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Torah Portion

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We now see many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip, as the Jews attempt to implement the teachings of Leviticus in the book of Numbers, the tale of their desert trek toward the promised land. As the conquest draws nearer, their faith in God and Moshe falters; the Jews of Exodus don't make it, but their kids do, despite their own weaknesses!

Ch. 1 is a male tribal military census, from 20. The Levites, not included, are to keep the holy home fires burning in the Tabernacle, retaining the raison d'etre of Israel's mission and struggles.

CH. 2 gives the tribal camping and travel arrangement of Israel; they're divided into 4 camps, grouped about the tabernacle and Levites.

CH. 3 deals with the mission of the Levites, their particular functions in the tabernacle, and the special role of the priests amongst them; their census includes males from one month old, replacements for the firstborn males, who formerly led Divine Worship.

CH. 4 counts, and allocates functions to, the working Levites, males 30-50, in moving the tabernacle; but only the priests are to have close contact with the sacred objects.


Hosea forecasts the Messianic Era-- Jewish survivors will bring the world back to God and themselves from Israel. Other cultures consider Jews an anachronism, no longer God's people; they'll suddenly realize that they're "children of the Living God"-- tho "God is dead" elsewhere, He's alive and well in Jerusalem! (cf. Toynbee). The reunited Jews will then regret deserting Torah for alien cultures (e.g. soccer and discos, cheap movies and vulgar "art" festivals). The Jews' "mother", The Community of Israel, has been unfaithful to their father, God; she was severely punished via barbarians, e.g. Crusaders, Inquisitors and Nazis (Both Torquemada and Hitler are featured in Andrew Ewart's "The World's Wickedest Men- authentic accounts of lives terrible in their power for evil). God, nonetheless, won't completely abandon her; she'll return with ardor, calling Him "my mate", not just "my master"* . Then all nature will again be perfect, with no more war. This union of God and Israel is eternal (vs. the view of much of Christianity & Islam): "AND I WILL BETROTH YOU UNTO ME FOREVER... WITH JUSTICE, LAWS OF JUSTICE, LOVINGKINDNESS AND PITY AND... WITH FAITH (True religion emerges from social justice and truth, but its fulfillment is knowledge of God-- Guide III:54), AND YOU WILL REALLY KNOW GOD (19-20). Thus the desert ordeal, here and in all ages, is a trek toward a wonderful redemptive mission of Israel in Israel. The Jews learn to build a holy civilization from a barren desert (Rav J. Soloveichik). "I REMEMBER FOR YOU THE KINDNESS OF YOUR YOUTH, THE LOVE OF YOUR BETROTHAL-- GOING AFTER ME IN THE DESERT, IN A BARREN LAND" (Jer. 2:1).

*So Herbert Danziger, in "Return to Tradition", describes the universal change from religions of coercion and communal pressure, to those of choice, in the modern era. Orthodoxy, in its old repressive mode, lost most of its followers with emancipation; but the tides are turning, so that, at least, 1 person entered Orthodoxy for every 5 who left by 1989; as Orthodoxy restructures itself as a religion of choice, its traditional stalwarts will themselves be revitalized and imbued with sincere conviction, leading to an eventual return of the educated Jewish masses to their truly traditional faith-- all of their own free-will; Rav J. Soloveichik, as Sharansky, notes that religious coercion today is simply counter-productive.

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