Blog Bamidbar Sivan 5 5779 בלוג בְּמִדְבַּר, ה’ סיון תשע”ט
This parashah, Bamidbar, begins the Fourth Book of the Torah and presents us with three ideas: Order, Counting and Roles. God is a God of order. The LORD placed the twelve tribes in a very clear order. Jacob’s children were divided up according to his four wives. Leah, his first wife, had four sons, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. Rachel got upset and brought Jacob her maid Bilhah who had Dan and Naftali. Next Leah brought him Zilpah her maid, who had Gad and Asher. Then Leah had three more sons, Issachar, Zevulun, and Dinah. Finally, Rachel’s womb was opened, and she had Joseph and Benjamin. Joseph was given a double portion through Manasseh and Ephraim. This brought the count to 13 tribes. Judah, Issachar, and Zevulun were placed on the East side; Reuben, Gad, and Simeon were at the South; Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin were placed on the West; Dan, Asher, and Naphtali were in the North. The Levites would not inherit any of the Promised Land that would be distributed among the twelve tribes. The twelves tribes would have to provide for the Levites.
The Levites were then divided into four groups, Gershon, Kohat with his offspring Aaron who became the Cohanim or Priests, and Merari. They were placed in the inner circle of the camp. Each one had a specific role and function. The Creator gives each of us our calling and when we are in the right place, we and those around us are at peace. When we are in the wrong position, our lives are miserable as well as the others. When I do couple’s counseling, I let them know that when they are in sync walking together in the same direction, they are fruitful as a couple but when they go contrary to each other’s direction, they destroy themselves. This is no longer taught today but it is the cause of chaos in most marriages. The Bore Olam created order with everyone having a function.
Moses “counted” the heads of the 12 tribes of Israel (not including the Levites) starting at the age of 20 to form the first Israeli Army. Men at that early age usually think that they are invincible, which gives them great courage. When they were called to be a soldier in Israel, each man would learn to be responsible not only for the welfare of their fellow soldiers but for the entire community. They were very logical in their methods of rejecting those soldiers who were cowardly or who had good reason to stay at home. They didn’t want the morale of the fighting men to be compromised in any way.
Now let us examine roles. Each of us is unique, having been made in a marvelous way. His Ruach, His Spirit has been placed within the soul of every human being, regardless of race, religion or place of birth. No one is better than the other. Each one of us has been given a special role. For example, the Torah teaches us that we have been created male and female, but the modern viewpoint teaches that we are not allowed to recognize the differences. The greatest role of the woman is to be a mother yet today that has become an insult. This is the opposite of God’s order.
Why were the Leviim the only ones allowed to carry out the various functions in the Sanctuary and later the Temple? Were the others not as capable? Later we will read about Korach from the tribe of Kohat, complaining that Aaron was chosen to be High Priest instead of him, after all, wasn’t he older? The Ten Commandments tell us not to be envious of what others have. If you want to compare with anyone, compare with yourself.
How can we apply all this today? There is always a reason for His order even if we don’t fully know it. One day we will completely understand His Chukkim which are ordinances which have no clear reason, such as the 4th and 5th commandments; the Shabbat can make sense when we consider we need to rest at least one day a week; honoring our father and mother who represent ultimate authority as well as being our nurturers and protectors.
The Creator gave us special roles and functions. It is important to seek out our roles, to find what motivates or excites us and then to have the courage to step in and do it. It is always best to live our passion. In that way, we can be counted on by the rest of the community because we are excited to do what He has called us to do. This, in turn, brings order into our lives, not confusion. We are each important and precious in His Sight. Let’s do our best to search deep within to find out exactly where He wants us and let’s do it, then everyone will benefit.
At the end of this Shabbat, we are going to celebrate the Festival of Shavuot which according to our sages, is when we received the Ten Commandments. One day, when we would be in the Promised Land, we would dedicate the first fruits of our produce to the Creator on Shavuot. It is customary at this Festival to eat milk and honey to represent the Land of Milk and Honey. Our sages tell us that the entire Torah is contained within the Ten Commandments and it is like a sweet dessert for us. The Torah is a Book of principles that we need to learn to apply in order to have a sweet life.