Weekly Reading Insights


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Bemidbar
To be read on the Shabbat of 29 Iyar, 5762 (May 11)

Shavuot festival, go to holidays and kabbala.]

Torah: Numbers 1:1-4:20
Haftorah: Samuel I 20:18-42 (for Erev Rosh Chodesh, mentioned in its opening verse)
Shabbat Mevorachim - Blessing the New Month
Pirkei Avot: Chapter Six

Stats: Bemidbar contains 0 positive mitzvot and 0 prohibitive mitzvot. Among the Weekly Readings,
ranks 3 out of 54 in number of verses, 13 in number of words, and 9 in number of letters

Bamidbar begins by relating how Moshe, Aaron, and a prince from each tribe took a census of the Jews (the tribe of Levi was excluded from this census). Then, G-d explains the Levite service of disassembling and reassembling the Tabernacle during the Jews' travels in the desert. The parsha continues by describing the location of each tribe's encampment. The next section deals with the genealogy of Aaron; the status of the Levites in assisting the priests' service in the Tabernacle; and the Levites substituting for the firstborn (who were originally intended to serve in the Tabernacle, but lost this privilege by sinning with the golden calf.) Then, G-d commands Moshe to take a census of the Levites, a census of the firstborns, and to redeem the firstborns who were in excess of the Levites. The concluding section describes duties of the Kehos family of Levites, in the Tabernacle.


"You shall take a count of the Congregation of Israel." (1:2)

When a count is taken, no distinctions are made between what is being counted. The great and the small are both equal, each having the value of one. The Torah portion of Bamidbar is always read on the Shabbat before Shavuot, the holiday on which the Torah was actually given on Mount Sinai, for all Jews stand equal on that day. Our Sages said that if even one Jew had been missing, the Torah would never have been given!

(The Lubavitcher Rebbe)

218 317

"The Levites shall keep charge of the Sanctuary of Testimony." (1:53)

The Levites, whose job it was to "guard" the Sanctuary and the Holy Temple, were counted in the census from the age of one month. But how can a one-month-old infant possibly "keep the charge of the Sanctuary of Testimony"? The concept of "guarding" the holiness of the Sanctuary refers to spiritual guardianship, not physical protection. The Levites served not by virtue of their physical prowess or outstanding bravery, but because of their high spiritual stature, something that even a small ba by had already inherited.

(Lichutei Sichot)



Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.

"The Levites will belong to Me I am the Lord." [3:45]

The reason the Torah added the words "I am the Lord," is to tell us that although according to Yalkut Shimoni 364 there will come a time when the firstborn will once again be performing the priestly functions in the Holy Temple, the Levites will not therefore be demoted and cease to belong to G-d. The very expression "will belong to Me" indicates that just as G-d's name is eternal, so is the appointment of the Levites to their task.

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter

Bemidbar )

Bamidbar is not only the name of the weekly reading, it is the name of the entire fourth book of the Torah . Last week we concluded the book of Vayikra, ending a period in our lives; this week we embark on a new journey.

What is the message in this word 'Bamidbar'-in the desert? The Lubavitcher Rebbe writes that the word "desert" brings to mind images of desolation, barren incompleteness, ownerlessness, total nullification. On the other hand, the subject of the beginning of the portion is the counting of the Jewish people. When you count something, it becomes important. Each individual item stands out from its surroundings. To receive the Torah we need both of these extremes. First, to remember we are not complete without G-d and His Torah. We need them to be complete in this world. But also each of us is important as individuals. Even if a single person was missing of the three million that stood at Mount Sinai, the Torah could not have been given. With the Torah, sky is the limit to our possible achievements. We are able to withstand the world and its pressures, and we can apply G?d's to our surroundings, refusing to allow our surroundings to define us!

One of the interesting connections between the holiday of Shavuot (which falls at the end of next week) and Shabbat is what the Talmud says, "Everyone agrees that the Torah was given on Shabbat". Shabbat is rest - true rest from the world and all of its intrusions into our lives. Where did Shabbat come from? From the Torah. The nature of the world is action and change, particularly changes in time, all of which are antithetical to the concept of rest. G-d completed the creation in six days. On the seventh day, the cessation of all change demonstrated that One G?d created everything. So, too, each subsequent day of Shabbat itself, along with our own abstention from work, demonstrate again that the world was created by G-d. Even though this was true from the very first Shabbat, it only became complete with the giving of the Torah by G-d to the Jewish people, 2448 years after creation.

This may sound very nice, but how does it apply to us personally? The answer is that when a person is not conscious of the fact that G-d created the world, he is not capable of truly resting and relaxing. Changes in time and space always create a feeling of unease and lack of control. Only when a person senses the true intention that is hidden in the creation, can he find true rest. Moreover, Shabbat brings rest not only to the person, but also to everything he is involved in.

This is the connection of Shabbat to Shavuot and to the giving of the Torah. When the Jewish people received the Torah, the purpose of the entire creation was revealed: The world was created for the Jewish people and the Torah. We should learn the Torah, keep its commandments, and influence the nations of the world to keep their seven commandments as revealed through the Torah. Through these efforts, we transform the entire world into a dwelling place for G-d, and bring rest to creation.

Shabbat Shalom!

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