BAMIDBAR & SHAVUOT COMMENTARIES- RABBINATE OF MARBELLA ב”ה
This week we begin a new book, Bamidbar. This is the beginning of the Perashah reading. “And God spoke to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai – in the Tent of Meeting – on the first day of the second month, in the year following their departure from the land of Egypt, saying”.
The Jews were still in the wilderness, awaiting the glorious moment of their entrance into the Promised Land. Of course, we know how the book ends; the Jews went through many tribulations and never entered the Land of Israel. That privilege was left for their children in the next generation.
The Torah continues: “Count the whole community of the children of Israel, according to their families, according to their fathers’ houses; count the men…from the age of 20 years and upwards, all those who will go out to battle in Israel”.
The Divine need to number the people at this time must be understood. This is not the first time that the Jews have been counted since they left Egypt. Thus Rashi comments, “Out of love, God counted them every moment. When they left Egypt, they were counted, when they fell (died) for the sin of the golden calf, they were counted to know how many were left. When it was time for the Shechinah to envelop them, they were counted; on the first of Nissan, the Mishkan was erected and on the first of Iyar they were counted”.
Rashi is interested in the motivation for counting the Jews over and over again, this being the third time they were counted in the span of a year. The aforementioned exegete Rabbi explains that God’s love for His people (the Jews) is the reason why HE tells us over and over again
The day on which the Torah was given Rosh Hodesh Sivan fell on a Sunday according to the opinion of Rabbi Yossi, by which we are guided. Thus, the Torah was given on Shabbat, the 7th of Sivan. The chronology of events was as follows:
On Sunday, the first of Sivan, the people arrived in the Sinai desert from Rephidim, camping in front of the mountain. On that day they did not receive the Divine word because Israel was fatigued from the journey.
On the second day of the month, Moshe gave the Children of Israel – at God’s command – an introduction to the Torah, so that they would know what God would require of them when they accepted His yoke.
These preliminary remarks encompassed much more than the duty to perform Mitzvot. HaShem said to them, “You have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I lifted you up on eagles’ wings…now, if you will listen well to My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be to Me a treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is Mine. You shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation….”. The response of the people was as follows: All the people responded together, saying, “All that God has spoken, we will do.”
On the third day Moshe established certain boundaries (Hagbalah) for them. He set demarcation lines around the mountain, saying to them, “You may approach this place, but no closer. Anyone who comes into contact with the mountain will die.
On the fourth day he commanded them to sanctify themselves and to abstain from intimate relations, and to purify their bodies and garments. Thus said the Lord to Moshe: Go to the people and prepare them, today and tomorrow … for on the third day God will descend upon Mount Sinai before the eyes of all the people.
So the Torah should have been given on Friday, the 6th of Sivan. Moshe, however, added to these, another day of sanctification and abstinence on his own, conveying to the people thus: Be ready for (after) three days; that is, there were to be three days of preparation and on the fourth, God would descend. The Creator accepted Moshe’s addition, and the Shechinah did not rest on the mountain until Shabbat, the 7th of Sivan.
Thus, the Giving of the Torah, which was to take place on the 6th of Sivan, actually took place on the 7th. However, for posterity, this Festivity was fixed for the 6th of the said month, in accordance with the original instructions that Hashem had given to Moshe. For this very reason, the period of restriction – Yeme Hagbalah – is commemorated for three days, beginning on the 3rd of Sivan as at that time.