BaMidbar (5765)

Drash Cards for BaMidbar (5765)

By Marc Mangel

  • I am going to riff on theme from Shlomo concerning how we name the books of the Torah and the Christians name them. We call this book BaMidbar – In the Desert. The Christians call it Numbers.
  • The Israelites are in the desert, where they received the Torah.
  • What does the desert teach us? We learn from the desert what is essential for life and what is superfluous. What our essence is.
  • The desert is ownerless (or owned by everyone). The Torah is given in the wilderness so that anyone who wants to acquire it can.
  • The desert teaches us that we don’t need a lot to live.  That we don’t need a lot to follow the Torah.
  • But we wander in the desert — there is no shortcut to the promised land, no instant transformation from slaves to free people. Each one of us is trying to get out of our own Egypt.  And the message of BaMidbar is that we don’t need a lot of stuff to do it.
  • This book begins with a census – hence the Christian name. Indeed, the traditional explanation of the connection between the Haftorah and the Torah portion is the the second word of the Haftorah is “mispar” – numbers.
  • In this census, every Jew counts equally, because every individual has his or her own unique contribution to the whole.
  • But each is also counted as a member of his or he family, and as a member of a tribe because the backbone for the Torah life and society are the unique individual, the family, and significant communal groups.
  • Why does God count us? Surely God knows how many Israelites there are. When things are counted, they stand in equality — the point of the census was to bring each Jewish soul to the surface – to remind the Israelites that each is equally important.
  • Each of us is a unique individual — all equally important — and part of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

•We read today after the census has been completed and the organization of the tribes around the Miskhan

  • Judah, Issachar and Zebulun to the east; Reuven, Simeon, and Gad to the south; Benjamin, Manasseh, and Ephraim to the west; and Dan, Asher and Naphtali to the north.
  • Surely the Tabernacle did not need protecting – the Torah and its commandments protect us (remember the ending of Raiders of the Lost Ark).
  • The Rebbe taught that the lesson of the encampment is that we need to guard our inner sanctuary – our homes and our hearts – from all sides: the spiritual indifference on the north; hot, lustful passions on the south; self-satisfication and ego on the east; and despair on the west.   We do this through study and observance of the mitzvot.

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