Friday, June 10, 2016

Parshas Bamidbar

This Week’s Parsha – Bamidbar

This week’s parsha – which starts The Book of Bamidbar – is Bamidbar. It talks a lot about the different things with the different parts of the Jewish People. I think that all this stuff teaches us something: Just like there are different Tribes in Israel, and every one of them has a special thing about them, so too, there are different Jews, and we all have different talents. But, just like the Tribes, we must all use our different talents to serve Hashem. There are even different groups of Judaism, such as Chassidim, Ashkenazim, Sephardim, etc. And, just like the Jews from Reuven recognized that they were, yes, from a different Tribe than ones from, say, Shimon, the entire People were still all together as a whole! Every Jew is supposed to treat each other well, and stay together as a People. Just because we have different sects of Judaism, it shouldn’t, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid cause us to lose our togetherness with the rest of the Jewish People. The Tribes didn’t let the fact that they were from different Tribes than others get in the way of staying together as a people. And we need to all learn from them!!! This is very important for everybody to remember. Just because we hold different customs than another Jew, and they hold different ones than another, doesn't mean we have to dislike, stay away from, or mistreat each other. We are all different people, but we are also all part of one People. It is kind of like if we have a brother who thinks differently than us. He is still our brother! It doesn't matter about the difference in thinking. So too, all Jew are our brothers and sisters, and we must treat them so! Remember this! Another thing: Parshas Bamidbar a lot of times comes right before Shavuos (like this year). There must be a reason for that. So HaRav Moshe Feinstein zt"l explains a nice connection between Parshas Bamidbar and Shavuos: He explains that, as we know, in this parsha, the Jewish People is counted. And, coming into Shavuos, we might start thinking about the fact that, maybe we just don’t matter. But, no. The counting of every single Jew teaches us that we all matter. Every single Jew matters. Now on to the parsha: The first passuk/verse is: ‘Vayi’daber Hashem el Moshe, BaMidbar Sinai, bi’Ohel Moeid, bi’echad lachodesch hasheini, bashana hasheinis, li’tzeisam mei’Eretz Mitzraim leimor/And Hashem spoke to Moshe, in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting, on the first of the second month, of the second year from their going out from the land of Egypt, saying.’

Rashi says that Hashem counts the Jews often, because He is showing how precious they are to Him. We are Hashem’s children, so to speak. A good father cares for his kids, and Hashem is the best father out there! He always protects us, He provides for us, He makes everything happen to us for the best, and so, so, so much more! Shouldn’t we, and aren’t we supposed to love Him as much as He loves us? Good children love their parents, and we must be good children to Hashem! We must not be, Chas V’Shalom/Hashem forbid, rebellious kids, who need punishments! Back to the parsha: Hashem told Moshe to ‘lift up the heads of all the Congregation of Israel’ – which means to count them – according to their families, according to their father’s houses, according to the number of names, every male. The count of men was from twenty years of age and up – all who are fit go out to the army of Israel. Actually, the Lubavitcher Rebbe (Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson zt"l) explains a beautiful thing on this: He asks; what is the significance of the age of twenty? Why does Hashem choose that age specifically? So he answers, using a Mishnah from Pirkei Avos (Pirkei Avos 5:22): The Mishnah says ‘He would also say: Five years is the age for the study of Scripture (Tanach). Ten, for the study of Mishnah. Thirteen, for the obligation to observe the Commandments. Fifteen, for the study of Gemara. Eighteen, for marriage. Twenty, to pursue [a livelihood]. Thirty, for strength, forty, for understanding. Fifty, for counsel, (i.e. to be able to give counsel)’.... etc. (Though I do not believe that we necessarily hold like this Mishnah). Rebbe Schneerson zt"l observes, that this Mishnah talks about a person working on their own things in the first twenty years, and then from twenty years of age and up, them going out into the world. That is when they leave just focusing on their own things, and go out into ‘the army of Israel’. The first twenty years of someone’s life (give or take some years,) he continues beautifully, are like the necessary period of self-development and preparation for when, after twenty (or so), they go out into ‘the army of Israel’, i.e. going out into the world. And one who doesn’t graduate to the ‘post-twenty’ stage, i.e. well self-developed, he explains, cannot consider themselves ‘fit to go out to the army of Israel’, like to go out into the world, in the midst of all the Jews.1 This is how the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l explains the deeper significance behind the age of twenty, for someone ‘to go out to the army’.
Though, again, we do not, nowadays, necessarily hold like the Mishnah from Pirkei Avos, which was quoted above. Back to the parsha: Hashem told Moshe that with him had to be a man from each Tribe, who was a head of their father’s house. The names of the men whom Hashem told Moshe would stand with him were: For Reuven, Elitzur ben Shideiur. For Shimon, Shlumiel ben Tzurishaddai. For Yehuda, Nachshon ben Aminadav. For Yissachar, Nethanel ben Tzuar. For Zevulun, Eliav ben Cheilon. For the children of Yosef: For Ephraim: Elishama ben Amihud, and for Menashe: Gamliel ben Pedatzur. For Binyamin, Avidan ben Gideoni. For Don, Achiezer ben Ammishaddai. For Asher, Pagiel ben Achran. For Gad, Eliyasaph ben Deuel. And for Naphtali, Achira ben Einan. Moshe did as Hashem commanded him, and he counted the Jews. The numbers of men from the age of twenty and up – all who were fit to go out to the army – came out like this: The Tribe of Reuven: 46,500. The Tribe of Shimon: 59,300. The Tribe of Gad: 45,650. The Tribe of Yehuda, 74,600. The Tribe of Yissachar: 54,400. The Tribe of Zevulun: 57,400. Of the children of Yosef: The Tribe of Ephraim: 40,500, and the Tribe of Menashe: 32,200. The Tribe of Binyamin: 35,400. The Tribe of Don: 62,700. The Tribe of Asher: 41,500. And the Tribe of Naphtali: 53,400. The entire sum, with everything put together, 603,550. Hashem told Moshe that the Tribe of Levi should not reckoned in the sum of the B’nei Yisrael. However, they were to be appointed over the Mishkan, and everything in it. They were to carry the Mishkan, and encamp around it. When the Mishkan had to travel, the Leviim had to take it down, and when the Mishkan encamps, the Leviim had to set it up. And any person who isn’t a Levi, and approaches close, was to be killed. Rashi explains that ‘approaches close’ is referring to somebody who tries to participate in the work of the Leviim. At the start of Shlishi/the third Aliyah, Hashem told Moshe ‘Ish al diglo vi’osos li’veis avosam, yachanu B’nei Yisrael mi’neged..../The B’nei Yisrael shall encamp, each man by his division with the flag staffs of his father’s house... etc.’ Each of the Twelve tribes had a different flag. On this, HaRav Yaakov Kamenetzky zt"l asks; why didn’t Hashem give us the command about the different flags back when we left Mitzraim/Egypt? So he answers that, back when we left Mitzraim/Egypt, these flags could have caused trouble. How? Because, he says, the flags emphasize the difference between all the Tribes. And, when we had first left Mitzraim/Egypt that could have caused the Jews to separate into twelve different sects! Thus causing them to not have as much Achdus/unity, which would be terrible! But then, we might ask; wouldn’t it cause this now as well? Was there a difference between the two times? How can we answer this question? Well, Reb Yaakov zt"l can! And this is his answer:  He explains that, since this parsha was after we got the Torah, it wouldn’t cause trouble. Because, when we went out from Mitzraim/Egypt, we did not have the Torah yet. It would have caused us to separate, because we had no centerpiece, i.e. the Torah. But, now, after we got the Torah, even if we recognized our differences, we still had the centerpiece of the Torah, and we wouldn’t separate. But now, let us ponder this for a second. Shouldn’t this be the way the Jewish People is now as well?!?! Though we have different sects of Judaism, such as Gerrer Chassidim, Lubavitch, Ashkenazim, etc. we still have the Torah as our centerpiece, and so we shouldn’t have separations!! The entire Jewish People is supposed to be together. But look at us! Some Jews treat other Jews terribly. This needs to stop. We need to all take this message of HaRav Yaakov Kamenetzky zt"l to heart. All of us – from the oldest man or woman to the youngest boy or girl. Back to the parsha: This Aliyah discusses the positions of encampment, princes, and numbers of the different Tribes. Towards the start of Rivi’i/the fourth Aliyah, the Torah lists descendants of Aharon. But, the Torah says that ‘These are the names of the descendants of Moshe and Aharon...etc.’ How can the Torah say this then, when it doesn't list Moshe’s descendants? To answer this, Rashi quotes from Gemara Sanhedrin 19b, which explains that if somebody teaches another person’s children, those children are considered as if they were their own. So, the Gemara explains, since Moshe taught Aharon’s sons, they were considered like his own, and so, Moshe’s ‘kids’ were really listed!! Back to the parsha: At the end of the Aliyah, Hashem tells Moshe that He took the Leviim in place of the firstborns, and that the Leviim are His. Because, since the day He smote the firstborn in Mitzraim/Egypt, He sanctified for Himself every firstborn of Israel, both man and animal. In Chamishi/the fifth Aliyah, Hashem tells Moshe to count the sons of Levi, i.e. the Leviim (this was a separate counting). But this counting was males from one month of age and up. Levi’s three sons were Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. The numbers were: For Gershon, 7,500. For Kohath: 8,600. For Merari: 6,200. The Torah also discusses the princes of the families of the Leviim, and where the Leviim camped. At the start of Shishi/the sixth Aliyah, Hashem tells Moshe to count the firstborns of Israel, from the age of one month and up, and take the number of their names. The Leviim are for Hashem, instead of the firstborns of Israel, and the animals of the Leviim are for Hashem instead of the animals of the firstborns of Israel. Moshe counted the firstborns, like Hashem had commanded him. And the number of the firstborns, from one month of age and up, came to 22,273. Shvi’i/the seventh Aliyah almost all talks about Hashem telling Moshe the work which the family of Kohath was to do. The Leviim did very holy work. They performed the service in the Holy.
There are 159 pessukim/verses in this parsha.

Have a great Shabbos and a Chag Sameach everyone!!!

1  Parsha in-depth.  Parshas Bamidbar. 

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