Thursday, June 9, 2016

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Bamidbar

The following is a brief summary of some of thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

After the counting of the Jewish people, Moshe is instructed not to count the Levi'im and then Moshe is told briefly about the specific job of the Levi'im to carry the Mishkan. The parsha then discusses the flags and marching configuration for each of the cluster of three tribes. The Torah then counts the Levi'im. Next, the Torah gives a detailed explanation of the jobs of the Lev'vim.

R' Frand opined that if one were to be asked to edit or organize the parsha it would not be with bits and pieces interspersed - it would be a discussion of each individual topic and then moving on to the next topic. But since we are merely mortal and Hashem had a plan for the way that the parsha is organized, we need to try to understand why the parsha is sequenced in this fashion.

R' Frand quoted the sefer Shemen HaTov which quotes R' Yaakov Kaminetsky, who notes that this parsha takes place in the second year of the Jews' journey in the midbar. Why did Hashem wait until now? And did everyone just wander without direction for the first year?

R' Yaakov explained that flags are wonderful things, but they also serve as a separation. A flag can lead to competition and factionalism. R' Frand analogized this to the four branches of the American armed forces which have rivalry between the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. The only way that the four forces can coexist and work together is if there is a unifying force - the ideal of service and defense of the country. 

R' Yaakov said that the reason that there were no flags during the first year in the desert was because there was not a centralizing force to bring everyone together. This did not come until the Jews' built the mishkan. Once there was a mishkan which traveled in the center of the camp, there was glue to hold the Jews together and everyone could have jobs and flags.

The Shemen HaTov takes the next step and explains that this is why the concept of the Levi'im not being counted and the brief discussion of their job in carrying the mishkan is mentioned before the degalim - in order to introduce the concept of the unifying force before there is a discussion of the separate degalim.
R' Frand next quoted a medrash in Medrash Rabba on Bamidbar which states that when Hashem came down on Har Sinai to give the Torah, there were 22 units of 10 angels, each with a flag. The Jews saw this and they became passionate for flags of their own. The Jews asked Hashem for flags at that time. Hashem observed that the Jews had a passion for the flags and he told them that because they wanted the flags, He was giving them to the Jews.

But what is special about flags that Hashem would speak to the Jews that way?

R' Frand answered that a flag designates a special or specific task. An angel has a specific unique task and that is its role. The Jews saw the flags and wanted them - not because they wanted a flag, but because they wanted specific roles and they wanted to know what those roles would be. This is why Yaakov gave "blessings" to his children in Parshas Vayechi which do not appear to be blessings - but they were - because Yaakov was telling his sons about their specific characteristics and personalities. 

When the Jews saw the flags they saw every angel with its mission. Hashem heard their prayer and said - yes I will give each of you your own flag/task.

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