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09.05.2013 10:09    Comments: 0    Categories: Weekly Parashah      Tags: torah  shabbat  shavuot  shiur  

One Minute on this Shabbat with Rabbi Cowen:

The Book of Bamidbar , literally translated as "In the desert", or known as the Book of Numbers begins with G-d commanding Moshe to take a census of all men over age twenty, the age old enough for service. The count reveals just over 600,000. The Levites are counted separately later, because their service will be unique. They will be responsible for transporting the Mishkan/Tabernacle and its furnishings and assembling them when the nation encamps. The twelve Tribes of Israel, each with its banner, are arranged around the Mishkan in four sections: East, south, west and north. Since the tribe Levi is singled out, the tribe of Yosef is split into two tribes, Efraim and Menashe, so there will be four groups of three. When the nation travels, they march in a formation similar to the way they camp.

A formal transfer is made between the first born and the Levites, whereby the Levites take over the role the firstborn would have had serving in the Mishkan/Tabernacle if not for the sin of the golden calf. The transfer is made using all the 22,000 surveyed Levites from one month old and up. Only Levites between 30 and 50 will work in the Mishkan. The remaining firstborn sons are redeemed with silver, similar to the way we redeem our firstborn today in the ceremony known as Pidoyon HaBen. The sons of Levi are divided into three main families, Gershon, Kehat and Merari (besides the kohanim/priests the special division from Kehat's family). The family of Kehat carried the menorah, the table, the altar and the holy ark. Because of their utmost sanctity, the ark and the altar are covered only by Aharon and his sons, before the Levites prepare them for travel.

This week we also celebrate the final Festival of the Jewish year, the Yom Tov of Shavuot, the time of the Revelation at Mount Sinai to the entire Jewish nation and the Giving of the Torah. Shavuot is referred to by four names in the Torah. The Festival of Reaping in reference to the reaping of wheat which takes place during this period since wheat is the latest grain in the fields. When it’s reaped, the annual work is completed and is marked by the bringing of a gift-offering of new grain to the Bet HaMikdash, the Holy Temple, in Jerusalem. The Festival of Shavuot (weeks) is an allusion to the seven weeks which are counted from Pesach, the fiftieth day being celebrated as a holy day marking the date when the Torah was given. The day of Bikkurim commemorates the offering brought of the two selected loaves of bread, an offering which served to allow individuals to bring grain-offerings from the new produce. Atzeret is the name used by our Sages to refer to this Yom Tov, indicating that the essence of the holiday is as a concluding “eighth day” for the seven days of Pesach. The intervening period of forty-nine days is not considered to be an interruption, but is actually seen as a “Chol Ha’Moed”/Intermediate Day linking the first part of the holiday with its conclusion. Atzeret also connotes an assembly, a reference from Moshe in the Book of Devarim referring to the day on which the Torah was given.

Points to Ponder in Preparation for Mattan Torah (the Giving of the Torah):

Many are familiar with the question as to why the Torah was given in the desert. HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, however, looks at the question from a different perspective. HaRav Pincus asks not why the Torah was actually given in the Midbar/desert, but rather why the Torah was **not** given in Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel. After all, doesn’t the very air of Eretz Yisrael itself make one wise? Wouldn’t the intense Kedusha/Sanctity of Eretz Yisrael per se have a unique and special effect on those receiving the Torah? Isn’t the complete performance of the Mitzvot dependent on their performance in Eretz Yisrael in any event?!

HaRav Pincus answers that we must put the Giving of the Torah in its proper perspective. On Pesach, HaKadosh Baruch Hu, The Holy One Blessed is He, chose us as His Kallah, as his bride, so to speak. The Shidduch/Match was made, and we celebrate our new relationship over Pesach. The days of Sefirah, the Omer, are the equivalent of the engagement period--between the Engagaement and the Chatuna/Wedding itself. Shavuot is then, the Great Wedding, where Hashem came out to greet us as a Chatan/Groom steps forward to greet his Kallah. The period after Shavuot is the time in which the newfound relationship was to be firmly and eternally established.

We can now understand why the Torah had to be given in the desert. The proverbial Chatan and Kallah needed time with each other, without any distractions whatsoever--not even holy or important ones--in order to form an eternal bond. Giving the Torah in Eretz Yisrael would be the equivalent of getting married in a kitchen, even if it was Super Glatt Kosher--As soon as the Chupa/Wedding Ceremony was over, the Chatan would soon be learning how to use the Shabbat Clock, and the Kallah would start figuring out how to make cholent or huevos haminados! Just as the Yichud/Privacy room follows immediately after the Chupa so that the newlyweds can focus on each other and only on each other, so, too, did we need our special time to be separated from everything else and unite with HaKadosh Baruch Hu.

Baruch Hashem our relationship started off properly. We had the proper Yichud/Privacy, our connection with Hashem was developed without interruption or disturbance. As a result, our potential for dveiykut--for a close and tight bond--with Hashem is, and always will be, at a maximum level.

So, we are now like the Chatan and Kallah several days before the Chupa. The anticipation, the last minute preparations, the prayers that everything goes right…but we must also remember that the goal to be achieved when Shavuot arrives is not only the marvelous and incomparable moment of the Wedding itself, but also the raising of our own personal ever-special and eternally-lasting relationship that must follow, as expressed by the love that we have for Hashem, the improved way in which we study His Torah and the devoted manner and especially warm care in which we perform His Mitzvos!

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