By: Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
Inviting the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land
And I Shall Break Your Yokes and Make You Walk Upright
In earlier discussions we explored how the numbers of the tribes of Israel represent various spiritual powers/energies attributed to each tribe. Now, we would like to discuss the meaning of some of the more detailed numbers in this parsha, as well as those in the census in parshat Pinchas.
To begin with, we should note that, both in this parsha and in parshat Pinchas, the main number for hundreds of thousands, reappears as a reference for the entire People of Israel: 600,000. This matter implies that the number six is a very important number in regard to the spiritual meaning of the People of Israel, a matter that is affirmed by the Kabbalists. Explaining this kabbalistic idea more simply we may say that the number six is equivalent to the letter “vav” [third letter of the Tetragammaton] which means “to connect.” In other words, the purpose of Israel is to connect Heaven and Earth just as the First Adam [who was created on the sixth day of creation] was made through a combination of earth and the Heavenly soul. Ideally, Israel is meant to compete the mission of Adam. Just as Israel is represented by the number six, so too do they sanctify the number seven, a number associated with the Holy Presence. So too seven is associated with Shabbat, the seventh day, and with the Shemita year, the seventh year in the Holy Land where the Holy Presence rests. These numbers may also shed light on numbers in the modern era, such as the fact that the State of Israel was founded when there were 600,000 Jews living in the Land of Israel.
Just before the founding of the State our People suffered a terrible sacrifice of six million Jews in the Holocaust, and they definitely serve as a great source of merit for our People in Heaven as they sacrificed their lives for Hashem’s Namesake. We are not presenting the “reason” for the Holocaust here, but rather a contemplation on the order of events and the “numerology” involved.
In another perspective on the census we see that the leading tribe of all the encampments, Yehuda, the tribe identified with kingship and leadership, always stands as the “leading” tribe in numbers, i.e the most populous tribe of all the tribes, as well. This matter seems to suggest that, measure for measure, just as raising many offspring requires leadership of the household, so too such leaders of large families are also befitting to be leaders of the People at large. Rabbi Nahman of Breslov also teaches (Sichot HaRan) that every household is like a tiny world, with “nations and empires”, i.e the parents and children, constantly “battling” and “making peace” etc. between each other, indicative of the various world powers/ideologies. We should differentiate between national leadership and spiritual leadership, for the tribe of Levi, considered the spiritual leadership of Israel, is actually the smallest tribe. From this we see that spiritual leadership may not always be involved with large groups of people in a direct and/or explicit manner, although spiritual leadership does affect the masses in a Divine way. On the contrary, the Levites are relatively “aloof” from the “physical” and the “bodily,” a matter that can be seen in the fact that they have no regular physical portion in the Land of Israel and also they have the least human “bodies” associated with them than all the other tribes. Here we should mention the interesting role of Hebron as being both a city of the Kohanim, of the tribe of Levi, and also being in the portion of Yehuda, the national leader of Israel. In this way Hebron “connects”, as its name suggests [“hibur”], the two main types of leadership in Israel, both on spiritual and national levels.
Contemplating the census of Yissachar and Zevulun we see that their numbers are very close to each other both in this parsha and in parshat Pinchas. As is well known, Yissachar and Zevulun had an agreement between them that Zevulun would be occupied in commerce to support those of the tribe of Yissachar in Torah study. We see from the census of these tribes that Torah teaches us that such “partnership” for the sake of Torah study is not only a spiritual partnership, but it also joins the partners in a manifest way, such as determining the numbers of souls associated with them, which is, as we mentioned before, is also indicative of their spiritual identity.
Real Stories from the Holy Land #318
“For many days I worked at the Jewish cemetery in Hebron. One day, I was called urgently to the bed of Rabbi Mordechai Dov Ber Slonim zt”l, who, in his last words, whispered to me that buried between the graves of his family in Hebron there is a bottle of pure oil. He asked me to take this bottle and place it in his grave. Immediately I took a friend to the burial cave of the Slonim family. When we began to remove the rocks from the opening of the cave we were confronted with a threatening viper snake, which could kill us if we were bitten. My friend said, “messengers for a mitzvah will not be harmed.” Immediately my friend raised various debris and smashed the viper’s head. We entered the cave, found the bottle of oil, and fulfilled Rabbi Slonim’s request.”
Source: Sefer Hebron p. 398
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