BaMidbar

Torah Fax
Friday, May 30, 2003 - 28 Iyar, 5763

Torah Reading: BaMidbar (Numbers 1:1 -  4:20)
Candle Lighting Time: 8:01 PM
Shabbat Ends: 9:10 PM
Shabbat is 44 days of the Omer

Do You Count?

The name of the fourth book of the Torah that we commence reading this week is Bamidbar, meaning "In the desert." However, our sages refer to this book as the Book of Numbers.

The name "Numbers" is based on the fact that in the beginning of this book, G‑d commands Moses to conduct a census of all 12 tribes of Israel. The tribe of Levi, however, was to be counted separately. Moreover, even infant members of the tribe of Levi were to be counted, as opposed to the other tribes, where only those over the age of twenty were to be included in the census.

The Midrash, cited by Rashi, describes Moses' dilemma when it came to counting the infants. Moses said to G‑d: "How can I enter their homes to count their infants?"  G‑d provided a solution to this dilemma and said to Moses: "You do your part and I will do Mine." When Moses positioned himself in front of a tent, a heavenly voice emerged from each home and stated the precise number of infants there were in them.

Indeed, Rashi states, this is alluded to in the words in this week's parsha: "And Moses counted them by the word of G‑d.." The "word of G‑d" is interpreted quite literally by our Sages to mean that a heavenly voice emerged from each tent with a precise count of infants.

There are many intriguing aspects of this narrative.  First, what was the purpose of the census? Second, why were there two separate counts, with a separate count for the tribe of Levi? Third, why did G‑d resort to a supernatural means of providing Moses with the count of infants? Couldn't they just ask the parents, or use some other more natural method?

The first lesson is that we all count! Every Jew has a unique and intrinsic value in G‑d's eyes. This lesson is followed by the realization that we count in two ways: First we count because we are all conscripts in  G‑d's army. This was the function of the first census where only those who were twenty and older and capable of fighting in the military were counted. (The age of twenty in rabbinic tradition is when one's intellect has developed to the point where they can make critical decisions in life.) The message we thus derive from this census is that we must not allow our intellectual potential to remain dormant. The challenges of life demand that we count, i.e., recognize and actualize, our abilities to make the right decisions by harnessing all of our intellectual gifts we have been given.

However, there is a second and more profound dimension to our counting. We not only count as intellectuals who know how to confront the challenges of life, we also possess the "Levi" within us that comes to us at birth, which is our uncanny ability to commit ourselves to G‑d and righteousness even when our minds fail to support that effort. The Levi-which derives from a Hebrew word that means attachment-within us can reach destinations that our intellect can never attain.

This Levi element, however, is so deeply embedded in our souls that even Moses was baffled as to how he could elicit it from every person. Of course,Moses knew how to teach and impart knowledge to all, but to find the infant within everyone confounded him. Moses' apprehension to enter the tents of each and every family was an expression of his inability to penetrate into the deepest precincts of the Jewish soul.

G‑d's response to Moses, therefore, was "do whatever you can do, and I will do the rest." Whenever and however we reach out to another Jew, we must realize that we are not reaching down to some lowly soul. On the contrary, we are truly reaching in to something higher, deeper and elusive. And our first reaction should be one of humility. We should be asking, as Moses did, "Who am I to penetrate into the inner sanctum of the Jewish heart and soul?" However, G‑d's response to us is to do whatever we can for the other Jew, and G‑d will reveal their potential.

As we approach the Holiday of Shavuot, when we received the Torah at Sinai, we count even more. There, at Sinai, our spiritual potential-our power of reason and discernment as well as our Levi component-were actualized. As we traveled away from Sinai, we may have forgotten how much we count. The farther we traveled, the more Jewish leaders were baffled: "How can we possibly reach these alienated souls? How can we enter their "tents" to find the innocent infant character of their souls when their tents have been inundated with un-holy influences?”

The Lubavitcher Rebbe has given us the answer: We are now standing on the threshold of the Messianic Redemption. And as we get closer and closer to the final destination in our historical journey, the Age of Redemption, G‑d has given us a clear message: "You do whatever you can do to liberate that soul and I will do the rest." Indeed, we have seen how in the last few decades countless Jews have discovered their Jewish soul. This movement should inspire all of us to make our final move from the state of exile to the state of Redemption.

Moshiach Matters

(Continued from last week) According to some sources in the Zohar, the official beginning of the ingathering may have been the year 5750 from creation, or 1990 CE. This corresponds to the demise of the Soviet Union and its stranglehold on millions of Jews. This also corresponds to the last quarter of the sixth millennium, which — corresponding to the six days of creation — equals the afternoon just prior to Shabbat, when preparations greatly accelerate life's pace. Indeed, the world seems to have quickened over the last decade with the advent of cyberspace, and major shifts in world thinking have since occurred. (aish.com)

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