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Damage Control

By: Rav Yonaton Hirschhorn

We are starting a new portion of the Torah, the book of Bamidbar. What is the true foundation and meaning of the book of Bamidbar? Let’s take a look at the four other sefarim of the Torah:

Bereshit- The story of the avot.

Shemot - storyline of Am Yisrael, the exodus, the giving of the Torah, and the Mishkan.

Vayikrah- Avodat Hashem (the service of G-d).

Devarim- Mussar and the preparation to enter the Land of Israel.

So what is the goal of Sefer Bamidbar?

Sefer Bereshit, the book of our forefathers and mothers, is the book of our heritage. It is the “planting” of the seed of the Jewish people. Therefore, we can equate it to seder zera’im in the Mishna, which discusses planting and taking care of its fruits.

Sefer Shemot is all about the incredible miracles that Hashem performed for Am Yisrael’s sake - the stories of Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot. Therefore, we can equate it to seder mo’ed in the Mishna, which discusses the Jewish holidays and our connection to God.

Sefer Vayikra, is the book of avodat Hashem - serving G-d, specifically in the mishkan, and the laws of the kohanim and their service. Therefore, we can equate it to seder kodshim and seder taharot in the Mishna, which discuss the mikdash and purity.

Sefer Devarim, the words of mussar and chizuk from Moshe, like a mother who strengthens her children, speaks to them eye to eye. Therefore, we can equate it to seder nashim, which deals with the feminine laws. The female is the recipient, the oral law.

Now we can start to answer our question regarding Sefer Bamidbar, now we can see that Bamidbar is equated to seder nezikin in the mishna, but what does that mean??

Nezikin deals with damages, and Sefer Bamidbar is all about Am Yisrael in the desert, and the damage they caused to their relationship with God. Sefer Bamidbar is also called the Book of Numbers, because of the countless time they are counted as a nation.  The Gemara says Am Yisrael can only be counted when they're not united together, because when we are united, we are ONE and can't be counted, and it is only in a state of lacking unity that anyone can hurt or damage us. 

So now we need to ask what is this book coming to teach us? What's its goal? 

The Torah, as we know, is eternal, and it is coming to teach us how to live our lives. Being that our lives are full of mistakes, failures, and lack of unity throughout the exile, the Book of Numbers, in a way, is preventative medicine. Meaning, Sefer Bamidbar is there for whenever we might suffer any sort of pain, or if we want to rectify our mistakes, or bring unity to the whole nation. "The Book of Mistakes" is where we should look to derive the answers and inspiration, just as in seder nezikin, where we learn how to rectify all the wrongdoings of every individual.

Someone else's mistake can be our greatest salvation, if only we have the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the heart to understand.

Shabbat Shalom!





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