Bamidbar: The Book of Numbers

16 Items


Finding One’s Place in the World

In English, the book of Bamidbar is called Numbers, a somewhat surprising translation given that “bamidbar” means “in the desert.” However, aside from this objection, this choice makes perfect sense as the tribes, “families,” and individuals are counted several times throughout the book, most notably at the beginning. This recurring theme raises two questions: Why […]

Mans Search for Meaning

“Every man by his banner, with the insignia of their father’s house shall the children of Israel camp; at a distance surrounding the Tent of Meeting they shall camp” (Numbers 2:2). This verse is part of the Torah’s description of how Israel camped on all four sides of the Tabernacle in the desert. The Midrash […]


The Blessing of Peace

Following the laws of the Nazirite, the portion of Nasso presents the Priestly Blessing: God spoke to Moses saying: “Speak to Aaron and his sons saying: Thus shall you bless the children of Israel, saying to them: ‘May God bless you and protect you. May God illuminate His countenance upon you and be gracious to […]


Prophecy, Past, Present and Future

In response to Moses’ request not to bear the burden of the people by himself, God tells him to gather seventy elders to assist him. Since seventy does not divide evenly by twelve, an equal number of elders from each tribe could not be appointed. In order to spare Moses the unpleasantness of slighting any […]


Impressions Made in the Fabric of Time

Upon hearing the spies’ report, their description of the well-fortified cities and the giants who inhabited them, “the entire congregation lifted up their voice and cried; and the people wept that night” (Numbers 14:1). The Talmud discusses the ramifications of their crying: “Rabbah said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: ‘That night was the ninth […]

The Power of Ten

The Lubavitcher Rebbe’s suggestion that we add the letter yud, equaling ten, to the word “shaliach,” which we mentioned in the previous segment, makes a great deal of sense in the context of Shelach. Moses chose twelve spies, one from each tribe to spy out the land. Ten of them banded together and returned with […]


All That God Does is For The Good

Paradoxically, while the world is a reflection of the Torah, the Torah also simultaneously reflects the realities of the world. This paradox was discussed extensively in our discussion of Jacob’s complex character in a number of portions in Genesis. Since there are so many difficult situations in life that strain our sense of fairness, logic, […]

An Example of Measure for Measure

One of the fundamental principles governing Divine justice is the notion of “measure for measure” (midah kenegged midah). A constant theme in the oral tradition, this concept also gains great prominence in Kabbalah and Chassidut. Some secular or non-Jewish versions of this concept include the following: “You reap what you sow”; “What goes around comes […]



The Power of Positive Thinking

Balaam, knowing the power of God, did not dare cross Him. Even though our oral tradition makes clear that Balaam undoubtedly wanted to curse Israel as Balak requested, he only prophesied what God put in his mouth. Indeed, perhaps he had no choice, as whether he wished to or not, every time he opened his […]


Chariots of God

As we have discussed above, there is much that can be written about the significance of Pinchas’ deed and the enduring impact such a deed can have both on the soul realm and in this world. Another beautiful insight about Pinchas can be revealed by comparing Pinchas and the patriarch Isaac, both of whose names […]


The Faithful Servant

As we have seen throughout this book, analyzing words according to their letters yields deep and profound meanings. This in fact is intrinsic to the PaRDeS system of learning. The Hebrew word for vow (neder) when split into its two syllables reads “ne-der” – “[the letter] nun dwells.” When the two letters spelling the word […]

The Changing of the Guard

This portion is called Mattot (Tribes) because it begins with God telling Moses to speak to the heads of the tribes about the laws of vows. The Talmud teaches that after receiving a revelation from God, Moses always taught Aaron first, Aaron’s sons next, then the elders (including the leaders of the tribes), and finally […]


The Ever-Changing Borders of the Land of Israel

The idea that processes are dynamic in nature, as reflected by the journeys and encampments in the beginning of this portion, is also apparent in the biblical borders of the Land of Israel delineated, for the first and only time in the Torah, later in this portion. Although there are scholarly disagreements over where exactly […]