Parshat Bamidbar 5783: Why was Torah Given in Bamidbar and Why Introspection Before Shavuot?

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Bamidbar is being sponsored by Pesach and Ann Chapler of Ramat Beit Shemesh and dedicated for a total, complete, refuah Shleima for Yosef Azriel ben Chaya Michal. . To the Chapler family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Bamidbar 5783: Why was Torah Given in Bamidbar and Why Introspection Before Shavuot?

by Moshe Burt

This year, our Parshat Bamidbar precedes Shavuot, which is on a Friday and is immediately followed by Shabbos Naso, effectively as if a two-day Yom Tov.

Twenty-Eight years ago, while this author was still in Philadelphia, the National Council of Young Israel’s weekly Torah Bulletin contained a vort by Rabbi Aaron S. Gelman of the Young Israel of Santa Barbara on our Parshat Bamidbar.

Rabbi Gelman writes:

Parshat Bamidbar is almost always read on the Shabbos prior to… Shavuot. There are [many] references by Chazal as to why this is so…. The posuk of Shirat HaBe’ar (Song of the Well) found in [sefer] Bamidbar Perek 21, posuk 18 [is one such Chazal].

The Artscroll Stone Chumash renders to English Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 21, posukim 16-19 and notes regarding posuk 18 (page 853) :

“And from there to the well — of which Hashem said to Moshe, ‘Assemble the people and I shall give them water,’ Then Israel sang this song: ‘Come up, O well, announce it! Well that the princes dug, that the nobles of the people excavated, through a lawgiver, with their staff. A gift of the Wilderness — the gift went to the valley, and from the valley to the heights…'”

“A gift from the Wilderness.” The well was a gift to the people from a Wilderness where there was no natural source of water, thus accentuating [verb: to give emphasis or prominence to] the greatness of the miracle.

Rabbi Gelman cites a Midrash Rabbah which asks:

“Why was it [the Torah] given in the wilderness? Because if it had been given in [Eretz Yisrael], the tribe in whose territory it was given would have said, ‘I have prior claim to it.’ Therefore, it [the Torah] was given in the wilderness so all should have an equal claim to it. Another reason why [the Torah was given] in the desert, As the wilderness is neither sown nor tilled, if one accepts the yoke of Torah one is relieved of the yoke of earning a living. Another reason why it was given in the wilderness: Who preserves Torah? He who makes himself like a wilderness and segregates himself from everyone [and spends his time only learning Torah].”

This author would note on the above Midrash Rabbah that the fact of B’nei Yisrael receiving the Torah in Bamidbar, a desert devoid of growth provided a one-time exemption from agricultural labor, thus enabling the Am to devote their full efforts to learning Torah. Once Am Yisrael enters Eretz Yisrael, their entry necessitates their labor, as well as their continued learning and dedication to Torah.

Rabbi Gelman continues:

Every year, on the Shabbos before Shavuot, we are… reminded by the Torah reading that we must cognitively re-evaluate ourselves and properly ready ourselves for a renewed vigorous re-acceptance…. We must raise our vistas and reaffirm that it is Torah and the transcendence [noun: the quality or state of going beyond ordinary limits; surpassing; exceeding] of Torah above all systems that we must engage in a qualitative assessment of ourselves; being conscious of what is lacking in our inner selves — how deficient we may be in Torah study and more so in midot.

Rabbi Gelman’s thoughts regarding re-evaluating ourselves as to both our Torah knowledge and our midot before Shavuot relate to thoughts of introspection [noun: the act of looking within oneself] provided in the Chovos Halevovos Cheshbon HaNefesh booklet published lilui nishmas HaRav Chaim Zev ben Avraham Aharon HaLevi, ZT”L on the occasion of the Shloshim, Kislev 5780.

Rabbi Malinowitz wrote on Day 11:

Reflect and make an accounting on if I use my days to serve Hashem or my yetzer. This cheshbon is the classic meaning of the phrase Cheshbon HaNefesh — an accounting.

How do I spend my day, my time in this world? Did I misuse the gifts Hashem has given me? Did I pursue with them spirituality — or narishkeiten? What have I done with these gifts?

Rabbi Malinowitz wrote on Day 24:

Reflect that the Torah and tefillah knowledge of your youth is insufficient. Study the language and interpretations with renewed and higher understanding, remember and review.

We are pretty satisfied if we’ve learned something in the past, review it regularly, and remember it. Wonderful, no?

NO! Says the Chovos Halevovos. You’ve matured, your intelligence has grown more sophisticated, you’ve acquired more depth, a wider perspective, sharper analytical skills.

Do NOT be satisfied with the Chumash as you learned it in fifth grade… With davening as you davened as a 14 year old, with Gemara or hashkafa which you learned decades ago, as you learned them decades ago. Always review and increase the quality of your learning… or your davening… or your Avodos Hashem.

Rabbi Gelman concludes:

How pertinent and eternal is the message of Chazal. We live in a technological milieu [noun: surroundings, especially of a social or cultural nature], where discovery and achievement is full summary [this author’s understanding of Rabbi Gelman’s term “summa boxum”]. The Shulchan Aruch reminds us that an annual probing of one’s inner self and a striving toward spiritual attainment are priorities that must predicate [verb: to proclaim; declare; affirm; assert] all other preoccupations. May this generation be conscious of the necessity of this humbling evaluation. May we together accept the Torah with love and innate sensitivity.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now in his third year at home in Eretz Yisrael and has embarked on a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of nine years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.