Weekly Reading Insights: Bamidbar 5766

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Bamidbar

To be read on 29 Iyar 5766 (May 26-27)

Torah: Numbers 1:1-4:20
Haftorah: Samuel I 20:18-42 (for Erev Rosh Chodesh, mentioned in its opening verse)

Pirkei Avot: Chapter 6

Bamidbar is the 1st Reading out of 10 in Numbers and 34th overall, and 3rd out of 54 in overall length

Bamidbar begins by relating how Moshe, Aharon, 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 in taking apart and reassembling the Tabernacle during the Jews’ travels in the desert. Then is described the location of each tribe’s encampment. The next section deals with the genealogy of Aharon; the status of the Levites in assisting the priests’ service in the Tabernacle; and the Levites taking the place of 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 redeem the firstborns who were in excess of the Levites. The concluding section describes the Tabernacle duties of the Kehos family of Levites.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:3466/Bamidbar)

Man was created with both sexes, and even though his feminine aspect was at one side, he was nevertheless complete in both his masculine and feminine aspects. He was conscious of the wisdom of the spiritual worlds and the physical "natural" world. After he sinned, his stature was diminished, and he shrunk from contact with the higher worlds. This also engendered disunity [for it was man's consciousness that united them], and the highest spiritual wisdom of Atzilut deserted him. Man's consciousness then became focused on his physical needs alone.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:3466/Bamidbar)

Kabbala and Chasidut explain that love and fear of G-d are the two "wings" with which a person's service to G-d takes flight. That is, a person can perfunctorily perform all the Torah's commandments, but unless he does so out of love and fear of G-d, his service does not connect him consciously to G-d. He may be doing G-d's will, and he will affect the world and receive his due reward for this; however, he is performing G-d's will incompletely, for G-d desires that we serve Him enthusiastically as well.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (O:3466/Bamidbar)

There [in Bamidbar Rabba] the Rabbis also interpret [the division of the tribes of Israel] according to four standards as] corresponding to the four groups of angels [surrounding the celestial Throne]. The Midrash also explains there that [the division of the tribes was not arbitrary but] it was all in wisdom, [showing] honor and greatness to Israel, and that therefore Scripture mentions everything in detail.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.


"Count by heads the entire population of the Israelites." [1:2]

Our main feature is our heads. In other body aspects, the nations may be superior, but if you want to find good heads and brains, go to the Jews.

Maggid of Koznitz [translated from Sichat HaShavuah #384]


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

MOSHIACH THIS WEEK (M:3466/Bamidbar)

"Take a census of the entire congregation of the Children of Israel." (Numbers 1:2)
Our Sages note that the giving of the Torah at Sinai required the presence of all 600,000 Jews; if just one had been missing, the Torah would not have been given. Parshat Bamidbar is always read before Shavuot, the day on which the Torah was given, to remind us of this principle. Furthermore, it reminds us that it was not enough for all Jews to be present; it was necessary that the Jewish people be united in love for one another. "Israel camped there [before Mount Sinai] as one man with one mind." This peace and unity is the channel for all Divine blessings, including the greatest of all -- the coming of Moshiach.
(Peninei HaGeula)

[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:3466/Bamidbar)

Are people physical beings that have coincidental spiritual experiences, or are we really spiritual beings that are in the world to have purposeful physical experiences? The practical difference between these two perceptions is enormous. Students of Chassidut and Kabbala certainly tend towards the latter. In either case, the orientation a person takes has an enormous affect on how he experiences the world, what in his day to day life he perceives as an opportunity and what as a distraction.

Rabbi Yaivei, a chassid of the Baal Shem Tov, sees the first verse of Bamidbar as one integrated journey towards G-dliness in the world. "G-d spoke to Moshe in the Sinai Desert, at the Tent of Mo'ed, on the first day of the second month in the second year of the Exodus from Egypt."
We find two terms using the word Sinai in the Torah. Har (Mt.) Sinai, and Midbar (Desert of) Sinai. Generally the Torah uses the expression Mt. Sinai.

The numerical value of the Hebrew word Sinai is 130, the same as the word 'sulam'-ladder. A mountain is something very high, a hint to G-d, who we perceive as something high and lofty. Just as a person would use a ladder to climb up and down, so too 'Mt. Sinai' is a paradigm that not only did G-d come down to us to give us the Torah, we also have an opportunity to use the same ladder of Torah and its commandments to approach G-dliness.

Nevertheless, here we see the expression, Desert of Sinai. The word 'Midbar'-desert-can also be read, 'm'daber'-speaking/speaker. A person's speech is a tool through which one can attach himself to G-dliness. Each letter of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet is a direct connection to the Infinite. When a person speaks in a conscious way, the roots of the letters below connect to the sources of the letters above, creating a ladder. Not only is one's speech heard above, but also through the ladder we are able to hear G-d's speech below.

This is why the verse begins with the words "G-d spoke to Moshe". Moshe communicated G-d's will to the Jewish people. Therefore, the name 'Moshe' is a hint to revelation. "G-d spoke to Moshe in the Sinai Desert" tells us that G-d will reveal Himself to us through our speech on the condition that we use our speech appropriately, not saying bad things or speaking badly about others.

The word "Moshe" is also a reference to humility (since Moshe was very humble) teaching us that humility helps to get on the ladder. Humility is also an opening to understand that we are just visitors here in a temporary world where most of the phenomena that attract us and drive us crazy are really not important at all. This is hinted at in the words "Ohel-Tent-of Mo'ed". A tent is a temporary dwelling, and the word "mo'ed" means 'appointment', a hint that we are in this temporary world for a purpose, to connect to the spiritual. It is important not to lose sight of that purpose.

The verse continues, "…in the first day of the 2nd month of the 2nd year of the exodus from Egypt". Sometimes something happens out of the blue and a person feels more spiritual, even though he did not make a significant effort. The Ba'al Shem Tov gives the analogy of a storekeeper who gives a sample of a product before they buy it. Just as you only get one taste, and then you have to pay up, so also with our climbing the ladder, sometimes G-d gives us a taste of His greatness and a real feeling of connecting to the ONE, to get us started-but then requires that we make an effort before seeing any more results. And since G-d appreciates effort, once we do get going we are rewarded with a bounty of spiritual energy and clarity.This new energy and clarity will in turn help the individual to want even more, and he will therefore try to distance himself from the silly petty things that occupy so much of people's time in this world.

This is likened to leaving Egypt, a place of impurity and materialism. This is the meaning of the next words in the verse, "b'echad"-to the One-that all of this is a journey to realize the ONE; "in the 2nd month"-when we ourselves make the effort in the 2nd spiritual experience (month can also be translated as 'chadash', something that is new and exciting; "shana"-year-can also read "shinuey"-something repeated or changed-a reference to the consistent effort that is required of us) that we sense how really good G-d is, and make the effort to leave Egypt--all the small and petty physicality."

When a person is not fooled by the first easy 'samples', but is persistent in his effort to realize the ONE, G-d will help him reach a higher spiritual level. This is a fitting message as we begin the 4th book of the Torah, in the days before the Shavuot, when each of us again receives the Torah from G-d.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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