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Derasha Bemidbar 2021

05/14/2021 12:52:04 PM

May14

Irene Stern Friedman

G-d chose to reveal the laws of the Torah in the desert. It was a desolate place where they would be willing to accept Hashem’s guidance and live according to the Torah.  And G-d spoke to Moses in the Sinai desert.   We live in a different desert, but still, a majestic place, where if we listen carefully, we can hear G-d’s words today.  Our desert isn’t barren but the majestic mountains put us in our place and show us we are small.

The desert symbolizes humility. It is nothing but layers of sand, transformed into a holy site by the Shechina. The reading of Parshat Bamidbar before Shavuot alludes to the fact that people who observe the Torah can change the face of the wilderness from a barren desert to a Garden of Eden.         That is what happened again in Israel after 1948.                

While the Jews were traveling in the desert on the way to Israel, G-d commanded Moshe and Aaron to take a census. The commentaries ask why the Torah adds the phrase “the number of their names.” In taking a census, is it not sufficient to say that the number of people must be counted – what is the significance of their names?

The answer is that when we count members of the Jewish nation, we do not merely ascribe to them a number. Each one is a vital being with his own individual name, a very precious and holy soul in the community.                         

The English name of BaMidbar is Numbers, not In the Desert.  Numbers are for counting, just as we count the Omer. Rabbi Allison Conyer points out that the Parsha occurs in the very last days of our Counting of the Omer – our way of counting time. This whole Parsha is about counting. There is a tribe by tribe census of the Israelite community of those men over the age of 20 who are able to bear arms (except the Levites ). There is a counting of every Levite from the age of one month and up with an explanation of their role and responsibility for the Mishkan.

You and I can count time, and we can count people. Each person must be counted.  Martin Buber once said: Every person born into the world represents something new, something that never existed before, something original and unique. Our use of and valuing of time determines whether we achieve the purpose for which we have been brought into this world.

The Israelites in the parsha had one advantage over us. Their roles were clearly defined. We have more choices about what to do with our lives. We can waste our time and our lives or we can use our time wisely. 

As we return to Mount Sinai on Shavuot, which begins tomorrow night, our parsha encourages us to ask: When was the last time you made your time count? When was the last time you did something new and good? When was the last time you did not put off what you could to tomorrow or to sometime in the future what you could and should have done today?  When was the last time you did something for a greater purpose? If not now, when?

People count what they value. You might count your model airplanes, or your books, or your dolls, or your dollars. Our sages explain that Hashem often counts our people because we're so precious to him. Rashi found a sweet message about God's love underlying the dry census data. He explained that God enjoyed counting the Israelites because of his special affection for each person. According to his interpretation, the census is a reminder that the children of Israel are not just a collective whole. Israel is a nation composed of individuals. Each of us matters. 

The Israelites are 13 months into their journey out of Egypt. With the help of tribal leaders, Moses leads a census of the men in each of the twelve tribes. The tribes then camp in specific locations around the Tabernacle, with Aaron and his sons responsible for observing priestly duties within the Tabernacle. The parsha makes order from chaos. The people are counted and organized by tribe. In Bereshit, we read the world was unformed and void, and G-d organized it, separating light from darkness, the water above from that below, the sea from the earth, day form night. Here G-d organizes the Jewish people. Specific tasks are assigned to certain tribes. Each tribe is told where to camp beneath their tribal banner. They are arranged around the Mishkan, not haphazardly. Order is better than disorder.  This is an eternal truth—organization leads to success.

G-d counts the fighting men. A rabbi asked why did the almighty G-d, the one who created the heavens and the earth, require an army of men to fight His battles? Why couldn’t G-d simply clear out the promised land of enemies to make way for His chosen people? The rabbi answers that "By identifying these able-bodied men, G-d is calling on the Jewish people to defend their beliefs. To cement their dedication and devotion to their G-d and their religious identity.” 

I will give you some modern numbers. From Monday night to Tuesday night over 700 missiles were fired by Hamas into Israel. By Thursday morning it was over 1000 missiles. The IDF called up 5000 reserve troops on Wednesday and 2000 more Thursday. Once again G-d is calling on the Jewish people to defend our beliefs and to cement our dedication and devotion to our G-d and our religious identity. We should each pray for Israel at this time and vigorously advocate for Israel at this time.

Shabbat Shalom.

G-d chose to reveal the laws of the Torah in the desert, a site devoid of homes and luxuries; a place where people would not want to stay. It was a place where they would be willing to accept Hashem’s guidance and live according to the Torah.  And G-d spoke to Moses in the Sinai desert.   We live in a different desert, but still, a majestic place, where if we listen carefully, we can hear G-d’s words today.  

The desert symbolizes humility. It is nothing but layers of sand, transformed into a holy site by the Shechina. The reading of Parshat Bamidbar before Shavuot alludes to the fact that people who observe the Torah can change the face of the wilderness from a barren desert to a Garden of Eden.                           

While the Jews were traveling in the desert on the way to Israel, G-d commanded Moshe and Aharon to take a census. The commentaries ask why the Torah adds the phrase “the number of their names”. In taking a census, is it not sufficient to say that the number of people must be counted – what is the significance of their names?
The answer is that when we count members of the Jewish nation, we do not merely ascribe to them a number. Each one is a vital being with his own individual name, a very precious and holy soul in the community.                         

Rabbi Aaron Alexander says the first verse of Bamidbar counters teaches that experiencing God can actually be quite simple. One need only a wilderness, and a Tent of Meeting. The wilderness represents the vastness and chaos of the lives we lead and the Tent of Meeting symbolizes the sacred experiences we carry in our hearts. That is to say, even when we feel lost something inside of us can work outwards to help foster holy moments.

The English name of BaMidbar is Numbers, not In the Desert.  Numbers are for counting, just as we counted the Omer. Rabbi Allison Conyer points out thatches parsha occurs in the very last days of our Counting of the Omer – our way of counting time. This parsha is about counting. There is a tribe by tribe census of the Israelite community of those men over the age of 20 who are able to bear arms (except the Levites ). There is a counting of every Levite from the age of one month and up with an explanation of their role and responsibility for the Mishkan. Finally, the parsha tells us of the ritual Pidyon Ha’Ben – the redemption of the firstborn whereby the non-Levite tribes must make a donation of 5 shekels to the Levites to redeem their firstborn sons from service in the Mishkan. 

We can count time, and we can count people. Each person must be counted. . Martin Buber once said: Every person born into the world represents something new, something that never existed before, something original and unique. Our use of and valuing of time determines whether we achieve the purpose for which we have been brought into this world.

The Israelites in the parsha had one advantage over us. Their roles were clearly defined. We have more choices about what to do with our lives.
As we return to Mount Sinai, as Shavuot is coming, our parsha encourages us to ask: When was the last time you made your time count? When was the last time you did something new and good? When was the last time you did not put off today what you could do tomorrow?  When was the last time you did something for a greater purpose? If not now, when?

People count what they value. You might count your model airplanes, or your books, or your dolls, or your dollars. Our sages explain that Hashem often counts our people because we're so precious to him. Rashi found a sweet message about God's love underlying the dry census data. He explained that God enjoyed counting the Israelites because of his special affection for each person. According to his interpretation, the census is a reminder that the children of Israel are not just a collective whole. Israel is a nation composed of individuals.

The Israelites are 13 months into their journey out of Egypt. With the help of tribal leaders, Moses leads a census of the men in each of the twelve tribes. The tribes then camp in specific locations around the Tabernacle, with Aaron and his sons responsible for observing priestly duties within the Tabernacle. The parsha makes order from chaos. The people are counted and organized by tribe. In Bereshit, we read the world was unformed and void, and G-d organized it, separating light from darkness, the water above from that below, the sea from the earth, day form night. Here G-d organizes the Jewish people. Each tribe is told where to camp beneath their tribal banner. They are arranged around the Mishkan, not haphazardly. Order is better than disorder.

G-d counts the fighting men. A rabbi asked why did the almighty G-d, the one who created the heavens and the earth, require an army of men to fight his battles? Why couldn’t G-d simply clear out the promised land of enemies to make way for his chosen people? The rabbi answers that "By identifying these able-bodied men, G-d is calling on the Jewish people to defend their beliefs. To cement their dedication and devotion to their G-d and their religious identity.” 

I will give you some modern numbers. From Monday night to Tuesday night over 700 missiles were fired by Hamas into Israel. By Thursday morning it was over 1000 missiles. The IDF called up 5000 reserve troops on Wednesday and 2000 more Thursday. Once again G-d is calling on the Jewish people to defend our beliefs and to cement our dedication and devotion to our G-d and our religious identity. We should each pray for Israel at this time and advocate for Israel at this time.

Shabbat Shalom.

Fri, September 17 2021 11 Tishrei 5782