weekly torah tidbits

Bamidbar, May 27, 2017 - Sivan 2, 5777

Bamidbar: "In the wilderness"


READINGS: 

Torah: Numbers 1:1-4:20

Haftarah: Hosea 2:1-23

Brit Chadashah (New Testament): Romans 9:22-23


G-d’s Blessing Coming through His Order

      As we go from Leviticus to Numbers, the scene changes. The people of Israel are no longer camped in front of Mt. Sinai; they are now moving toward the promised land—the land of Canaan. We will see them marching northward, in the direction of Kadesh Barnea, the entry point into southern Israel. 

       At the beginning of the book of Numbers, the people of Israel are leaving Mt. Sinai, at the southern end of the Sinai desert. They had been on the road for about a year since they left Egypt. The book describes their travels and their trials and difficulties in the desert. By the end of Numbers, about 39 years later, almost everyone who left Egypt had died. The people of Israel are now approaching Canaan from the east (from what we now call Jordan). Moses himself will give over the reigns of leadership to Joshua. 

      What hits us as we read these first four chapters is how rigid their life seems to be—everything is spelled out. When they pitched their tents, they could not do so willy-nilly. Instead, the people of Israel were divided into four sections, forming a square with the Tabernacle pitched in the center of it. The tribe of Levi camped between the Tabernacle and the rest of the tribes of Israel. When time came for the nation to pack up and move, the L-rd's Tabernacle had to be packed up and moved as well. Again, all the details were spelled out—who would pack up the tent, who would transport the furnishing of the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, etc. When the nation was ready to move, even the marching order was spelled out—where each tribe would be going. 

      As we look more closely at this pattern, we are struck by the fact that the Tabernacle occupied a central place. When they were camped, the Tabernacle was placed in the center of the camp; when they marched, the Tabernacle furnishings were carried in the center of the marching column and the Ark itself was at the head. Everything in their life was defined and ordered by its relationship to the L-rd's presence. In other words, the L-rd was at the center of their life. How do we relate to this kind of a pattern? It's natural to chafe under the L-rd's order as they did. The truth is that we too often find the L-rd's order in our life a bit constricting—we'd like to be independent. 

      Yet, the underlying message to us is the same as it was to the community of Israel—as we let the L-rd order our lives, He will bless us. . .