Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Bamidbar 1:1 - 4:20
This weeks parasha is titled Bamdibar and means “in the desert”. As the parasha begins “HaShem spoke to Moche in the Tent of Meeting in the desert of Sinai.” HaShem commands Moche to take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, anyone twenty years old and more who is able to serve in the army. If the original plan of entering the Promised Land would of been kept, this census in no way was to benefit HaShem’s knowledge of the number of fighting men He had at His disposal, but rather it was for the benefit of the Israelites that would of been fighting in the battels. It was meant for their encouragement to know the size and strength of the army in which they served. Even after all the miracles they had seen coming out of Egypt they still lacked faith in the source in their deliverance. As HaShem would later tell them in Deu 29:2-4, “Your eyes have seen all that the Lord did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those miraculous signs and great wonders. But to this day the Lord has not given you a mind that understands or eyes that see or ears that hear.” After this census HaShem gives directions to Moche and Aaron on how the tribes are to be encamped around the Mishkan.
Chapter three begins to account for the duties of the Levites. HaShem speaks to Moche in Bamidbar 3:12-13 saying, “I have taken the Levites from among the Israelites in place of the first male offspring of every Israelite woman. The Levites are mine, for all the firstborn are mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set apart for Myself every firstborn in Israel, whether man or animal. They are to be mine, I am the Lord.” As remembered, the tribe of Levi was the only tribe faithful in the incident of the golden calf. During the time of the patriarchs, the firstborn son had a position of special honor and responsibility in the family structure. HaShem proclaimed Israel to be His firstborn in Ex 4:22. All the firstborn sons of the Israelites were to be sanctified unto the Lord in Ex 13:2-16. In this passage, all the male members of the tribe of Levi were substituted for the firstborn males of the rest of the tribes of Israel and consecrated for the lord’s service. Duties were give to the heads of the family of Levi, Gershon, Kohath and Merari, with Aaron and his sons acting as priests in the Mishkan. When we examine the duties given to each of the Levite families it can appear that some duties hold a better status and honor than others. The family of Merari might say, “why do we have to take care of the tabernacle frames and its crossbars, the posts, bases and equipment while Kohath’s family gets to take care of the items in the sanctuary?” In relation to this, Kohath’s family might say “why do we have to care for the sanctuary items and Aaron and his son’s get to serve and minister in the sanctuary?” Which we will soon see in parasha Korah, that this indeed happens.
Shaul teaches us a great lesson in being content with our duties given us, that as we as individuals being many separate parts in the service of HaShem, as a community of believers coming together in unity and as one we are all needed to serve our special function, if it being a function that we perceive as having great honor or not, the ultimate honor that is to be given is to HaShem. Rav Shaul gives a great analogy to this in 1 Cor 21-30, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are un-presentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Yeshua, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the assembly God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts. HaShem gives a great lesson in this parasha in by the way He delegates these duties to the Levite families that each hold their own special purpose for one ultimate goal. If these duties are not carried out exactly as been instructed there are also sever penalties that accompany them. If the incorrect family was to approach the sanctuary the penalty was death. But as Shaul states, there is nothing wrong with “eagerly desiring the greater gifts” as long as you understand the purpose of your current gift.
The parasha continues with the census of the Levite males that are to serve HaShem. Since no longer will the firstborn males serve as priests from all of Israel, they must be redeemed. They are redeemed by the Levite males a month old and older. There are still more firstborn Israelites than male Levites, by 273 men, so HaShem allows them to be redeemed for five shekels for each man. This money is then given to Aaron and his sons. The parasha ends with the duties of the Kohathites. How they are to handle and care for the sacred items of the Mishkan. This duty given to them should of come with hazard pay. Even HaShem warns Moche and Aaron in 4:17-20, “The Lord said to Moche and Aaron, ‘see that the Kohathite tribal clans are not cut off from the Levites. So that they may live and not die when they come near the most holy things. do this for them: Aaron and his sons are to go into the sanctuary and assign to each man his work and what he is to cary. But the Kohathites must not go in to look a the holy things, even for a moment, or they will die.”
Aaron and his sons were the barrier between the Kohathites and their death. Much in the same way Yeshua is our barrier. We must learn to be content with the position and authority given to us as individuals as we cary out our duties as disciples. It is not for us to question if we are given to task of carrying the poles and bases are to offering sacrifices, but to understand that the task that we are given serves the ultimate purpose that we should in no way question. Sometimes having what seems to be the greater honor is more than any of us care to handle. As Yesua says in Luke 12:48 says, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded: and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”