פ’ במדבר – תשע”ה
Volume 8, Issue 10
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, and Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin.
The Sefer of Bamidbar recounts Bnei Yisrael’s adventures in the wilderness from their second year of exodus from Egypt until the fortieth year. This Sefer is referred to by our Sages as “Chumash HaPekudim”, since from the beginning up until the close of the book, a comprehensive census of the Tribes was taken by Moshe Rabeinu.
When Hashem wanted to reveal the laws of the Torah, he chose to do so to a newly formed nation, Bnei Yisrael. He did so in the desert, a site devoid of homes and luxuries; a place where people would not want to stay. It was a place where they would be willing to accept Hashem’s guidance and live according to the Torah, without having to alter their ways. Just as the desert cannot be changed by outside influences, so too, the Torah scholar, who is considered a midbar, should retain the spirit of the Torah without becoming corrupt by outside influences.
The desert symbolizes humility. It is nothing but layers of sand, transformed into a holy site by the Shechina. So too, man becomes great if he allows his spiritual spark to rule his being. The reading of Parshat Bamidbar before Shavuot alludes to the fact that he who observes the Torah can change the face of the wilderness from a barren desert to a Garden of Eden. (Torah Gems)
באחד לחדש השני בשנה השנית לצאתם מארץ מצרים
“On the first day of the second month of the second year of their exodus from the land of Egypt…” (1:1)
After Bnei Yisrael received the Torah, only then does the verse emphasize the specific time that they accepted it. Why is this? Is not the Torah above and beyond the limitations of time?
While it’s true that the physical limitations of time and place do not play any role and place no restrictions on the performance of Torah and mitzvot, there is however, a lesson regarding our relationship with the Torah which is taught here. Although the Torah transcends the physical realm of time, it should not be viewed as an abstract entity which has no real application in our day and age. The Jew’s spiritual obligation is to utilize the Torah’s guidelines in his daily lifestyle, thus transforming his lifestyle into one which transcends and surpasses a specific time and place. The emphasis here of time is to teach us that the Torah is a continuum through every generation affecting such a metamorphosis that the Jew is able to spiritually surpass the limitations of time and place and observe the Torah under all conditions. (Chidushei HaRim)
שאו את ראש כל עדת בני ישראל למשפחתם לבית אבתם במספר שמות
“Take a census of the entire assembly of the Children of Israel, according to their families, according to their fathers’ household, by number of names.” (1:2)
While the Jews were traveling in the desert on the way to Eretz Yisrael, G-d commanded Moshe and Aharon to take a census. The commentaries ask why the Torah adds the phrase “the number of their names”. In taking a census, is it not sufficient to say that the number of people must be counted – what is the significance of their names?
The answer is that when we count members of the Jewish nation, we do not merely ascribe to them a computer number. Each one is a vital being with his own individual name, a very precious and holy soul in the community. (Something to Say)
ואלה תולדת אהרן ומשה
“And these are the generations of Aharon and Moshe…” (3:1)
In this brief section of four verses, Moshe’s children are not mentioned at all! Rashi quotes the well known medrash that explains: This teaches us that whoever teaches the children of his “friend” Torah is seen as if he fathered them. Thus, spiritually speaking, Moshe is like a second father to Aharon’s sons. The Maharal asks a powerful question: Wasn’t Moshe the teacher of all the Jewish people? Why make this statement only in regards to the four sons of Aharon?
He answers: Moshe’s mission by G-d was to give us the Torah and to teach it to us. The fact that he carried out this task was not enough to merit him that he be called a “father”. But, the extra effort he put into teaching the sons of Aharon specifically was beyond his official duty. Such teaching is viewed in a special light and gains the merit (for anyone who does so) that the medrash mentioned.
Based on this concept, R’ Mordechai Gifter explained the Talmud’s statement (Moed Katan 17a) that a student should try to study Torah with a rav who is like an angel! An angel is a messenger of G-d, as indeed the word malach is used in Tanach even for human messengers. If the rav only teaches because it is his assignment, or because he can inflate his ego, he is not the mentor you should look for. If he is responding to a higher calling of spreading Torah, and has taken upon himself with the purest of motives the special effort to make the Torah known to all who thirst for it, he is the proper person from whom to learn. (Rabbi Gifter)
פקד את בני לוי…מבן חדש ומעלה תפקדם
“Count the sons of Levi…from one month of age and up you shall count them.” (3:15)
As is apparent from the text, the Levites were counted twice: once when they were a month old, when they were considered the “keepers of the watch” of the Sanctuary, and again, when they reached the age of thirty, when they would begin to perform the service in the Mishkan. From this we can learn the necessary preparation to become a Torah scholar, a calling which is comparable to that of the Levites, as portrayed by the Rambam at the end of Hilchot Shmittah and Ran in Nedarim (62a). The lesson here is that chinuch must commence at birth, as we find that the mother of R’ Yehoshua ben Chananiah wheeled his cradle in to the Beis HaMedrash so that he could absorb the sounds of Torah study. Nonetheless, one may not rely on this early training, but must make sure that when the child matures, he is constantly encouraged to make sure that he continues in the ways of the Torah. It is for this reason that the thirty-year-old Levites are counted again. (Drash Moshe)
מבן שלשים שנה ומעלה ועד בן חמשים שנה כל בא לצבא לעשות מלאכה באהל מועד
“It shall include those from 30 to 50 yearls old, all who enter service to work in the Tent of the Meeting.” (4:3)
This parsha lists the various families of the tribe of Levi, and their work assignments while en route. One notices that in conjunction with the family of Kehat, when mentioning “work” the word מלאכה is used, whereas in connection with the families of Gershon and Merari the word עבודה is used. Why is this so?
The prohibited activities of Shabbos are called מלאכות. The duty of the members of the family of Kehat was to carry their load on their shoulders in a public domain, which is one of the 39 melachot of Shabbos. Thus the word מלאכה is appropriate to describe their work. On the other hand, the work of Gershon and Merari was to use animals to carry their assigned workload instead of carrying the load upon their shoulders. According to the Torah, having your animal carry its load is still a prohibited action on Shabbat, but is not considered a melacha, and is therefore of less severity than carrying the load on your shoulders. As a result, the Torah replaced the word melacha for avodah in describing the activity of the families of Gershon and Merari. (Meshech Chochmah)
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