For the most part,
Parashat Bamidbar is narrative and descriptive.
What makes this Parashah interesting is that it sets a tone and
makes clear how each part of the Torah is interconnected. Where the first Sefer or Book (Bereishit/Genesis) of the
Torah is historical leading up to the experiences of B'nai Yisrael (the
Children of Israel) and Mitzrayim (Egypt), the second Sefer (Shmot/Exodus)
takes B'nai Yisrael out of Mitzrayim and eventually leads to the
erection of the Sanctuary. The
third Sefer (Vayikra/Leviticus) is devoted to the demands which the
Sanctuary makes upon Klal Yisrael (the Nation of Israel).
It should be noted that the Sanctuary is not a thing, as in a
synagogue. Rather, it must
be remembered that God dwelled within the Sanctuary and the Sanctuary
was holy in nature and a unique part of Klal Yisrael.
Rav Hirsch points
out the following:
this fourth book comes back to stark reality and shows us the actual
relationship between the actual nation and this ideal of their calling
shown in the third book. Accordingly
it begins by having the individual members of the nation counted, but as
an ah-dah, as one body united by this calling.
By such a census, it is brought home to the government that the
united nation is no mere vague conception, but exists in this universal
calling of its members, and to the individuals that each one of them is
reckoned as a not unimportant member of that nation, and that the
national mission reckons on the faithfulness to duty, and conscious
devotion to the common calling of all, of each individual.
Most interesting is,
third book ends with instructions for the dedicatory counting of sheep
in groups of flocks by their owners.
The fourth book begins with orders to count the nation of
"God's flock" for their "Shepherd," in their family
and tribal groups, and here to each one passes singly under the crook of
the Shepherd and knows that he gets counted as an independent member of
Having grown up in a
non-Jewish religion, one of the points that I had the most difficulty
accepting and internalizing was that of this notion that Klal Yisrael is
that - a nation, that the things I do will not only affect me personally
but have an effect far beyond myself and my own family.
However, when I began to understand that this was not merely a
negative situation but rather, and far more often, a positive one, I
began to grasp the concept. In
last week's Parashah, I pointed out how the mutual caring, love, and
dedication of the settlers of the Land of Israel over the past 120 years
caused a desert and swamp to become a garden in full bloom.
Further, I pointed out that this was consistent with that
Parashah and the prophecies in it.
This is such an example. The
unity of those people fulfilled the commandments concerning being as
one. And the results speak
There was a very
great rabbi living at that time by the name of Avraham Yitzchak Kook.
His mission, if you will, was to encourage unity amongst all of
the Jews living in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) and throughout the
world. In my opinion, his
attitude was at the cornerstone of the Torah - to help Jews find a
common bond and a sense of one-ness.
Are there other such
examples? Of course, and so
many that it would be impossible for me to list them all. Here are a few examples however.
There is Hatzolah, the volunteer ambulance group.
These people are always available to help someone in need and at
no charge. Hatzolah
operates entirely from donations. There is Bikur Cholim - the organization that helps to ensure
that people always have enough to eat, have proper medical care, and
housing. There is Haddasah
which is an organization that collects goods no longer needed by
families to provide for those less fortunate.
Ohel is an organization that provides mental health and related
services to the community. There
is an army of people who go from door to door, synagogue to synagogue,
collecting money for the poorer families so that they will have enough
to eat. And, of course, there is the particular organization that is
near to the heart of Jewish Celebrations' - Zichron Shlomo, whose aim is
to help care for children that have been stricken with cancer and to
assist their families. On
more than one occasion, I have heard someone say, "Yes, but you
have to be an Orthodox Jew." This
is not and has never been the case.
You merely have to be in need.
Next week is Shavuot and there will be no Parashah commentary. The following week, we will pick up with the longest Parashah in the Torah - Nasso. Best wishes for a joyous Chag (holiday) filled with learning, comprehension and insight.