• Dvar for Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20)

    Parshat Bamidbar, among many other things, subtly contrasts the effects of a good neighbor vs a bad one. In describing the camp arrangements, the Kehat family (Korach and his gang) camped “southward” (3:29), as did Reuven (2:10), to which Rash comments that “woe to an evil person, woe to his neighbors.” Similarly, Yehuda, YIssachar and Zevulun got to live next door to Moshe and Aaron (3:39) and benefited, to which Rashi points out that “happy is a righteous person, happy is his neighbor.” As Elisha Greenbaum points out (Chabad.org), however, there is a difference between the two…

    With Moses and Aaron living nearby, three entire tribes benefited and their positive influence lasted throughout history. Contrast this with the pernicious effect of living next to Korach; only a tiny fraction of the one tribe living closest was negatively influenced. Even when the negative influence is right next door, you have the ability to resist their blandishments by connecting to G‑d and his Torah. You’ll also notice that both of Rashi’s comments focus on the person, and our effect on our neighbors. We have the power to affect our neighbors positively or negatively, so long as we resist the negative influences around us, and choose to be propelled by the positive ones.

  • Dvar for Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20)

    Parshat Bamidbar begins with the third official count of the Jewish nation. The term used in the Torah is that we should “count the heads” (1:2) of all the households, but the Hebrew word “Se-u” could also mean “lift” the heads. Why would the Torah use such ambiguous language? Also, why were they to be counted according to their households, which had never been done in the past? Rashi informs us that prior to the census each Jew was required to produce a book of their lineage. The Midrash adds that producing this book was also required to be able to receive the Torah. Why is receiving the Torah dependent upon having this book of lineage?

    Rabbi Zweig explains that surpassing the expectations that have been defined by one’s social upbringing is what gives a person a sense of accomplishment. If a person is able to identify their lineage, they might learn that their ancestors were people who took responsibility for themselves and had honorable standards. For the rest of the world, the very act of taking responsibility is in itself an elevating sense of accomplishment. However, behaving responsibly is not considered an accomplishment for G-d’s chosen nation. Jews are expected to behave differently than animals, to act responsibly, for our forefathers have set a standard that makes anything less unacceptable. This explains why households were important enough to be counted. The Ramban (Nachmanides) enforces the lesson of our Parsha by explaining the use of the Torah’s language: The alternative meaning of “lifting” of the heads can also be a positive, but only if the body and its actions are lifted with it. Our heads and minds can lift us to greatness, so long as we have our actions to take us there.

  • Dvar for Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20)

    Parshat Bamidbar begins with the third official count of the Jewish nation. The term used in the Torah is that we should “count the heads” (1:2) of all the households, but the Hebrew word “Se-u” could also mean “lift” the heads. Why would the Torah use such ambiguous language? Also, why were they to be counted according to their households, which had never been done in the past? Rashi informs us that prior to the census each Jew was required to produce a book of their lineage. The Midrash adds that producing this book was also required to be able to receive the Torah. Why is receiving the Torah dependent upon having this book of lineage?

    Rabbi Zweig explains that surpassing the expectations that have been defined by one’s social upbringing is what gives a person a sense of accomplishment. If a person is able to identify their lineage, they might learn that their ancestors were people who took responsibility for themselves and had honorable standards. For the rest of the world, the very act of taking responsibility is in itself an elevating sense of accomplishment. However, behaving responsibly is not considered an accomplishment for G-d’s chosen nation. Jews are expected to behave differently than animals, to act responsibly, for our forefathers have set a standard that makes anything less unacceptable. This explains why households were important enough to be counted. The Ramban (Nachmanides) enforces the lesson of our Parsha by explaining the use of the Torah’s language: The alternative meaning of “lifting” of the heads can also be a positive, but only if the body and its actions are lifted with it. Our heads and minds can lift us to greatness, so long as we have our actions to take us there.

  • Dvar for Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20)

    Parshat Bamidbar begins with the third official count of the Jewish nation. The term used in the Torah is that we should “count the heads” (1:2) of all the households, but the Hebrew word “Se-u” could also mean, “lift the heads”. Why would the Torah use such ambiguous language? Also, why were they to be counted according to their households, which had never been done in the past? Rashi informs us that prior to the census each Jew was required to produce a book of their lineage. The Midrash adds that producing this book was also required to be able to receive the Torah. Why is receiving the Torah dependent upon having this book of lineage?

    Rabbi Zweig explains that surpassing the expectations that have been defined by one’s social upbringing is what gives a person a sense of accomplishment. If a person is able to identify their lineage, they might learn that their ancestors were people who took responsibility for themselves and had honorable standards. For the rest of the world, the very act of taking responsibility is in itself an elevating sense of accomplishment. However, behaving responsibly is not considered an accomplishment for G-d’s chosen nation. Jews are EXPECTED to behave differently than animals, to act responsibly, for our forefathers have set a standard that makes anything less unacceptable. This explains why households were important enough to be counted. The Ramban (Nachmanides) enforces the lesson of our Parsha by explaining the use of the Torah’s language: The alternative meaning of “lifting” of the heads can also be a positive, but only if the body and its actions are lifted with it. Our heads and minds can lift us to greatness, so long as we have our actions to take us there.

  • Daily Aliya for Bamidbar, Shvii (7th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Moshe is commanded to take a census of the Levites of the family of Kehot, but only those eligible to transport the Tabernacle and its vessels — those between the ages of thirty and fifty. The results of this census are given in next week’s reading. This section then describes the duties of the Kehot family. When the Tabernacle was to be dismantled, the priests would cover all the holy vessels with specially designated sacks. The Kehot family would then take the covered vessels and carry them to their destination.

    The Torah warns the kohanim not to endanger the people of K’hat by not properly preparing for their handling of the most sacred vessels. This parsha of four p’sukim is reread for the Maftir.

  • Daily Aliya for Bamidbar, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: G‑d then tells Moshe to count all the firstborn Israelites — because the holiness of each Israelite firstborn was now to be “transferred” to a Levite. The census revealed that there were 273 more firstborn than Levites. Each of these “extra” firstborns (as determined by a lottery) gave five shekel to the priests, and was thus “redeemed.”

    A mass “redemption of the firstborns” is conducted by an exchange of 22,000 Leviyim (non- b’chorim) for 22,000 b’chorim (non- Leviyim) and a payment of five silver sheqels each for the remaining 273 firstborns to Aharon and his sons.

    Imagine gathering 22,273 people and asking each to choose a card from a batch of 22,273 cards, 22,000 of which have the words BEN LEVI on them and 273 have the words 5 shekel on them. This, says Rashi, is how they determined who would pay the 5 shekels for the exchange.

     

  • Daily Aliya for Bamidbar, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Moshe is now commanded to separately count all Levite males from the age of one month and older. The three Levite families are counted, and a leader is appointed for each of the families. The total of all (non-firstborn) Levites eligible for this census: 22,000. The family of Gershon camped due west of the Tabernacle, and was put in charge of transporting the tapestries and curtains of the Tabernacle and their accessories. The Kehot family camped directly south of the Tabernacle, and was in charge of transporting all the holy vessels. The Merari family camped to the north of the Tabernacle, and they were in charge of carrying the Tabernacle beams, panels, and sockets. Moshe, Aaron, and their immediate families camped to the east of the Tabernacle.

    Choose your neighbors well. Rashi points out that the proximity of the Yehuda camp to the encampment of Moshe and Aharon and family, had a positive influence on the three tribes of Yehuda, Yissachar, and Zevulun – the three tribes famed for their Torah scholarship. On the other hand, Reuven’s closeness to Korach and his to Datan and Aviram, produces disaster.

  • Daily Aliya for Bamidbar, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The Levites are appointed to serve in the Tabernacle, guard its vessels and assist the priests with their Tabernacle duties. This honor originally belonged to the Israelite firstborns, who were “acquired” by G‑d when He spared them during the Plague of the Firstborn. This privilege was taken away from them when they participated in the sin of the Golden Calf — and given to the Levites.

    “These are the names of the sons of Aharon, the B’chor (firstborn) Nadav…” The regular reading of the pasuk, based on the Taamei HaMikra (the Torah notes) indicates that Nadav is being identified as Aharon’s B’chor. But there is a vertical line which separates between B’chor and Nadav, suggesting that it is Aharon the B’chor; Nadav, having died without children is not really a B’chor at this point. (Since the children of a deceased B’chor get their father’s double portion, had Nadav had children he would retain the title of B’chor.)

  • Dvar for Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20)

    This week’s parsha, Bamidbar is always read on the Shabbat prior to the Shavuot holiday, suggesting that this Torah reading teaches us important lessons about the holiday.

    Bamidbar begins by telling us that God spoke to Moshe in Midbar Sinai. Rabbi Nachman Cohen in ‘A Time for All Things,’ maintains that the confluence of Bamidbar and Shavuot is to underscore the great significance of the Torah having been given in the desert–no man’s land. Rabbi Cohen points out that the location of the vast expanse of the wilderness is significant for it teaches us that the Torah is not the exclusive property of given individuals. Living a desert existence makes us feel vulnerable. Giving the Torah in the desert also teaches that Torah can only be acquired if a person humbles themselves.

  • Daily Aliya for Bamidbar, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The Jews are instructed regarding their camping formation. The Tabernacle was at the center of the encampment, surrounded by the “Flag of Judah” — which included the Tribes of Judah, Issachar and Zevulun — to the east; the “Flag of Reuven” — Reuven, Shimon, Gad — to the south; the “Flag of Ephraim” — Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin — to the west; and the “Flag of Dan” — Dan, Asher, Naftali — to the north.

    The lead tribe of each camp was based on OTOT, signs, transmitted by Yaakov Avinu. Baal HaTurim points out a correspondence between Yaakov’s blessings to his sons and these camp-heads. Each son that Yaakov addressed in second person was to be a leader of a camp. “Revuen, YOU are my firstborn”, “Yehuda, YOU your brothers will acknowledge”, “Dan… YOUR salvation”, “Yosef… the G-d of YOUR father… blesses YOU”.

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