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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Introduction to Book 5


Book 5

The second part of Bamidbar is about a darker side of exile. It’s about wandering in the desert, being so close to Hashem that sometimes it hurts; feeling so far from Hashem that it hurts even more. The tests of exile bring about tremendous tragedy; yet they also reveal our true nature, our Divine Essence. As much as Bamidbar is about seeing things spiritually and connecting to our essence, it’s also about connecting to the power of words, of prayer. That is the root of the very word Midbar (desert): Davar, the spoken word. It takes going through Bamidbar (Numbers) to get to Devarim (Deuteronomy), which literally means, “words.” The sets of 52 explored in this text are as follows:

The Song of Songs (Shir HaShirim) encapsulates the stresses and longings of exile more than any other work in the Tanach. Perhaps that is why Rabbi Akiva stated that if the entire Tanach is holy, the Song of Songs is the “Holy of Holies.” The work expresses tremendous longing for Hashem: tremendous remorse over the sins that caused Him to distance Himself, and the longing for they day we will return to Him.

The first description of collective exile in the Torah is the description of the seventy souls (descendants of Jacob) that descended into Egypt. Each one of the souls contains an essential aspect of the Jewish people, and also of that particular week in the Jewish calendar.

The Tractate of Shevuos, which like the Tractate of Sotah, contains 49 folios and is studied during the Counting the Omer, is all about the power of words.

The Book of Jeremiah, which has 52 chapters, describes one of the greatest tragedies  to befall the Jewish people: the fall of the First Temple. Yet, within what appear to be an extremely sobering and bleak descriptions, there is also a glimmer of light and many references to the deep and unbreakable connection between G-d and the Jewish people. Also, the example of Jeremiah himself, his prayers, inner strength, and his impeccable behavior during this time, are a source of great inspiration.

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