Vol 18.03 - Bamidbar - Beit Sivan Spanish French Audio Video
The portion of Bamidbar isalways read before the festival of Shavuos.1 The reason for this is that the matters discussed in it directly relate to the preparations2 one should make before receiving the Torah on Shavuos.
The general content of Bamidbar is the census that was taken of the Jewish people during the second year of their sojourn in the desert. So important was this event that the whole fourth book of the Torah is known as the “Book of Counting.”3
Specifically, the portion relates three manners of counting the Jewish people. Initially all Jews were counted, with the exception of the tribe of Levi.4 Afterward, the tribe of Levi was counted separately.5 All Levites who had reached the age of one month were included in this count.6
The portion concludes with the counting of the Levite family of Kehos. They were counted from the age of thirty years, at which age they became fit to carry the furnishings of the Tabernacle’s Holy of Holies.7
As part of the people’s preparation for receiving the Torah, Moshe related to them G‑d’s words: that upon receiving the Torah they were to become His “beloved treasure from among all the nations, for all the earth is Mine; a kingdom of rulers, and a holy nation.”8
Firstly, says the verse, the Jewish people were chosen by G‑d to become a “beloved treasure,” separated from all the other nations.9 Thereafter, the verse implies, they were to reach an even higher level, that of “rulers” — they were to rule over their surroundings. The verse then concludes with the additional merit of being “a holy nation” — they would achieve so exalted a state of spirituality that they would be entirely removed from the mundane, becoming a “holy nation” unto G‑d.
Thus, three successive stages of elevation are mentioned in the Torah. These three stages are remarkably similar to the underlying themes and reasons for the three systems by which the Jewish people were counted.
The Shelah states10 that this counting enabled them to become “an entity that is worthy of numeration and cannot become nullified.”11 Were the Jews not to have been counted, we would not have recognized their importance. Spiritually, this relates to that level at which, superficially, they seem to be no different from other nations. By counting them, G‑d’s special love for them — even as they exist in this unexalted state — is revealed.
This general count reflects G‑d’s promise regarding the first state that the Jewish people would achieve through receiving the Torah: “You will be My beloved treasure from among all the nations.”Although other nations exist alongside the Jewish people, still G‑d chooses the Jewish people; notwithstanding the outward similarities, they do not become nullified among other nations.
The second count, that of the Levites, was intended not only to make them “an entity worthy of numeration” and hence “not subject to nullification,” but also for the purpose of “ruling”12 over Israel. This is similar to the second stage of elevation that the Jews achieved by receiving the Torah, that of being “a kingdom of rulers.”
Counting the family members of Kehos for the purpose of carrying the fixtures of the Holy of Holies is similar to the third objective accomplished by the Giving of the Torah— totally removing the Jewish people from the mundane and transforming them into “a holy nation.”
Each year before the festival of Shavuos, when “these days are remembered,”13 Jews prepare themselves spiritually to receive the Torah anew14 and to attain the three accompanying levels mentioned above. This is actualized during Shavuos, when Jews receive the Torah afresh, meriting to become “a beloved treasure from among all the nations...; a kingdom of rulers, and a holy nation.”
It is known that: “We always read Parshat Bamidbar-Sinai before Shavuot (Atzeret)”. And since every Parsha has a connection to the time which it is read, it is understood that the connection between Parshat Bamidbar to Shavuot is mainly in the aspect of the preparation before Shavuot-to Matan Torah (in contrast to Parshat Naso which generally is read after Atzeret, but sometimes is read before Shavuot. Naso has more of a connection to Shavuot and to the aspect of Matan Torah itself.)
The aforementioned is more emphasized in the calendar set-up of this year when Shabbat Parshat Bamidbar comes out on the second day of Sivan (Beit Sivan) which is the day that: “Moshe Rabbeinu said that they should sanctify themselves to receive the Torah.” or in the language of the Alter Rebbe:
And since every year on Shavuot in the time of Matan Torash, G-d gives the Torah anew (fun das naye) and also in a higher manner compared to the previous year- is understood that before the receiving of the Torah on Chag haShavuot of this (and every) year, the preparations which were at the receiving of the Torah at the first time, are fitting (now).
And this is stressed also by the Halacha that, because of this reason, “we are accustomed . .not to fast and not to say Tachanun from Rosh Chodesh Sivan.”
2) To understand the connection of Parshat Bamidbar to the (beginning) for the preparation of Matan Torah (on Beit Sivan), one must preface the explanation in the aforementioned Halacha – in the words of the Alter Rebbe (where he writes):
“We are accustomed in these countries not to fast and not to say tachanun from Rosh Chodesh until the 8th day of Sivan inclusively etc. because immediately after Rosh Chodesh, Moshe began to deal with the Jewish people regarding the receiving of the Torah.
· On Monday it was Rosh Chodesh
· On Tuesday he said to them that you should be a nation of kohanim etc.
· On Wednesday he said to them the Mitzvah of Boundary (hagbalah) that they should be careful not to ascend the mountain etc.
· On Thursday he said to them the Mitzvah of Separation (Prisha) that they should separate from their wives today and tomorrow and they should be prepared for the third day which was Shabbat on which the Torah was given”.
Seemingly this is not understood:
1) Why do they (including the Alter Rebbe) cite that the proof that: “Moshe began to deal with them regarding the receiving of the Torah” comes from the verse: “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests etc (19:6)," when on Tuesday, Beit Sivan, there were already many verses that served as a preparation to Matan Torah , beginning with previous verse: “"So shall you say to the house of Jacob etc You have seen etc. ( 19:3-4)” ?
Even if one would say that the Alter Rebbe wanted to bring a proof from G-d’s words regarding the present and future, and not the past (tense) (such as: “You have seen”) – (nevertheless) we also find this (i.e. an verse in the future tense) in a previous verse (i.e. before the cited verse: “And you shall be” 19:6), namely the verse: “you shall be to Me a treasure out of all peoples, for Mine is the entire earth” (19:5)
2) Even more so: in the simple understanding (pshat) of the verse: “(And you shall be to Me) a kingdom of kohanim", we find two explanations:
1. The Ramban translates it as: “And you shall be a kingdom of My servants etc. to cleave unto the Holy G-d”
(This is similar to the Mechilta which states: “All of Yisroel were fitting to eat consecrated food” and even as the Baal HaTurim states - (that they are) “high priests (Kohanim Gedolim)”
2. Rashi translates: “Rulers (sarim)
Thus (seemingly) it is well and good according to the first translation, that “a kingdom of kohanim” means that they will be actual kohanin, servants of G-d. For it is understood that this is connected with the receiving and occupying of Torah – to be dedicated to be a servant of G-d through Torah and Mitzvot
But according to the translation of Rashi (and others), that it means “ Rulers “ – what connection does this have to the receiving and occupying of Torah?
3) After (the words) “a kingdom of kohanim“ the verse continues: “and a holy nation”.
The Alter Rebbe (however)
1. Does not cite these words (“a holy nation”)
2. Yet he does allude to them with the phrase: ” v’Gomer” (etcetera)
.3. One could say the explanation to all of this is , by prefacing:
Seemingly it is not understood, Why does Rashi not learn the explanation of the word Kohanim literally? And particularly since Rashi himself states in a previous Parsha “Every instance of kohen means a minister to deities (except those that are an expression of high rank, like“the governor of Midian” etc.) ?
(and as it is also apparent from his explanation here itself - that his explanation is an innovation, Because he has to rely on a proof, that it means (not servants but rather) Rulers, (by stating:) “as it is said: “and David’s sons were chief officers”
The answer is that it would not then be understood what the verse is trying to accomplish when it continues and adds “a holy nation” -
A kohen who serves G-d is one who embodies holiness. (separation). As it states: “And Aharon separated to sanctify etc. himself and his sons”.
From that which the verse adds “a holy nation” is understood that “kingdom of kohanim” here does not mean the aspect of holiness (separation) to G-d.
Therefore Rashi learns that the translation of “a kingdom of kohanim” here is (not like the normal translation of kohen but rather) - Rulers .
And according to this the order of the three qualities in the verses are one above the other.
· “You shall be to Me a treasure out of all peoples” is that the Yidden are a “dear treasure” separated from other nations.
· Afterwards he adds that not only are they a “treasure out of all peoples” but they are “ Rulers “ which means ministering and conducting the country with the surroundings.
· And afterward is the addition “a holy nation” (meaning) that the Jewish people are completely separate and elevated from the mundane, from the complete surrounding, from all aspects of the world, a “holy nation” to G-d like Kohanim (priests) in the literal sense.
4) These three aspects in pnimuyut and in Avodat HaAdam is:
“You shall be to Me a treasure out of all peoples” means that from the very onset, there was the aspect of Choice (bechirah) in which G-d chose the Jewish people at the time of Matan Torah.
The true aspect of choice comes completely from the one choosing. (In other words) it is not dependant (or connected) upon a quality or advantage of the one chosen. That which G-d chose the Jewish people is connected to such a level where darkness is equivalent to light, (and specifically regarding the receiving of effluence).
And even more sublime (higher) - the difference between the Jewish people and the nations of the world is not the primary reason of the choice of Bnei Yisroel. As Rashi states: “do not say that you alone are Mine, and that I have no others besides you” . It is only this is because of G-d’s choice that the nations of the world are “in My eyes and before Me as naught” so that “My love for you should be made evident”
Afterwards comes the aspect of servitude (Avdus) of the Jewish people.
In general this divided into two ways:
1) The Avodah in permissible things where one does these things for G-d’s sake. Or more so, in an aspect of “in all your ways you should know Him”
2) The Avodah of learning Torah and keeping Mitzvot.
And this is the difference between the quality of:
· “kohanim” that refers to the “servants of G-d” as it is translated in every place (or as the verse says here “a holy nation”)
· and the advantage of ‘kingdom of kohanim’ – (referring to) rulers.
The Avodah in holy aspects (learning Torah and keeping Mitzvos) is in a manner that one is divested of the mundaneness of the world. And this is similar in the Avodah of Kohanim - “to stand before G-d and serve Him” - they are separated from the aspects of the world and only “G-d is their portion” -their whole essence and aspect is “to stand before G-d to serve Him”. Which, because of this, Yidden are called “a holy nation“. They are: “a kingdom of My servants etc. to cleave unto the Holy G-d” through Torah and Mitzvot
And from the perspective of the Avodah in permissible things,
of: “All your deeds should be for the sake of Heaven” and “In all your paths you should know Him”
since they are “your deeds” and “your paths” I.e. they are permissible things that are done for the sake of Heaven etc, - they are “kohanim – Rulers “, which depict the rulership and conducting of Yidden with things of the world ( and consequently have a relation to them)
This Avodah’s aspect does not entail withdrawal from the world, but rather dealing with aspects of the world and utilizing the permissible things for the “sake of Heaven”. So much so that G-dliness is discerned in the things themselves – “know Him”. There is within them a refinement and polishing, so much so that they become an object of holiness etc. – receptacles to G-dliness.
5. This is in general. However even in the particular, in the Avodah of keeping Torah and Mitzvot, there are two modes and ways:
1. One learns Torah and fulfills Mitzvot in order to cleave to G-d. For it is impossible to truly cleave to G-d except by keeping the two hundred and forty eight Mitzvot (pekudim) which are the 248 limbs of the King, as it were. This means that his Torah study and observance of Mitzvot is in order to be “A servant of G-d” – i.e to become holy and separate from the world – a “a holy nation“
2. The Torah study and observance of Mitzvot is in order have an effect on one’s body and animal soul (nefesh haBahamit) and one’s portion in the world – to make the world a dwelling place for G-d in this world (tachtonim)
6. According to this one could say according to (the homiletic style of) (yayina shel Torah) of Rashi’s commentary
(where he comments) that “kohanim” refers tp “ Rulers “ amd not leterally as in all other places ( servants of G-d)
The Talmud states in the section of ( the subject of ) Matan Torah:
“When Moses ascended on high, the ministering angels said before the Holy One, blessed be He, 'Sovereign of the Universe! What business has one born of woman amongst us?' 'He has come to receive the Torah,' He answered them. Said they to Him, 'That secret treasure, which has been hidden by You etc You wish to give to flesh and blood! What is man, that You are mindful of him etc. “Set thy glory (the Torah) upon the Heavens!' 'Return them an answer,' said the Holy One, blessed be He, to Moses. 'Sovereign of the Universe! The Torah which You are giving me, what is written therein? I am the L-rd thy G-d, which brought you out of the Land of Egypt. Said he to them (the angels), 'Did you go down to Egypt; were you enslaved to Pharaoh: why then should the Torah be yours? Again, What is written therein? You shalt have none other gods: do you dwell among peoples that engage in idol worship? ” Moshe continued to answer the angels concerning the other of the Ten Commandments: “Do you then perform work, that you need to rest? . . Is there any business dealings among you? . . Do you have fathers and mothers? . .Is there jealousy among you; is the Evil Tempter among you? Straightway they conceded to the Holy One, blessed be He”
From this is understood that the intent from giving the Torah and Mitzvot is not (just) that Yidden should be separate from the aspects of the world (e.g. work, business etc,) - for the angels have that aspect, and they have it with more completeness than a Yid could have in this world. But (mainly) (the intent is) that by being in this world and by interacting with the nations of the world,
So much so, that there is a Yetzer Hara as Moshe retorted: ”Do you have a Yetzer Hara” )
Yidden become “ Rulers “. Namely that a Yid should be a minister and ruler over his Yetzer Hara and character, and so too, also over the world around him. He is a ruler and conducts the world so that it should be refined and permeated with G-dliness (for this is the Avodah of “in all your paths you should know Him” as mentioned above)
In general this is the innovation of Matan Torah and the advantage of Torah study and observance of Mitzvot after Matan Torah compared to the Torah study and observance of Mitzvot of the Patriarchs (For the Patriarchs fulfilled all the Mitzvot even before they were given)
The Torah and Mitzvot that the Patriarchs fulfilled was not in order to effect a refinement and elevation of the physicality of the world. Rather – in order to be united with G-dliness. As the Sages state: “The Patriarchs were the chariot” as it is explained in Tanya: “All of their limbs were holy and separated from the aspects of this world and they made themselves a vehicle only for the Supernal Will, all of their days”
That is also why the primary occupation (seder) of their lives – was sheparding flocks, separated from the world.
7. And therefore Rashi learns that, in G-d’s speech regarding the Avodah of Yidden in conjunction with Matan Torah, that firstly one must have the level of rulers and only afterwards can one (also) attain the condition and level of “a holy nation”
With the above, is also understood the Alter Rebbe’s wording in Shulchan Aruch, where when writing:
“immediately after Rosh Chodesh, Moshe began to deal with the Jewish people regarding the receiving of the Torah” - he cites the verse: “On Tuesday he said to them that you should be a nation of kohanim etc. ,“ and the words: “a holy nation” and (just) hints, with the word: “vGomer” (etcetera) –
to emphasize as aforementioned, that: “you should be a nation of kohanim” is a different type and level in Avodah.
(and “a holy nation” is a second level yet a continuation and completion of the prior (level))
and that this is the main intent of receiving the Torah.
Therefore, the beginning of “dealing”
(“Moshe began to deal with the Jewish people regarding the receiving of the Torah”)
was in that which He said to them “you should be a nation of kohanim”. For the main intent of receiving the Torah is in the Avodah of: “you should be a nation of kohanim”. And the level: “a holy nation” is: “vGomer” (etcetera) – For one attains this afterwards and it is the completion of “a kingdom of kohanim”
8. Accordingly one could explain the connection from Beit Sivan to Parshat Bamidbar:
The topic of the Parsha is counting the Bnei Yisroel, so much so, that the entire book is called “Chumash Pekudim (Numbers)”
In particular, the Parsha speaks about three different countings:
One could say that the three particular countings are similar to the three aforementioned aspects:
9. The explanation is:
It states in Shaloh that by counting the Yidden they became a “davar shebminyan” (“A thing that is counted”) and a davar shebminyan is not nullified. (Note: meaning that it is always distinguishable) That which a davar shebminyan is not nullified, is not in the same way that other valued (chashuv) things are not nullified such as a living creature etc. For in those items, the value of the object is, in itself, apparent. One can openly discern that it is different from other things.
However a “davar shebminyan” that is not nullified, is because – through counting the object, one shows that it has value, and therefore is not nullified. However, the value (chashivus) is not apparent and recognizable in the individual object.
The concept in Spirituality is:
Counting (minyan) depicts a level of Yidden in which, externally, they are, seemingly, not distinguishable from other nations. That which they are not nullified is because G-d counts them (and through this) one knows that they are dear etc.
Therefore the concept of counting is similar to: “you shall be to Me a treasure out of all peoples, for Mine is the entire earth”. Yet although: “Mine is the entire earth”, there are “others besides you”, nevertheless Yidden are distinguished because G-d chose them, and they are not nullified to the other nations. This is revealed through counting, For though this their “dearness is made evident”, as Rashi states in the beginning of our Parsha: “Because they were dear to Him, He counted them often”. Or as Rashi explains in the beginning of Parshat Shmot: “to show their dearness”
10. In continuation of this, the verse states: “Only the tribe of Levi you shall not number, and you shall not reckon their sum among the children of Israel”. Because the enumeration of the Levites is not because they are distinguished and do not become nullified. But rather because: “And you shall count (hafkeid) the Levites” – the word (hafkeid) meaning an appointment of rulership (serara). This is a counting (nesias rosh) in a category of itself, a special type.
That which the tribe of Levi was counted: “from the age of one month and upward.” Is because through them “he is counted among those called, ‘keepers of the holy charge’” – similar to the advantage of “a kingdom of kohanim” – Rulers , in addition to that which they are not nullified (“you shall be to Me a treasure”)
And afterwards comes the counting of the families of the children of Levi: Kehot, Gershon and Merari from the age of thirty until the age of fifty, - all who “enter the service, to do work in the Tent of Meeting.” Our Parsha contains the counting of the Bnei Kehot, which is connected with the: “service of the sons of Kehot in the Tent of Meeting-the Holy of Holies.”
That enumeration is not because of the general mission of the Levites, the ministering of “keepers of the holy charge”, but rather the: “work in the Tent of Meeting.”. And this is with the sons of Kehot, since the sons of Kehot were distinguished to carry the Holy utensils – “The holiest of all”
This, in general, is similar to the quality of the Avodah of “a holy nation”, as aforementioned. But, in addition to this – in our Parsha – the counting of the sons of Kehot is because of their holy service - the carrying of the Ark etc. – the holiest of them all. And one could say that this is also connected to that which the kohanim themselves are from the sons of Kehot and “Aharon the kohen came descended from him who is holy of holies”
11. According to what was previously mentioned, that the main preparation to Matan Torah is “a kingdom of kohanim” – rulers - , so too one sees that, in the aforementioned aspect, the special innovation of Parshat Bamidbar is in the counting of the Levites.
The general counting of Bnei Yisroel is not an aspect which was first innovated and carried out in our Parsha. This already occurred previously – as Rashi immediately states that: “When they left Egypt, He counted them” (for: “Because they were dear to Him, He counted them often”) and our Parsha is already the third counting of Bnei Yisroel.
Even the innovation of counting the “Bnei Kehot” is not especially connected to Parshat Bamidbar. For even though the sons of Kehot were distinguished in their service, the manner of their counting (from the age of thirty and upwards) was the same as with all sons of Levi. And even the manner of the Avodah of the sons of Kehot (the Avodah of carrying) is also with the sons of Gershon. So much so that the “counting of the sons of Kehot” (at the end of our Parsha) is the beginning of the continuation of the subject (in the next Parsha) – “Take a census of the sons of Gershon, of them too”
The innovation and special aspect of Parshat Bamidbar is the counting and appointing of the entire tribe of Levi. That which G-d appointed the Levites that they should be “instead of firstborn of Bnei Yisroel”, substituting every firstborn – the first and leader of all the siblings, who takes a double portion in inheritance etc.
(which in all this, is actually the service to G-d from “the firstborn of Bnei Yisroel”)
For, as aforementioned, the primary (objective) and intent of Matan Torah is “a kingdom of kohanim” – rulers . To rule over the aspects of the world and conduct with them, effecting that they should be an abode for G-d, Blessed be He.
And in every year, when “These days are mentioned and observed” ("ve'ha'Yamim ha'Eileh Nizkarim ve'Na'asim" ), and every Yid does in his Avodah the preparation of “a kingdom of kohanim” – rulers , the aspect of “a kingdom of kohanim” is accomplished literally. So much so that it is actual reality – in the Third Beit HaMikdash.
Yidden are rulers over all aspects of the world. So much so that: “you rule over the Supernal ministers” (as the Maggid translates “a kingdom of kohanim” )
One merits the status of: “And kings shall be thy foster-fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers” even while they are in Galut. And we prepare to receive the Torah with happiness and Pnimiyut, And through this, to very soon learn the Torah of Moshiach . For then it will be: “that G-d will be the King over all the land etc” and “Sovereignty will be to G-d”
M’Sichas Shabbat Parshat Bamidbar , Beit Sivan 5726
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