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July 24, 2024

BaMidbar (In the Desert) Parsha – Weekly Torah Portion


Numbers,  1:1-4:20

This Week’s Torah Portion | May 18 – May 24, 2014 – Lyar 18 – Lyar 24, 5774

In A Nutshell

The portion, BaMidbar (In the Desert), begins with the Creator commanding the children of Israel by tribes to bring men who had served in the army and were at least twenty years old, and appoint them as heads of tribes and presidents. Following the nomination, Moses is requested to explain to them where each tribe should be during the journey and while stopping in the desert, how to arrange themselves by tribes and banners according to the four directions, with the tabernacle in the middle.

The portion reiterates the role of the Levites, who are to serve in the tabernacle. The tribe of Levi is special because it has no place or lot of its own; it is to serve everyone and help everyone, especially the priests in the tabernacle. The role of the Levites is to assemble and disassemble the tabernacle at each stop during the journey of the children of Israel. They must follow strict rules that explain what to do with each part of the tabernacle and how to keep the vessels of the tabernacle.

 Commentary by Dr. Michael Laitman

The Torah is divided into two parts: external and internal. The external Torah is the one we read and know. It is the Torah that our fathers (ourselves in previous incarnations, since our souls reincarnate from generation to generation) observed in the past. However, there are things to sort in it. The Torah describes the journey of the children of Israel in the desert and how they should conduct themselves there. It details how to build the tabernacle, divide into priests, Levites, and tribes, how to set up the camp, and how to continue the journey where each one moves from place to place under the tribe’s banner up to the boundaries of the land of Israel and the onset of its conquest.

The inner Torah is actually the main thing. Through it we correct and adjust ourselves internally in order to discover that upper force from which we receive the Torah in actual fact. That is, it is about revealing the Creator to the creatures. Here we are talking about man as a small world, where all that is described in the Torah—priests, Levites, Israel, and the twelve tribes—is within us as replications. The inner Torah touches each of us and instructs us what we must do in order to discover the upper force here and now.

One who has not corrected him or herself is certainly immersed in the ego, the evil inclination, as it is written, “I have created the evil inclination; I have created for it the Torah as a spice.”[1] That state is called a “desert.” The sensation of the desert is the place of the Klipot (shells/peels), meaning uncorrected desires. While in that feeling we have nothing to revive us, to give us spiritual life. Even if we have material abundance we still feel that we are in the desert.

We can see it in today’s life, too, throughout our desperate world. Judging by divorce rates, drug abuse, and terrorism, more and more people are unhappy. They feel that life is no longer satisfying. We have grown and cannot settle for what we have; we aspire for more. It is a sensation that this life is a desert.

If we can compare our lives to a desert, we must arrange our lives accordingly so we may traverse it in peace and arrive at the land of Israel. The word Eretz (land) means Ratzon (desire), and Ysrael (Israel) means Yashar El (straight to God), so I am directed only toward the revelation of Godliness.

For that, we must use the wisdom of Kabbalah. Kabbalah is a method to reveal the Creator to the creatures in this world. Reaching the land of Israel means correcting our desire into a state where we discover the Creator and the spiritual world here and now, as it is written, “You will see your world in your life.”[2]

The Torah is instructions. It tells us that if we follow the stages described in the portion we will traverse the desert in peace and achieve the revelation of Godliness. This is the purpose of our lives and we are built for, and intended to obtain it. Hence, we should see all the rules and counsels in the portion as internal corrections we must find.

My twelve tribes are my own will to receive. That is, they are my inner qualities that must be arranged according to the YodHeyVavHey, by the three lines. It is a structure of my soul—HBDHGTNHY. The priest, Levi, and Israel are HBD. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David are the structure of the qualities of the soul. Accordingly, each of us should set ourselves up.

To the extent that we correct our desires, we gradually come to a state where we discover the stages of walking in the desert. In that process we obtain the qualities of bestowal, Bina. Upon completion of the process we reach Moses’ state—a loyal shepherd. This means that we rise to the degree of faith, bestowal, completion. When the Moses in us dies, namely concludes its work, that degree remains “on the other side of the Jordan.” This is when we move to the land of Israel and begin to conquer it.

In the desert, as well as in the occupation of the land, there are Klipot and struggles. In the desert we were only acquiring the new quality of bestowal over our will to receive. We rose above the will to receive. But in the land of Israel we must conquer the land. When we enter the land of Israel, we literally invert our will to receive from reception into the desire to bestow. The occupation is managing our ego in the form of bestowal and love.

The portion explains the approach to the first great corrections we experience on our spiritual path. The whole process of our correction divides into two parts: the desert, and the land of Israel. Our journey through the desert over the forty years is Malchut rising to Bina, symbolized by the letter Mem, which is forty in Gematria (numeric values given to each letter in the Hebrew alphabet).

From Bina, we climb to the degree of Keter, conquering the land and building the Temple. This is when the heart becomes a Kli (vessel) for reception of the light, the revelation of Godliness. This is called Beit HaMikdash (House of the Temple, or simply, the Temple).

Questions and Answers

Why does the portion begin with the need to appoint heads to the tribes and count everyone from twenty years of age and above?

This process represents a person having to choose which principles to follow. We are only desires to receive, but we also have a little bit of the desire to bestow from above. It is called “a portion of God from above” (Job 31:2). It is the beginning of the soul.

Using the beginning of this soul as a head and beginning to manage our general, egoistic will to receive through it toward bestowal, love of others, Arvut (mutual guarantee), “love your neighbor as yourself,”[3] and “that which you hate, do not do to your neighbor,”[4] will divide this mass of our will to receive properly. It will follow an order of tribes, thousands, and tens. This division also happens within each tribe—to priest, Levite, and Israel.

The priests, and the Levites who help them, are detached from the tribes. They serve only spiritual needs. This is why they are considered “the collective head.” Through this internal psychology, we distinguish what is important, what is not, and gradually correct ourselves, where the secondary joins the primary and follows it.

Currently you cannot feel this division, but as you work on yourself you will begin to feel that your will to receive is not merely a desire, but truly consists of twelve tribes—men, women, children, animals, the desert, and other parts, and even the entire world.

You will discover that your will to receive is divided into degrees: still, vegetative, animate, and human. The still, vegetative, and animate are the surrounding world, and the human is people. In desires that belong to the human degree we have free choice; we can manage them. This is how we should sort our desires and advance.

Within us there is nothing but desires and instructions. The instructions is the Torah—the wisdom of Kabbalah as the inner Torah. We sort our desires so that each desire, which is the speaking, the Kli (vessel) that was taken from Egypt, is corrected into a Kli that belongs to the land of Israel, to the Temple, and is working entirely in order to bestow, toward love.

From The Zohar: The Count and the Calculation

And yet, the world was not rooted in its root until Jacob begot twelve tribes and seventy souls, and the world was planted. However, it was not completed until Israel received the Torah and the tabernacle had been established. Then the worlds persisted and were completed and the upper ones and lower ones were perfumed.

Zohar for All, BaMidbar (In the Desert), item 6

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the three lines. The right line is Abraham, and his Klipa (shell/peel) is Ishmael. The left line is Isaac, and his Klipa is Esau. The middle line is Israel, and its Klipa that is usually referred to as “mixed multitude.” We have to manage this order through the Torah, namely by proper study of the wisdom of Kabbalah, where the light is concealed, as this is the Torah of light, as it is written, “The light in it would reform them.”[5]

If we truly want to correct ourselves and see ourselves arranged and corrected as the Torah describes, in three lines, we must study so the light will influence us. We are divided in such a way that on the left we have the ego, and on the right we have the light of Torah that reforms. The more the light of Torah reforms the ego, according to our labor, the middle line—which includes these two forces—accumulates and subjugates the ego to the rule of the light. Thus, a Kli is formed in which the power of the Creator, the upper force, appears.

We constantly add ego to the correction using a greater light that appears. In this way we climb up the middle line, the line of Jacob. Hence, before the arrival of Jacob there is no match between man and the upper force, the upper world. As soon as a person puts the inner Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the order of these three lines, he or she begins to match the upper force and work with it in reciprocity.

What does one need to do until these discernments develop?

We need to follow what the Kabbalists write for us to the letter: study only in a group with love of friends. Our three primary sources are The Book of Zohar, the writings of the ARI, and the writings of Baal HaSulam. Internally, we must follow only what is written in these books.

Why were Israel commanded to appoint men who served in the army and were twenty years of age or more?

Being twenty years of age in spirituality means that a person is fit for “real estate” deals. Ibur (conception), Yenika (nursing/infancy), and Mochin (adulthood/maturity) are the three phases by which we grow. It is like a fetus who is born after nine months and begins to grow. The stages of spiritual growth are identical—from infancy to maturity. Spiritual infancy ends at age thirteen.

In spirituality, Ibur is a very high degree: a person becomes completely annulled before the upper one, included in it as a drop of semen, while the upper one is nurturing it. For the light to influence us we must cancel ourselves as if we do not exist. If we want to draw the light so it will raise us, we must learn with a group and be part of it, we must want the good environment and the light that comes through it to influence us. In this way we advance in stages that may last less then nine months. It all depends on our efforts.

When we are born, our will to receive is already greater. We develop in awareness and understanding until we are at age thirteen, and from there continue through twenty. At twenty, we are not merely grownups. Rather, we can be owners of our land. “Land” refers to the greatest, lowest, most basic will to receive. Henceforth we are fit for every internal correction.

Is there a connection between the spiritual degrees of Levi (Levite) and Cohen (priest), and people whose last name is so?

No, the roles of Levi and Cohen will appear according to one’s spiritual level, not by one’s last name. In spirituality, a person’s son indicates a result of a spiritual degree because the wisdom Kabbalah speaks only about spiritual degrees. In the physical world we cannot know who is a priest, who is Levite, and who is Israel. It will appear in due time.

Establishing of the Temple will be possible only after we correct ourselves and restore the Temple in our hearts. Then, as with Bezalel, we will be able to build the external structure out of our attainment and understanding. When we are wisehearted and our hearts are filled with the light of Hochma (wisdom), the revelation of Godliness, we will know what external action to take through our feelings. In the Temple will be priests, Levites, and Israel, each according to one’s degree.

This portion focuses on the tribe of Levi; what is so special about it?

It is written about Israel in relation to the nations of the world: “And you will be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6). Generally speaking, in this world we are only required to recognize the negative, become sensitive to what is bad, and correct it into being good. To the extent that we discover that our nature is bad, we want to rid ourselves of it. But our problem is education—of ourselves and of others.

Therefore, the only role of priests and Levites is to educate the people. The priests connect to a higher degree and bring from there the light that reforms in order to pass it on to the Levites, who then pass it on to the people. Thus, each degree, each spiritual Partzuf, divides into three: HBD, HGT, NHY, which are Cohen (priest), Levite (Levi), and Ysrael (Israel).

Levites have no lot because the Creator is their lot. They are in Dvekut (adhesion) with a higher degree, the upper force. They have no desire to receive for themselves what they must correct. They have reached a level of correction where their will to receive aims entirely to bestow. For this reason they are attached to the upper force. Through the Levites, we too, Israel, who are at a lower degree, can receive the light and the direction toward progress.

Is there a meaning to the order of the portions, and if so, does it concern our spiritual development?

Yes, it is how our world is divided. In our world, as in the spiritual world, there are terms, times in the year that are divided into portions. Everything possesses a unique force. Hence, each week has its own portion because there is a special force that acts from above accordingly. As we advance from portion to portion, we correct ourselves.

Therefore, as root and branch, this state also occurs in our world. You must not mix the portions; each portion must be read in its time. Thus, you cannot read the portion, Bamidbar (In the Desert) on Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year’s Eve), nor can you read during the winter a portion that is to be read in the summer.

Sometimes when we read a portion, it feels as though it is no longer relevant to us.

We do not treat portions as being in the past. The Torah is the law of life. To reach the source of life we must assume it on ourselves. The Torah was given only to discover the Creator and cling to Him.

What is the meaning of the “hurly burly” concerning the tabernacle: rising, leaving, journeying, and standing around it?

It is the holy, corrected Kli within us. I focus all my desires, discernments, inclinations, and qualities on a state of bestowal, similar to the Creator, the force of bestowal, the good who does good. I try to correct and bring myself to a state where my nucleus, my hope, my entire being has something in them that is similar to the upper force, and the upper light will come and correct me into that state.

The tabernacle is actually man’s soul. If, out of my entire egoistic will to receive I correct a part so that it aims to bestow, in that part I feel the Creator. That part is called “a soul,” and what fills it is the revelation of the Creator.

The work of correction makes us a tabernacle and surrounds us in the tabernacle. We, in fact, must turn ourselves into the Temple.

What or who is the shepherd in the portion?

A shepherd is the degree of Moses, the loyal shepherd. One must choose this degree every moment. At every stop I have to choose what is leading me and where, what is my life, who is my shepherd, and whom my desires and thoughts follow.

Our correction is to walk in a way known as “the Torah, Israel, and the Creator are one.” If we want to be Israel, we must follow the light that reforms. When we follow it, the light brings us to the quality of the Creator, as it is written, “return, O Israel, to the Lord your God” (Hosea 14:2).

I must decide that I must have that quality of bestowal and absolute love. This is the only reason why the Torah was given to us, and this is what we receive when we use it. It was said about it, “I have created the evil inclination; I have created for it the Torah as a spice,” for “the light in it would reform them.” What reforms is the good who does good, the quality of bestowal and love we acquire. We attain that quality within, not in some image outside of us. We perceive within us the quality of bestowal and love that we call Boreh (Creator), from the words Be Re’eh (come and see).

Will such guidance appear in our world in a more corrected state, and if so, how?

Of course the guidance will appear. Today the world is falling into a global crisis, to a feeling that we are truly in the desert. This desert will push us to advance only toward the inner land of Israel, because this is the whole purpose of the global crisis.

[1] Babylonian Talmud, Masechet Kidushin, 30b.
[2] Babylonian Talmud, Masechet Berachot, 17a
[3] Jerusalem Talmud, Seder Nashim, Masechet Nedarim, Chapter 9, p 30b.
[4] Masechet Shabbat, 31a.
[5] Midrash Rabah, Eicha, Introduction, Paragraph 2.

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1 Comment »

  Sylvia Bone wrote @ May 18th, 2014 at 8:53 am

Excellent explanation!
Thank you so much!

Your comment

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