Torah Weekly

For the week ending 19 May 2007 / 2 Sivan 5767

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 first-born and the levi'im, whereby the levi'im take over the role the first-born 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 first-born sons are redeemed with silver, similar to the way we redeem our first-born 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.


The Hand of G-d

“The Levi’im shall encamp around the Tabernacle of the Testimony so that there shall be no wrath upon the Children of Yisrael.” (1:53)

The computer and the Jumbo jet have made us impatient people.

A little more than a hundred years ago, man’s principal activity was finding and preparing food and cleaning his clothes. Technology has marginalized these activities and freed up acres of time. We should all be leading leisured lives, shouldn’t we?

It seems that the more time we have, the more rushed we feel.

One of the most striking things about meeting a great Torah sage is that he always seems to have time for you. He makes you feel that the only thing on his mind is your particular peckel (pack of woes). He may have hundreds of people’s problems to deal with, and yet he always makes you feel that, at that particular moment, nothing is more important than you.

One of the things that makes a person great is the willingness to sacrifice, whether that means his comfort, his money — or his time.

In the secular world they say that time is money; Judaism says that money is time. In the end, the only thing you have to spend is time; a selfless person is prepared to spend that priceless resource on others without impatience or resentment. Someone who feels or claims that he has no time for himself and resents his public responsibilities is, in essence, denying hashgacha, Divine Providence, for if G-d has put me in the position in which I find myself, it must mean that this is where I am supposed to be.

The book of Bamidbar is a Divine tale of Providence. Except for specific mitzvot, the events of Bamidbar depict G-d’s constant and intimate involvement with His People.

“The Levi’im shall encamp around the Tabernacle on the Testimony so that there shall be no wrath upon the Children of Yisrael.”

Why does the encamping of the Levi’im prevent G-d’s anger? Rashi explains that G-d’s anger will flare only if the Levi’im do not perform their appointed tasks and leave their service to non-Levi’im.

Even the appointment of a foreman to his job is decreed from on High. If G-d has chosen me for the task I find at hand, I have no right to demur or neglect my employment.

The Shechina, Divine Providence, manifests itself in two ways: in the heart and in the world. To the extent that I recognize G-d in my heart — that I believe in Him without reservation — then I will see that trust manifested externally in the daily events of my life as Divine Providence.

I will see the Hand of G-d.

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