“The Lord spoke to Moses in the Sinai Desert, in the Tent of Meeting on the first day of the second month, in the second year after the exodus from the land of Egypt …”
The Lord spoke to us in the desert: so that no nation may claim it as its own.
A census was conducted of the twelve tribes of Israel. - The census was conducted on the men only. - The census was conducted on men from the age 20 yrs- The age during which men were eligible for military service. - The Levities were counted from the age of 1 month - The first born were counted from the age of 1 month - The census was conducted three separate times, with three different chronological outcomes
After the first census was conducted, the tribes were identified under different flags, with differing colors and emblems, and remained camped within their own sections.
The positions for how each tribe camped around the Tabernacle, and traveled were identified but had been selected by Joseph to his sons prior to his own death, when he, Joseph indicated to each of his sons how they were to be positioned when carrying his burial cask out of Egypt.
This very same order was maintained by the tribes of each of Josephs sons. So when asked by Moses to camp around the Tabernacle, they themselves knew their own positions.
The Levites are to serve in the Sanctuary, replacing the firstborn, whose number they approximated, who were disqualified when they participated in the worshipping of the Golden Calf. The 273 firstborn who lacked a Levite to replace them had to pay a five-shekel “ransom” to redeem themselves.
In addition, when the people broke camp, the three Levite clans dismantled and transported the Sanctuary, and reassembled it at the center of the next encampment. They then erected their own tents around it.
So briefly, this is what occurs during this Parshah; but what else happens …
What else happened
As a side note, on this day in 1313 BCE, at a desert and waterless location known as Rephadim, the people of Israel complained to Moses that they and their flocks were dying of thirst.
“G-d commanded Moses to take the elders of the people to a rock which he was to hit with his staff. Moses hit the rock and from the dry stone, a well sprang forth.”
“G‑d became so angry at Moses for hitting the rock rather than talking to it that He said, "Because you did not believe in Me to sanctify Me before the eyes of the Children of Israel, therefore you will not bring this congregation to the Land that I have given them"
I do not know if the event at Rephadim is of any coincidence to Parshah BaMidbar, however the following also occurs during this Parshah:
Positioning of the Parshah (When does this Parshah occur) - Today is the 39th day of the Omer Count - Which is 5 weeks and 4 days to the Omer - The Omer is counted for 49 days in total from the 2nd day of Passover (the exodus from the bondage in Egypt) - The 50th day is Shavuot: the day that the Torah was given to Israel at Mt. Sinai.
So putting all of this top level information together, if we delve down one additional layer, what can we find…
Well, starting with the context that we are in the period of The Counting of The Omer, which is a 49 day journey comprised of seven, seven day periods of time, but also which immediately follows the commencement of the exodus from Egypt, where they say that the children of Israel had fallen down to the 49th level of depravity. I can then correlate 49 new days of something, that would efface or counter-balance the 49 levels of depravity from whence I came.
So now I see the duration of the period from Passover to Shavuot, in the context of days, but what am I supposed to do with these days?
Well, The teachings of Kabbalah explain that there are seven "Divine Attributes" or Sefirot - that G-d assumes through which to relate to our existence: Chessed -Love, Gevurah-Strength, Tifferet-Beauty, Netzach-Victory, Hod-Splendor, Yesod-Foundation and Malchut-Sovereignty.
Well, In the human being, which is created in the "image of G-d," the seven sefirot are mirrored in the seven "emotional attributes" of the human soul, those being: Kindness, Restraint, Harmony, Ambition, Humility, Connection and Receptiveness.
Now, each of the seven attributes contain elements of all seven--i.e., "Kindness in Kindness", "Restraint in Kindness", "Harmony in Kindness", etc.--making for a total of forty-nine traits.
So therefore, the 49-day Omer Count is a 49-step process of self-refinement, with each day being devoted to the "rectification" and perfection of one these forty-nine "sefirot."
So now I know the level at which I was when I left Egypt(-49) and I know that I have a 49 day period of time to get me to Level 0. And from here, I will be able to receive the Torah and grow from zero to infinity?
But this still doesn’t tie me into this Parshah, or does it?
So what does occur during this Parshah …
Well, we know that 3 clans of Levites broke down the Tabernacle into 3 separate components; and then encased the Ark in 3 coverings; all while the census was being conducted in 3 variations. so 3.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe states that like the Ark, our soul is incased with 3 coverings: 1. The animal soul which is a selfish and materialistic, our Ego 2. It is embedded within a physical body, and 3. It is placed in a physical world which obscures and distorts Divine reality.
When the Ark stood in its Holy of Holies, it needs no coverings; the same is with our soul … it is perfect and complete unto itself.
But when the Ark journeyed, it was covered by its three-fold vestment, so must the soul be subjected to a three-fold concealment so that it may undergo a descent into the physicality … so that its ascent towards G-Dliness may be through an even stronger connection.
But also, the people were counted 3 times … 1. By their Princes 2. By their Tribe 3. and Individually
In the end, I feel that this Parshah is solidifying each of us individuals into a cohesive “fighting unit” (being over the age of 20).
And that they we are all different, from different tribes, different positions, and yes even different spiritual levels (hopefully above zero), as in the different days of the Omer.
But in the end, we are all one: We all give the same half-shekel contribution; we are all counted individually; and we are all counted as one “Klal Israel”
Oh yes, and with one purpose: To create a physical abode that is hospitable for the expression of G-D’s essence, through the shedding/or mastering of the 3 physical embodiments.
As Shavuot approaches, let us take this message to heart. That every person counts, and that every day counts, that every component of creation counts. And that we should be counting our blessings that we were given the Torah - without which nothing would count.