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From Earth to Angels

R Pesach Siegel

Parshat Bamidbar

May 10, 2013

Parshas BaMidbar 5773 - From Earth to Angels

Parshas BaMidbar is the first parsha in the sefer called BaMidbar. The Ramban tells us that the sefer deals with the manner the Bnei Yisroel were to interact with the Mishkan. They were warned against approaching it, just as they had been warned against ascending Har Sinai. The Kohanim are commanded in entering the sanctuary with the proper purity and sanctity. They are instructed in the manner they should encamp surrounding the Mishkan. Special care must be taken when dismantling the Mishkan for travel, lest they forfeit their lives.

The sefer is filled with the wars waged against the Bnei Yisroel and the miracles performed on their behalf by G-d.

The Ramban notes that there is hardly any mention in the entire sefer BaMidbar of mitzvos that apply throughout the coming generations, the only exceptions being the final details of korbanos mentioned in previous parshiyos.[1]

There is a reason for this glaring omission.

The tzurah (form) of the Bnei Yisroel in the desert was “saviv laMishkan” (surrounding the Mishkan).  They were arrayed in the same order as the angels surrounding the Kisay HaKavod. The middos of the respective shevatim mirrored those of the mal’achim.  Shevet Yehudah is in the forefront, to the east. He represents gevurah, the middah of Gavriel, and the lion around the kisay hakavod. Shevet Reuven camps in the south. He performed the ultimate chessed by attempting to rescue his brother Yosef from the clutches of his brothers, the middah of Michoel. He represents the Adam around the Kisay. The tribe of Dan is to the north. He darkened the world twice, by his involvement with the sin of the eigel and the idol of Michah. He represents bringing light from the darkness, the middah of Oriel, and is a parallel to the eagle around the Kisay. (The eagle has the body of a snake with the wings of an angel). Shevet Ephraim is to the west. He gave birth to Yerav’am, who is in need of a refuah, the middah of Refoel. He is from Yosef, who is compared to a shor (ox).[2]

The Bnei Yisroel camped as if they were in heaven. And indeed they were.

The period of the midbar had nothing to do with Olam Hazeh.

The purpose of creation is to be born into lowly gashmiyus (physicality) and elevate it by unearthing the spark of holiness within everything that was created by the word of G-d.

We do this through our avodas hamitzvos. Each and every mitzvah is connected with something physical. There are 613 mitzvos. The number of mitzvos is all encompassing and comprehensive. When one manages to fulfill the mitzvos in their entirety, then one ha s succeeded in bringing all the physical elements that he utilized to a level of perfection. One has demonstrated that all that exists in the physical world exists in order for mitzvos to be performed with them. There are 613 Sinaic mitzvos plus 7 rabbinic ones.[3] They equal a total of 620 which is the numerical value of “keser” (crown). Thus, we figuratively place the crown on G-d’s head.

The desert is practically empty of all physicality. Nothing thrives there for one to perform mitzvos with. The period in the desert was like the time that a fetus spends in its mother’s womb, to prepare it for its eventual birth and all its challenges. The Bnei Yisroel went through a period where they were “inoculated” with Torah and mitzvos, just as the mal’ach learns kol haTorah kulah with a baby before it is born.[4]

It is not a time for mitzvos and therefore they weren’t given any.

The purpose of the Bnei Yisroel is not to exist in isolation surrounding and imbibing the holiness of the sanctuary. The purpose of the Bnei Yisroel is to enter the world of physical mitzvos, performing the mitzvos in a physical existence thus elevating the physical and transforming it to something truly special.

When we refer to the kedusha of Eretz Yisroel, we have something specific in mind. It is not just “holy”, it is holy because of the mitzvos connected with the land. It is holy because it is the very land that the physical body of Adam HaRishon was formed from. He was formed from the ground under the mizbayach.[5] His very physical essence was formed from mitzvah. The produce grown from such ground is not ordinary. It is special. It must be treated in a special manner. It must be treated with kiyum hamitzvos (fulfillment of mitzvos).

The kedusha of Eretz Yisroel came simultaneously with the entrance of those who were to perform the mitzvos of Eretz Yisroel. The gemara tells us that only those places that Moshe Rabeinu was shown from his perch on the mountain were instilled with the kedusha of ma’asros.[6]

There are different levels of kedusha in Eretz Yisroel. The closer one gets to the Kodesh HaKodashim, the higher the level of holiness. There is kedushas hamikdash, kedushas  Yerushalayim (where one may partake of korbanos within the city limits), and kedushas Eretz Yisroel (for the purpose of terumos and ma’asros). These levels reflect the sanctity of the mitzvos connected with their respective levels.

This is only a starting point.

Ultimately, in the times of Mashiach, the unique kedusha of the Temple compound will spread throughout all of Yerushalayim. The kedusha of Yerushalayim will spread to all of Eretz Yisroel, and the rest of the world will be imbued with the kedusha of Eretz Yisroel.[7]

This will mark a return to the state of the midbar, when all were part and parcel of the spirituality of the mishkan. But it will mark a return that we will, b’ezras Hashem, have a part in. It will be due to our struggles and eventual victories.

As we approach the yom tov of Shavuos, we strand poised to camp around Mount Sinai yet again. It is a Mount Sinai of our own making. It is a Mount Sinai forged from our own choices.

 


[1] Ramban, Introduction to Sefer BaMidbar

[2] Rabeinu Bachaye

[3] See Tiferes Yisroel in the last mishna of Meseches Uktzin

[4] Meseches Niddah, daf 30b

[5] Breishis Rabbah, parsha 4, piska 8

[6] Meseches Baba Basra 51a

[7] Pesikta Rabasi, parsha 1


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