Bialik’s Radical Subversion

Bialik’s Radical Subversion

May 22, 2004 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Bemidbar

The overture to the book of Numbers is decidedly upbeat. All appears in order for a quick journey through the wilderness. We are at the start of the fourteenth month since the exodus from Egypt. A month before Moses had erected the Tabernacle, commemorating the first anniversary of Israel’s freedom. Just three months after its redemption, Israel experienced God’s revelation at Mount Sinai. The opening chapters convey an aura of invincibility. With exactly 603,550 fighting men above the age of twenty, Israel is arrayed around the Tabernacle in military formation with four tribes on each side. The ultimate power of this force is spiritual, for the Tabernacle at its center protected by the Levites, is not only the repository of the tablets of the covenant, but also the abode of God on earth. As a shrine, it serves as an earthly microcosm of God’s cosmic dwelling.

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Counting Ourselves As Israel

Counting Ourselves As Israel

May 23, 2009 By Leonard A. Sharzer | Commentary | Bemidbar

Sefer Bemidbar, the Book of Numbers, which we begin reading this week, opens with the taking of a census. After the rather arcane matters we have been reading about in recent weeks—the sacrificial cult, laws of purity and impurity, skin eruptions, bodily discharges, and so on—the monotony and repetitiveness of this week’s parashah comes almost as a relief. The chieftains of each tribe are named, and an identical formula is recited, concluding with the number of men over the age of twenty—fighting men—in each tribe. For this is not a census of the entire people, rather it is an accounting of those who will make up an army to cross the desert. The Israelites have just celebrated the first anniversary of their liberation, and they are about to embark on a journey that will last thirty-eight years, although they do not know that at the time of the census. They are forming an army to take the population on what should be a short sojourn to the Promised Land. That they should form an army to cross the desert is not surprising; but, we may ask, why the apparent preoccupation with numbers?

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Teach Us to Number, O God!

Teach Us to Number, O God!

May 15, 2010 By Robert Harris | Commentary | Bemidbar

Our Torah portion this week begins the fourth book of the Torah (see? I’m numbering already!), B’midbar. This Hebrew name of the book comes from one of the first significant words in the book, and means “in the wilderness of . . . ” (see below). But in rabbinic antiquity, another name of the book circulated, and that was humash (orseferHa-piqqudim, which essentially means “Book of Counting” (see, e.g., Mishnah Yoma 7:1). This name corresponds to the ancient Jewish Greek version, Arithmoi, which was rendered by the Latin Vulgate Numeri, from which comes our current English title, “Numbers.

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The Torah’s Lessons for Building Communities

The Torah’s Lessons for Building Communities

May 31, 2008 By Charles Savenor | Commentary | Bemidbar

Bemidbar, the fourth book of the Torah, opens with a demographic and geographic description of the Children of Israel.

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Finding Direction to Move Forward with God

Finding Direction to Move Forward with God

May 23, 2014 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Bemidbar

This Shabbat opens the fourth book of Torah known as Sefer Bemidbar, the book of Numbers.

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Our Sacred Partnerships

Our Sacred Partnerships

May 27, 2011 By Mychal Springer | Commentary | Bemidbar

In this week’s Torah and haftarah portions, the specter of rupture looms repeatedly. First, we are reminded of the deaths of Aaron’s two older sons, Nadav and Avihu. Similarly, our parashah recounts the undoing of the sacred place held by the firstborn sons, chosen to be dedicated to God when they were saved from the 10th plague, the plague of the slaying of the firstborns. Finally, in the haftarah, Hosea tells the story of Israel the Unfaithful, through the vehicle of Gomer, his harlot-wife.

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A Slow Walk to Freedom

A Slow Walk to Freedom

May 8, 2013 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Bemidbar

With this coming Shabbat, we begin the fourth book of Torah known as the book of Numbers or Bemidbar.

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How Do You Measure a Year?

How Do You Measure a Year?

May 8, 2013 By Abigail Treu | Commentary | Bemidbar | Shavuot

We are doing an awful lot of counting this week: we count the final days of the Omer, and, as our parashah begins, take the census of the Israelite community. What does all of this counting have to do with the ways in which we measure what really matters?

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The Wilderness Speaks

The Wilderness Speaks

May 22, 2015 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Bemidbar

The summer after graduating college, I went backpacking with a friend in North Cascades National Park in Washington. The sun shone brightly on Lake Chelan as we were ferried deep into the woods, landing at the little outpost of Stehekin to begin our weeklong trek. It was a euphoric beginning, but soon both the weather and my mood grew darker. 

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Bemidbar

Bemidbar

Jan 1, 1980

1 The number of the people of Israel shall be like that of the sands of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted; and instead of being told, “You are Not-My-People,” they shall be called Children-of-the-Living-God.

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