Enjoy four short thoughts and a video adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe on Parshat Bamidbar.

The Infinite Spark

Parshat Bamidbar, and indeed the entire book of Bamidbar is filled with ‘countings.’

When a census is taken, the count will include scholars and boors, professionals and vagabonds, philanthropists and misers, saints and criminals. Yet each counts for no more and no less than one in the total number. The count reflects only the one quality they all share equally: the fact that each is an individual human being.

As G‑d sees it, the soul of man is a spark of His own fire—a spark with the potential to reflect the infinite goodness and perfection of its source. Human life is the endeavor to realize what is implicit in this spark. Indeed, a person may lead a full, accomplished and righteous life, and barely scratch the surface of the infinitude of his or her soul. Another person may blunder for a lifetime in darkness and iniquity, and then, in a moment of self-discovery, fan their divine spark into roaring flame.

So when G‑d instructs that we be counted, it is an expression of our highest common denominator. On the divine census sheet, our differences are transcended to reveal the simple fact of our being—a fact which expresses what is best in us, and from which stems all that is good in us.
Read more

Why Was the Torah Given in a Desert?

Every year, the Torah portion Bamidbar, “in the desert,” is read before the holiday of Shavuot. This sequence is intentional, highlighting the fact that the Torah was given in such a barren setting, this teaches us the following lessons:

A desert has no owner. By giving the Torah in the desert, G‑d showed that no one person or tribe can control it; every Jew has an equal claim.

To approach the Torah, we must make ourselves ownerless by stepping beyond our individual personalities. The Torah reflects G‑d’s infinity, transcending our understanding. To relate to this infinity, we must transcend our personal selves.

The desert is barren and desolate. Thus when our ancestors received the Torah, they had to depend on G‑d for food, water, and clothing. Yet far from worrying, they received the Torah with loving trust. Similarly, instead of giving primacy to our material concerns, we should consider the Torah our priority, and remain confident that G‑d will provide us with our needs as He provided for our ancestors.

The barrenness of the desert can also be understood as a metaphor for feelings of spiritual barrenness and emptiness. Even when a person sees himself as an arid wasteland, he need not despair. For precisely in such an environment, G‑d reached out to our people and gave them the Torah.
Read more

The Third Counting

The census described in this week's Torah portion was the third of three countings.

The first census was on the Israelites’ departure from Egypt, and it aroused their spirit of self-sacrifice to the extent that they were willing to follow G‑d into an unsown and barren wilderness.

The second was prior to the building of the Tabernacle. It reached further outward to the intellect and emotions of the Israelites, because they were preparing themselves for the work that was to bring the Shechinah—G‑d’s Presence—into their very midst. But still the impetus came from outside: it was G‑d’s command that set them to their work, not any inner compunction.

The third census took place after the service of the Tabernacle, when the Israelites, by their own actions, had invited G‑d into their midst.

This begs the question: Why was there a one month gap in between the completion of the Tabernacle (in Nissan) and this census (in Iyar)?

Nissan is the month of Pesach, the time when we acknowledge the revelation that comes from above—it was not the merit of the Israelites that caused G‑d to take them out of Egypt, but G‑d’s mercy and kindness alone. But Iyar is the month of the Omer, the time of special sacrifices; and by sacrifice we bring about the “revelation that comes from below,” that answers to our merit and not merely to G‑d’s grace.

At this third census, Israel finally reached the state where their own actions were permeated with the soul’s awareness. Now and only now could they bring about the “revelation that comes from below.”
Read more

Era of Redemption

Our Sages relate that there have been nine censuses taken in Jewish history. The tenth and final census will be taken at the time of the coming of Moshiach when the essential quality that lies at the core of every Jewish soul will be flourish in complete manifestation.

At present, most of us are involved with the day-to-day details of our personal lives. These are the factors that command much of our attention. In the era of the Redemption, when “The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G‑d,” this will change. In Jewish mysticism, ten is a symbol of consummate fulfillment. Similarly, taking the tenth census will serve as a cue that it is necessary to move to a different level of consciousness, one that allows our inner core to be expressed. In this way, it will encourage us to bring out our inner G‑dly potential in every facet of our lives.
Read more

Quality Time

When Torah takes a census of the Jewish people, it always counts them “according their households.” The Jewish people is only as strong as its families. It is possible for a Jewish father, mother, brother and sister, all committed to Torah, to be living in four entirely different worlds – pursuing four different careers or paths in education, attending four different synagogues, and so forth... not to mention when a family member has left Jewish observance altogether: