Weekly Reading Insights: Bamidbar 5780


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To be read on Shabbat Bamidbar, 29 Iyar 5780 / May 23, 2020
Shabbat Mevarchim - Blessing the New Month
Torah: Numbers 1:1-4:20; Haftorah: Shmuel I Chapter 20 (for Erev Rosh Chodesh)

Pirkei Avot: Chapter Six

Bamidbar is the 1st Reading out of 10 in Numbers and it contains 7393 letters, in 1823 words, in 159 verses

Bamidbar begins by relating how Moshe, Aharon, and a prince from each tribe took a census of the Jews (the tribe of Levi was excluded from this census). Then, G-d explains the Levite service in taking apart and reassembling the Tabernacle during the Jews’ travels in the desert. Then is described the location of each tribe’s encampment. The next section deals with the genealogy of Aharon; the status of the Levites in assisting the priests’ service in the Tabernacle; and the Levites taking the place of the firstborn (who were originally intended to serve in the Tabernacle, but lost this privilege by sinning with the golden calf.) Then, G-d commands Moshe to take a census of the Levites, a census of the firstborns, and redeem the firstborns who were in excess of the Levites. The concluding section describes the Tabernacle duties of the Kehos family of Levites.


An Essay from
Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, Director of Ascent

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"And G-d spoke to Moses in the desert of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting" (Bamidbar 1:1). To explain the true significance of this verse, Rabbi Aba begins with a verse from the beginning of Genesis (1:27): "And the Lord made man in His image, in the image of the Lord He created him; male and female He created them." The Holy One Blessed Be He created man [male and female as one entity] as the goal of creation-for the purpose of achieving mastery over creation by connecting all the worlds. The Lord created man in the form of the supernal worlds-meaning that the highest of the four worlds-the World of Emanation-gave to man a part of its soul. Similarly, with the lower worlds: The souls of the lower three worlds-Creation, Formation and Action-also gave to man a part of their souls. Adam, the first man, included within him all the levels of all of the souls, the inner dimension of all the worlds (inclusive of the 600,000 root souls of the Jewish people).

This is why [as is explained further in the writing of the holy Kabbalist of Tsfat, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria] in the previous verse it says, "Let US make man," in the plural. In order that man should be the bridge and connector of all the worlds, the Lord commanded that he be made with a little bit of each of the worlds. This is the secret of the five levels of the soul of man: The lowest world, the World of Action, gave man the soul level of Nefesh; the World of Formation gave man the soul level of Ruach (emotion); the World of Creation gave man the soul level of Neshama (intellect); and the higher levels of the soul (Chaya and Yechida, connecting us to the infinite) originate in the World of Emanation. The implication is that if man sinned he would damage all the worlds, and all of them would beseech mercy for him. On the other hand, if man merits they would all rejoice and take delight in him.

Because he was the conduit of Divine power, drawing its flow from the World of Emanation to all of the worlds, man's light shone from one end of the world to the other. Furthermore, all the other creations were afraid of him because of his unique status. Even the heavenly angels wanted to administer to him, calling him kadosh, holy, because his face showed the complete image of the Lord.

Why does the verse about the creation of man repeat itself, first saying that the Lord created man in His image and then again saying, "in the image of the Lord"? Because the "image" is referring to both the male and the female aspects that were included in the original form of man. And just as Adam and Chava (Eve) were two structures united, so too in the supernal World of Emanation-which is the source of all lower worlds- are the masculine and feminine aspects (Zav and Nukva) united.

This wondrous creation, the first man, would gaze with supernal wisdom into all things spiritual, and with earthly wisdom into all aspects of nature, understanding the connections and dependencies between them. And since his intellect, as represented by his head, was in the higher world, he was able to draw the Divine flow to all the lower worlds.

But when he sinned, the supernal structures were diminished, effectively pulled down and weakened. Even the lower worlds were diminished, and pulled down from a plane of unity to a plane of division. On this plane, the World of Emanation has no presence. As a result, the wisdom of the World of Emanation left man, and all that remained was the ability to understand things in relation to the needs of his body. (The Zohar then describes a gradual system of rebuilding, beginning with the children of Adam and Chava, and eventually leading to the birth of our forefathers and the twelve tribes.) But even with this rebuilding, the world was still not properly repaired at its source.

Even the 12 tribes, who are like the 12 angels on the chariot of the Shechina, the Divine Presence, were not enough to repair the world, until the Jewish people received the Torah on Mount Sinai and built the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. Through this, the supernal worlds were also rebuilt; the supernal Tabernacle was created (reflecting the Mishkan below) and opened the way for the Shechina to dwell below. Through this, all the higher worlds and the lower worlds became sweet smelling (meaning, all the negative energy of the sin was eradicated) and all was repaired.

This is the inner meaning of the first verse of this week's Torah portion, "And G-d spoke to Moses, in the desert of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting." Revelation of the highest level occurred in the Mishkan. Every person is a Mishkan, and every family that is formed based on the Torah and its commandments, is like a small Mishkan fulfilling the purpose of the creation by uniting all worlds. May our families be everlasting structures in which the Shechina will dwell.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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For last year's essay by Rabbi Leiter on this week's Reading, see the archive.


FROM THE SAGES OF KABBALAH ON KabbalaOnline.org

Specifically, for an overview of the recommended articles in the columns:
Holy Zohar, Holy Ari, Mystic Classics, Chasidic Masters, Contemporary Kabbalists, and more,
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one sample:

Contemporary Kabbalists
The Sons of Levi

From the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe; adapted by Moshe Yaakov Wisnefsky

The Levites were divided into three clans, each assigned the job of erecting, dismantling, and transporting the different components of the Tabernacle. These three divisions reflect the spiritual components of the Tabernacle we construct for G-d within the context of our own lives.

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