Parshat Bamidbar: The Strength of Torah

14 05 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur on Chassidut by Rabbi Hershel Reichman

Parshat Behar-Bechukosai: Relinquishing the I

The Shem MiShmuel explains that the Jewish people, who are the troops of Torah, and the Leviim, who are the troops of the Mishkan, were counted separately. However, the Zohar writes that both were counted concurrently. The two counts share a common theme. What is the Zohar trying to teach us with this focus on Torah and Mishkan?

The Mishna in Avot says, “The world stands on three pillars: Torah, service of Hashem, and kind deeds.” Torah, intellectual study, is the focus of the mind, while avoda, serving Hashem through korbanot or prayer, is connected to the heart and emotion.

What was the purpose of the Jewish people’s sojourn in the desert for forty years? The Zohar writes that the desert is the most barren place in the world and represents the physical place that manifests the evil powers of the higher realms. According to Kabbala, the Jews were meant to conquer and subjugate these evil forces, and they succeeded with the strength of Torah.

The Torah was specifically given in the satan’s backyard, to teach us that the power of Torah is so great that it can produce holiness in the worst places. The Jews are called soldiers of Torah because they are enjoined to fight against a terrible, difficult environment.

In contrast, the Zohar says that the Mishkan was not exposed to the desert. It was surrounded and kept protected within the Jewish camp. The Shem MiShmuel explains that this is the difference between Torah and avoda. Torah, a function of the brain, is strong, hard, and clear and cannot be impacted by any outside influences. It has the power to overcome the desert. However, avoda, which is connected to the heart, is delicate, sensitive, and unstable. For the heart to remain pure and holy, it has to remain in a protected environment.

This was the difference between the two units of soldiers. The troops of Torah marched publicly in the hostile desert, while the troops of avoda stayed protected within the Mishkan so they could serve Hashem in purity.

The Shem MiShmuel writes that although the Torah generally shuns publicity, the Jews were counted openly. This was to teach us that one can only confront evil in public battle. In contrast, the Leviim, who represented service of Hashem, needed protection within the Jewish camp.

Every Jew is a miniature of the Jewish nation. What is true for the general people is true for the individual as well. We are all a combination of heart and mind. Our strength is Torah and avoda. Torah study should be done publicly while avoda should be private and personal. The Shem MiShmuel teaches that just as the eleven tribes were counted before the Leviim, our first priority should be Torah study. Once we have developed our Torah, we can then reach a level of serving Hashem with a pure heart.

We are living in very challenging times. Let us tap into the power of Torah to defeat the evil forces around us. Then we will be able to serve Hashem with a full and pure heart.

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