Bits of Torah Truths, פרשת במדבר, Parashat Bamidbar, Handling the Faith Carelessly
In this week’s Torah portion we read the following from Bamidbar / Numbers 4:15-20, וכלה אהרן־ובניו לכסת את־הקדש ואת־כל־כלי הקדש בנסע המחנה ואחרי־כן יבאו בני־קהת לשאת ולא־יגעו אל־הקדש ומתו אלה משא בני־קהת באהל מועד 4:15 When Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sacred objects and all the furnishings of the sacred objects at the breaking of camp, only then shall the Kohathites come and lift them, so that they do not come in contact with the sacred objects and die. These things in the Tent of Meeting shall be the porterage of the Kohathites. ופקדת אלעזר בן־אהרן הכהן שמן המאור וקטרת הסמים ומנחת התמיד ושמן המשחה פקדת כל־המשכן וכל־אשר־בו בקדש ובכליו 4:16 Responsibility shall rest with Eleazar son of Aaron the priest for the lighting oil, the aromatic incense, the regular meal offering, and the anointing oil—responsibility for the whole Tabernacle and for everything consecrated that is in it or in its vessels. וידבר יהוה אל־משה ואל־אהרן לאמר 4:17 The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: אל־תכריתו את־שבט משפחת הקהתי מתוך הלוים 4:18 Do not let the group of Kohathite clans be cut off from the Levites. וזאת עשו להם וחיו ולא ימתו בגשתם את־קדש הקדשים אהרן ובניו יבאו ושמו אותם איש איש על־עבדתו ואל־משאו 4:19 Do this with them, that they may live and not die when they approach the most sacred objects: let Aaron and his sons go in and assign each of them to his duties and to his porterage. ולא־יבאו לראות כבלע את־הקדש ומתו 4:20 But let not [the Kohathites] go inside and witness the dismantling of the sanctuary, lest they die. Notice in Bamidbar / Numbers 4:18 the Lord instructs the Levites to not let the Kohathite clans be cut off. This demonstrates a responsibility of men to seek the welfare of their brothers. This love is shown in the covering of the sacred objects so their brothers would not die. What is it about touching the holy things that will cause one to become guilty before God exacting immediate judgment and death? Rashi on Bamidbar / Numbers 4:15 Part 3 states, “ומתו [SO THAT THEY SHALL NOT TOUCH ANY THING OF HOLINESS] LEST THEY DIE — because if they do touch they become liable to death by Heaven.” Rashi says when one touches the holy thing they become liable to death by Heaven. Siftei Chakhamim on Bamidbar / Numbers 4:15 Part 2 states, “Since, if they touch they will be subject. Not that if they do not touch they will die, as is implied by the simple reading of the verse. The word ימותו “and they will die” is not together with the words וְלֹא-יִגְּעוּ— “they shall not touch,” only with the word יִגְּעוּ “touch.” Thus we are to infer “they shall not touch,” but if they do touch, then ימותו “they will die.”” We are told in Bamidbar / Numbers 4:20 if they come and look at the holy things as they are dismantled, this is not to be done under the warning of death. (וְלֹא-יָבֹאוּ לִרְאוֹת כְּבַלַּע אֶת-הַקֹּדֶשׁ וָמֵתוּ:) Ibn Ezra states the meaning of the word כְּבַלַּע is that something is being removed and canceled. This is related to God’s Word, the testimony of these holy things, and handling them in a careless manner, even to handling them in our hearts in a careless manner such as is described here in viewing their dismantling. The kabbalistic approach to the words וְלֹא-יָבֹאוּ לִרְאוֹת כְּבַלַּע is related to the glory of God that appears in the Tabernacle that is hidden away, where a non-priest could carelessly observe as opposed to the priest who would go in with great care, burning the incense to create the cloud over the mercy seat so as not to endanger himself by trying to get a glimpse of it. “This was the reason why the High Priest was not allowed to enter the Holy of Holies except on the Day of Atonement. Even on that day he was not allowed to enter that part of the Tabernacle except equipped with the incense, the smoke of which made it impossible for him to see something he was not meant to see. This was also the reason he was not to enter with ready-made incense but he had to ensure that the smoke would be initiated inside the Sanctuary so as to fill the airspace within the Holy of Holies enveloping the kapporet, the site of the attribute of כבוד in the process.” (Rabbeinu Bahya, Bamidbar 4:20 Parts 1-4) These things speak to us about handling what God has given us in a careless manner. Think about this for a moment. What have we been given? God’s Holy Word (Bible), justice, truth, righteousness, forgiveness, redemption, the Messiah Yeshua, joy, love, and peace. Do we take these things for granted? Are we handling these things in a careless manner? These things that bring life when handled properly (applying to life) become the reasons for our destruction when ignored and disregarded. Note how Judaism has a passionate dedication to the ideal of justice and truth. The moral imperatives of justice, ethics, and morality are taught in the Torah and emphasized by the Prophets throughout the history of Israel. These have become the ideals and obligations for God’s people as opposed to just “recommendations” for good behavior. We are obligated to take care of the poor (Devarim / Deuteronomy 15:7-8), the widow, the orphan and the stranger (Shemot / Exodus 22:20-21), the Priesthood who did not receive an inheritance, the Levites (Devarim / Deuteronomy 12:17-19) and those who have no land or are in need. The Lord God Almighty warns us against corruption, bribery, misuse of power, and the mistreatment of workers. The Torah provides rights for women and other groups. The Torah teaches the ideal of justice for the benefit of society and the moral guidance of the individual, and also for the benefit of society and the land in which we live. Do we ignore these things or treat these things in a careless manner? It is important to note how these references are also mixed in with other topics relating to justice, holiness, and righteousness, drawing in the context of these things to make the instruction of God complete as a whole for His people. We are instructed to be responsible persons who live together in a community of believers. We are obligated to help someone who is in need (Vayikra / Leviticus 19:16, Shemot / Exodus 23:5); and to be a person who does not take responsibility (i.e. to behave simply as a bystander or just an observer) is a Torah-violation. Jewish Tradition states that every person should exhibit the characteristic of chesed (grace, חסד), meaning taking action to go beyond the requirement of the law to help others. Notice how this is something Yeshua taught, we are to go beyond our calling, taking the extra step or going the extra mile. The Talmud states that mercy and kindness should be among the defining traits of every Jew (Talmud Bavli Yevamot 79a). These Scriptures today remind us of the importance of God’s Word in our lives. We are not to disregard the ways of God and we are to care for others. This is what it means when we read the Lord instructing us to be faithful in all that we do.