Torah Weekly

For the week ending 4 June 2005 / 26 Iyyar 5765

Parshat Bamidbar

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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The Book of Bamidbar "In the desert" begins with G-d commanding Moshe to take a census of all men over age twenty old enough for service. The count reveals just over 600,000. The levi'im are counted separately later because their service will be unique. They will be responsible for transporting the Mishkan and its furnishings and assembling them when the nation encamps. The 12 Tribes of Israel, each with its banner, are arranged around the Mishkan in four sections: east, south, west and north. Since Levi is singled out, the tribe of Yosef is split into two tribes, Efraim and Menashe, so there will be four groups of three. When the nation travels, they march in a formation similar to the way they camp. A formal transfer is made between the firstborn and the levi'im, whereby the levi'im take over the role the firstborn would have had serving in the Mishkan if not for the sin of the golden calf. The transfer is made using all the 22,000 surveyed levi'im from one month old and up. Only levi'im between 30 and 50 will work in the Mishkan. The remaining firstborn sons are redeemed with silver, similar to the way we redeem our firstborn today. The sons of Levi are divided in three main families, Gershon, Kehat and Merari (besides the kohanim the special division from Kehat's family). The family of Kehat carried the menorah, the table, the altar and the holy ark. Because of their utmost sanctity, the ark and the altar are covered only by Aharon and his sons, before the levi'im prepare them for travel.


A Legend In Our Own Lunchtime

"In the desert" (1:1)

Its easy to get upset. You smile at someone on the way to work, wish him "Good Morning!" and he looks through you as though you didnt exist. Youre waiting in line at the Post Office, and three other people barge in front of you claiming that the person in front of you was "saving" their place. You get back to the car and find that someone has neatly boxed you in so that you have to wait for 15 minutes before he comes back to the car.

Life can be so full of really annoying things. Sometimes theyre even more than annoying. Sometimes you can really let rip and let the other person know exactly what you think of him. How do you combat the feeling of annoyance and even anger that so much of our everyday life can engender?

The basis of all anger is conceit.

What makes me think that things are supposed to go the way I want them to? Where is it written that I am supposed to be constantly fulfilled emotionally, financially, aesthetically and vocationally? We live in a society that constantly teaches us that our own self-fulfillment is the yardstick of success in life.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The yardstick of success in life is how little these things annoy us. And the only person whom these things dont annoy is someone who is humble. A humble person doesnt expect. He accepts everything that comes his way because he has no pre-judged conditions for his happiness. His happiness doesnt depend on other people's recognizing him or his talents. He is satisfied with his lot. A humble person is always ready to listen to constructive criticism and thereby constantly improve himself. A humble person makes friends easily. A self-admiring person finds it difficult to align himself with anybody that he doesnt see as adding to the luster of his prestige. A humble person is difficult to insult because he doesnt see himself as someone to whom people need to give honor. A conceited person is always on the brink of being insulted because he sees himself as so great.

"In the desert" Why did G-d give us the Torah in the desert? Because just as the desert is free for all to step on, so too a Jew must be humble.

To be learned in Torah, one must seek great Torah scholars and be prepared to follow their direction. A conceited person finds is difficult to believe that anyone knows better than him.

Someone who is convinced of how great he is will give scant attention to mitzvot that he considers to be insignificant, nor will he exert himself to fulfill the detailed requirements of those mitzvot that he condescends to do.

Nothing pleases G-d more than someone who is humble. The reason that Moshe was selected to receive the Torah was because he was the humblest of men. In fact, no one will ever reach that level of humility. If he would, then he would be able to receive the Torah in its totality, like Moshe.

Avraham was extremely humble. He said "I am dust and ash." But Moshe went even further "What are we?" In Hebrew, this phrase is literally, "We what?" Our very existence never rises above the interrogative. We are never more than a question. Not the answer, and certainly not the answer to everything.

Yes, its so easy to be a legend in ones own lunchtime.


  • Rashi on Nedarim 55a, Ruach Chaim

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