weren’t ready. The broken tablets were put together with the full tablets because they both represent the same idea. The tablets represent the heart. There’s nothing as complete as a broken heart. A broken heart is something that can bring someone to so much spiritual growth. The same way we needed to go to Egypt to break our hearts was to learn to become a decent people who could compassionate with woe, pain, etc. Having a broken heart is not a bad thing because it reminds us what real life is all about. As beautiful as the fantasy is- that we should go straight to the Holy Land, that there should be world peace….real life is that we have to deal with broken tablets. Real life is that we have to deal with broken hearts. Real life is that we have to deal with broken dreams. And real life means we have to have the strength to confront it, and the way that we do it is to take the experience from Sinai, and instead of when something goes wrong to say “that’s it, its over, I can’t deal with it’, take the broken tablets (which represents a broken heart), which represents a dream which could have been shattered, and to pick up those pieces and to say, ‘Let me start all over again’. Keep trying, fail, keep trying.., what is eventually going to cause us to succeed will be those broken tablets. To realize…it is that which gives us strength.
The broken tablets (the reality) are put right together with those other tablets (the Ideal). We left Mount Sinai the wrong way, we turned around and ran away from it. Holiness is something which is very frightening. Spiritual growth is something which can be very scary. All of us go through times when we say, “I am just not ready for this.” We are each one created in the image of God, with incredible capabilities- more so than we recognize. God puts us in situations that we are capable of succeeding in. Sometimes the most valuable thing we can possibly have is a broken heart. Because HE can BUILD something which is so STRONG, from something which is broken….The Ark is described as the “Ark of the Covenant of Hashem.” These broken tablets STILL represent the Covenant. The people had said, we will do and we will listen. We will do and then understand. Even though one might say, “the vow was broken, the relationship is over”…God says “No. A vow is a vow is a vow.” You’re going to try to run away from it, I am still going with you. I am sending that Ark with the broken tablets out in front of you to remind you that despite the brokeness- the relationship still exists.
(Edited from Ari Kahn on Beha’alotcha)
Bemidbar 5; 23 “Then the priest shall write these curses in a book and wash them off into the water of bitterness. 24 And he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings the curse, and the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain…. 27And when he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and has broken faith with her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her womb shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away, and the woman shall become a curse among her people. 28 But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children. 29“This is the law in cases of jealousy, when a wife, though under her husband’s authority, goes astray and defiles herself, 30 or when the spirit of jealousy comes over a man and he is jealous of his wife. Then he shall set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall carry out for her all this law. 31The man shall be free from iniquity, but the woman shall bear her iniquity.”
John 8; 1But Yeshua went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning He went back into the temple courts. All the people came to Him, and He sat down to teach them. 3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before them 4 and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. So what do You say?” 6 They said this to test Him, in order to have a basis for accusing Him. But Yeshua bent down and began to write on the ground with His finger. 7 When they continued to question Him, He straightened up and said to them, “Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” 8 And again He bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 When they heard this, they began to go away one by one, beginning with the older ones, until only Yeshua was left, with the woman standing there. 10 Then Yeshua straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are your accusers? Has no one condemned you?” 11“No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,” Yeshua declared. “Now go and sin no more.”
While the Sotah was only a suspect, there were no eye-witnesses against her. Although, the Talmud shows that the woman was publicly known to have been warned by her husband. AND her husband himself was to be known as “above reproach” and an upstanding man of Hashem. This woman in John, like the people, like each one of us (in some way, at some time) have been caught in the very act of infidelity against God. I think it could be this very thing that Yeshua, well versed in the ‘oral law’ may have been bringing to the mind of the Pharisee’s and Scribes (who referred to him as teacher). Yeshua brings into the “case”: writing, dirt, the temple floor, and witnessing.
John 2; 24 But Yeshua did not entrust Himself to them, for He knew all men. 25 He did not need any testimony about man, for He knew what was in a man.
Because he knows the intention of the heart of these men is to test him, not to have Torah justice be done neither to restore a man to his wife (which the trial by bitter water’s ultimate goal WAS), he makes them evaluate their own status. Like the accusing ‘husband’ was supposed to be ‘above reproach’ he causes them to assess their own motivation. And then, this woman ends up secluded with Yeshua. Just she and her the true witness (one who knows men’s hearts), Lawmaker and Judge. Israel, like those of us who know the reality of sin…have, and will continue to bear the consequences of iniquity against Hashem. Yeshua promises us ultimate and complete forgiveness. Men, however, cling to pain. Where there is not healing the echoes of personal transgressions against one another reverberate and rebound in our lives….over and over and over again. Much like the “mistakes” made by the people in this wilderness. This is the surface story of the Midbar : The people sin, Hashem becomes ‘angry’, Moshe prays for the people, God forgives but there are consequences, The people sin, Hashem becomes ‘angry’, Moshe prays… and so on.
Sh’mot 15:25 Then he cried out to the LORD, and the LORD showed him a tree; and he threw it into the waters, and the waters became sweet. There He made for them a statute and regulation, and there He tested them. (This is where marrah- bitterness comes in, and with it a test. When that which is bitter in your lives becomes sweet…will you remember Hashem. And when you are in a thirsty, bitter place…will you trust Hashem.)
Sh’mot 16:4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction. (The manna is Law on “Training Wheels”. Every command regarding the manna is ‘self enforcing’. Even if they gathered more than an omer, they’d come home to an omer. Even if they kept it overnight it would rot. Even if they attempted to gather on the Sabbath it would not be there. This was practice, on the way to Sinai, for when there would be laws given that did actually have consequences for their transgressions.)
Devarim 8;16″In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end. (God did not have a problem with the people when they thirsted at the bitter waters, He did not punish them when they asked for bread and even meat at that time. But somehow at this point in B’midbar when the people are complaining about the manna God becomes wroth, and Moshe…suicidal: )
B’midbar 11;1 And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. 2Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the LORD, and the fire died down. 3 So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the LORD burned among them. 4Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving. And the people of Israel also wept again and said, “Oh that we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. 6 But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” 7 Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its appearance like that of bdellium. 8 The people went about and gathered it and ground it in handmills or beat it in mortars and boiled it in pots and made cakes of it. And the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. 9 When the dew fell upon the camp in the night, the manna fell with it. 10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their clans, everyone at the door of his tent. And the anger of the LORD blazed hotly, and Moses was displeased. 11Moses said to the LORD, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? 12 Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ 14 I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.”
Think: The people literally dancing around a golden calf and Moshe heroically says, “O LORD, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? (Shem.32;11)
The people ask for meat: Moshe says, Just shoot me.
The problem for the people was not that they didn’t have meat. They had the manna- Holy Divine Bread from Heaven. They had the Todah and Shelamim offerings- Holy Divine Meat shared at the Mishkan. The problem, as upon leaving Sinai, was that the people (some of them) had had their FILL of Holiness. Moshe believed they were on their way to Erets Yisrael. Now he begins to truly see that the people ARE NOT READY. He realizes that verse with him taking them into the Land directly, IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. This utterly depresses him. We’ve never heard Moshe speak like this before, but we get a hint at the revelation from the Sney…when he declared, “Who am I?” I am not worthy. Now he cries to God, and perhaps truly believes, I am not the man for this job. I am failing the people, I am not cut out to be their leader. Kill me, like I asked at Sinai (I cast my lot with them, blot me out of your book)…let me be punished, mine is the failure.
B’midbar 11;16Then the LORD said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. 17And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone….24So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD. And he gathered seventy men of the elders of the people and placed them around the tent. 25Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders.
God responds. God grants Moshe support. God appoints, through Moshe, leaders. These leaders (as is the ideal prototype for ALL leaders) were meant to RELIEVE the BURDEN from upon Moshe and ultimately, upon the people as well. This is a far cry from what Yeshua specifically took issue with among the leaders of his day. This is a far cry from much of the leadership we see in the “body” in our day. The Leaders were meant to TAKE UPON THEMSELVES the burdens of the community. Not add to them.
Matthew 23; 3 So practice and observe everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4They tie up heavy, burdensome loads and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
In our time away from one another, Hashem has taught me many difficult lessons. He has shown me very challenging things. He has spoken through voices, places, situations that at first I was quick to determine were “from the pit of hell.” Why? Because they challenged ME. At the same time it has been a minefield of negotiating through the attacks, the slings of the destroyer whose only accomplishments are in our failures for Yeshua. These failures in my life are inevitable and consistent. Persistently I am overwhelmed with self doubt, self loathing, and determining my accomplishment and worth based upon the success of others. I wonder if this was something that Moshe went through. Seeing that the people weren’t ready after all they’d been given, after all they had seen…that they still weren’t ready, did he feel that reflected on him and thus- throw in the towel? I don’t think Moshe was throwing in the towel, nor was he abandoning the Children of Israel he indeed consistently associated himself with “mothering”.
I want to share with you something I pray will strengthen you in light of all we have learned. About the outside looking so neat and tidy (the encampments and order of Israel), and the internal turmoil (the Sotah and her husband); the bar set so high to continue to learn and reach heights of faith and observance (the Nazir); the complaints of the people and the inadequacy we feel in this wilderness walk….
Do not wait for perfection to love. You’ll be waiting forever. Don’t expect elevation before you go out and share what God has given you. Don’t think, I can’t do it all…so why try at all. Abide in where you are being taught, what you are being taught, and go out and teach! Share, love, forgive, fall, get back up, listen to the messages from Hashem which come from the most unexpected places and glorify Him with your testimony. Yeshua never waited for his servants to be perfect before he forgave them, healed them, spent time with them, taught them. Let us do as He did.
“If only you know aleph—teach aleph!”
How can I, a struggling student with little background, a beginner at the most, have the chutzpah to teach others what I know so little about? Who give you have the right
to withhold that which you do know?
How can I promote the practice of a lifestyle that
I myself continue to struggle with?
Say that as a student, I have the right, even the obligation, to teach, to inform, to educate, to share information with those uninformed; how dare I encourage others when it comes to Torah observance?
How can I promote the practice of a lifestyle that I myself continue to struggle with?
How is that the fault of the ones out there who NEED YOUR EXAMPLE, the example of what you HAVE BEEN TAUGHT.
You don’t have to be rich
to give to the poor,
you don’t have to be a scholar
in order to teach the ignorant,
and you don’t have to be perfect
in order to help others
If we are waiting until our leadership, our spouses, ourselves are “ready” to go out and be righteous, upstanding, perfect people…we’ll perish in the dry places and never enter the promise of Rest in Hashem. Every single day we should approach is as knowing, we’ll never be ready according to any family member, congregation, or man made authorities standard…
…but for Hashem: we must be “Always ready.”
Israel would have to be trained for the ideal set out from Sinai through Vayikra over hundreds, indeed thousands of years that were to extend beyond our own present day. There was a gap between Israel, at the time of the giving of the Torah and the Torah itself as given at Sinai (with its assumptions and requirements). This gap could only be bridged over the continued span of centuries. All other codes of law are dedicated on conditions that prevailed at the time of their origin. Not so the Torah. This is indeed a mark of the unique phenomenon, that is the Divine Origin of the Torah Law, in the history of mankind. This Torah, this law, is the only one to have set itself up at the supreme goal of human development on earth; it still awaits a generation sufficiently mature to translate its ideals into reality. This is an honor we have been bestowed with in this very room.
May you be blessed going, blessed coming. I praise Hashem for bringing us together. For the members of our ‘mispacha’ family who are pursuing rest, classes, service, adventure….we pray that they be filled with Your love and enlightenment wherever they are and in their every handiwork and undertaking. May you be strengthened like never before to know that this book of mistakes will continue to teach us about the long-suffering compassionate God we serve. May we transfer these lessons from the Torah into good fruit in this world and applicable lessons to help us in our daily lives. Bless you for your time, bless you for your dedication. Bless you for seeking and for faithfulness and ears to hear.
I dedicate all our learning to the refuah shlema of Mirjam and her sister Judith.
Please continue to keep Mirjam in your prayers. I wanted to share a moment with you:
I wrote Mirjam a letter last Shabbat. I told her many things and asked her one question,
“ How am I supposed to imagine a day without you in it? “
She reached her arm around me and said,
“ We’re all just passing through. And eternity is a long time.”
Never doubt the effect you can have on someone.
Sources: See Homepage on this blog and select My Resources page for a complete list of materials I use to study and put together these entries. Much of this entry is from Chabad.org, Rabbi Ari Kahn – arikahn.blogspot.co.il and Rabbi Shlomo Katz- http://www.shlomokatz.com/.