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Parashat Bamidbar (English)

By Rav David Lhungdim

Rabbeinu Khaim Paltiel wrote that if all the first letters of the five books of Moshe were added together it have the numeric number 21. In Genesis the first word is “Bereshit (ב-beit ),” in Exodus it is “Ve eleh Shemot ( ו-vav),” in Leviticus it starts with “Vayikra (ו-vav),” in Numbers it is “Vaidaber (ו-vav),” and in Deuteronomy, the first word is “Eleh Hadevarim (א-aleph),” and the total numerical value of each first letter taken together (ב,ו,ו,ו,א) is 21, which is corresponding to the numeric value numbers of G-d, Ehyeh (אהיה). Ehyeh is one of the names of G-d which is also א"ך , as it is written, “אך טוב אלהים לישראל" (G-d is good to Israel.

This teaches us that from all the first letter of the Torah which rises up to 21 (אך), and which is as well equivalent to the holy name Ehyeh (אהיה), G-d gave Torah to Israel for their benefit, as it is written “G-d desire for his righteousness…” and the last letter of the five-book of Moses when combine form the word “Maim lo” (His water), to teach us that whoever possessed water in his hand, that is whoever knows the five-book Torah, the Torah is his, as the Torah symbolizes the water.

And Rabbeinu Bakhyei wrote in parasha Bamidbar, why it is the written “And G-d spoke to Moshe in Midbar Sinai” to teach us that Midbar (desert) is located with Mount Sinai.

The Midrash expounded the meaning of Bamidbar Sinai "In the Sinai Desert", to teach us that the Torah is given with three things: "fire," “water" and "desert." With fire, it is written “The Lord came down with fire (Shemoth 19:18), and with water, as written “Lord, when You went forth out of Seir, when You marched out of the field of Edom, the earth trembled, the heavens also dripped; also the clouds dripped water “(Judges 5, 4), and with the wilderness of desert it is written “and G-d spoke to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai Desert (Number 1:1).

And why is the Torah given with these three things, to teach us that as these three are free for the world, so is the Torah is free for all, and thus it is written: “everyone who is thirsty come to the water” (Isaiah 55:1), and the desert mean to teach us that a person cannot acquire the Torah unless he humbles himself like the desert.

In Gemara Ta'anit (7a), Rabbi Hanina Bar Idi said: Why are the words of the Torah likened to water, as it is written everyone who is thirsty go to the water - to teach you that as water flows from high place to a low place, even the words of Torah do not exist except among those whose mind is humble. Rabbi Oshaya said: Why were the words of the Torah likened to these three liquids water, wine, and milk. As it is written “ all thirsty go to the water”, and then it is written “go and eat with no money and no price of wine and milk”, to tell you that these three liquids do not exist except in the least in vessels, so Torah words live only in one whose mind is humble.

This is the word of Maimonides Rambam (Hilkhot Talmud Torah Chapter 3 Halacha 9): The words of Torah can be compared to water, as [Isaiah 55:1] states: "Behold, all who are thirsty, come to the water." This teaches you that just as water does not collect on an incline, but rather flows from it and collects in a low place, similarly, the words of the Torah will not be found in the arrogant or in the hearts of any of the haughty, but rather in the humble and lowly, who sit in the dust at the feet of the Sages and remove the desires and pleasures of the times from their hearts. They do only a minimal amount of work each day [to earn] their livelihood if they have nothing else to eat. The rest of their days and nights are involved with Torah study.

But it is difficult to understand because, with too much humility, a person can reach a negative state. Even though the degree of humility is a positive thing, there is an unwanted humility, so we must look at the connection between the desert and Mount Sinai and Ohel Moed (tabernacle). To understand we must know that sometimes the evil instinct tries to overthrow a man by improper pride and humility, therefore, the Torah says about the leper on the day of his purity he should bring a cedar stick, crimson wool, and hyssop. Each of these three has a meaning for the leper, Rashi (Leviticus 14: 4) interpreted that cedar stick, and its regulation is that he will humble himself from his pride like crimson wool and hyssop.

Thus, the Torah came to teach us that the person who failed and sins must humble himself, but while trying to correct himself with this midoth, the opposite danger may arise – that is with too much negative humility he may think that he is nothing all and may conclude that it is not necessary for him to engage in Torah study in such a situation.

Therefore, the Torah instructs him (leper) to bring both cedar and hyssop and to maintain the proper balance between negative pride and negative humility, in order to get him to do what is incumbent upon him as his Father in heaven wants from him. (Umatokh ha Or parasha Bamidbar).

And in the same matter, it seems to me that this is a reason for the proximity between the desert and Mount Sinai because one of the greatest Chassidic rebbe asked why God gave the Torah at Mount Sinai? To teach us about the degree of humility from Mount Sinai, because there is a negative humility that if a person humbles himself too much like a desert the whole world will step on him and this can cause him despair and personal dilemma. In such a situation one should know that there is no despair in the world, as Rabbi Nachman of Breslav said, and he should know that he is like Mount Sinai and not like a desert that has nothing at all, in such a way he can ascend the ladder of spiritual highness because Sulam (ladder) and Sinai have the same numerical number of 130.

And according to this, we can understand the relation between the desert, Mount Sinai, and the Tabernacle, thus a person should not put himself in danger of negative humility that he is nothing at all, so a person should think and know that he is like Mount Sinai but this is not enough and therefore, he must always engage in Torah study which is liken to Tabernacle (Ohel Moed).

It should also be understood that there are three degrees to gain a Torah crown (1)Desert - hint for contentment with little, i.e. a person must rejoice in what he has, (2) Mount Sinai - hint and symbolize humility in the right balance, (3) Ohel Moed (tabernacle) - to engage in Torah study with enthusiasm, and it seems to me that this is the intention of the verse, "And the LORD spoke unto Moses in the desert wilderness of Sinai in the tabernacle of the congregation."

And as we see from the above that the Torah was given with three things - fire, water, and desert, and here too the fire symbolizes the will of enthusiasm in the study of the Torah, water symbolizes humility, and the desert symbolizes contentment with little.

May we all be privileged to labor in our holy teachings of Torah humbly and be content with what we have. r

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