Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #34: B’midbar (Numbers) [In the desert] 1:1-4:20
Haftarah: Hosea 2:1-22
B’rit Chadashah: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31
We begin with an interpretation from the Zohar that the creation itself had not been truly completed until Israel was led out of Egypt, given the Torah, and built the Tabernacle. This having been done, according to the Zohar, YHVH determined to take a census of the congregation of Israel to muster the forces of the Torah and the Tabernacle. It will behoove us to compare this interpretation to Genesis and the six days of creation narrative to determine what is true and what is speculation. The Torah tells us that the census began on the first day of the second month. This statement is of significance.
According to the book of Revelation, the Tree of Life bears 12 fruits, which correspond to the 12 months of the Hebrew calendar. A similar tradition exists in rabbinic Judaism which maintains that the 12 diagonal paths on the Tree of Life diagram correspond to 12 of the Hebrew letters known as “doubles,” and to the 12 months of the Hebrew calendar; the 12 signs in the heavens, and the 12 tribes of Israel.
Now let’s look at another kabbalistic concept. This interpretation is considered the “sod” or the hidden meaning as part of the PaRDeS format of Biblical Study. The second month corresponds to the letter “Vav,” the sign of Shor (Taurus), the Tribe of Joseph and the path from Understanding to Keter (Crown) which binds the Father and the Son of Yah (Yahshua) together. In the Chabad presentation, every intellectual process must incorporate three faculties: Chochma, Binah, and Daat. Chochma (lit. wisdom) is the mind’s ability to come up with a new insight into a concept that one did not know before. Binah (lit. understanding) is the mind’s ability to take a new insight (from Chochma), analyze all of its implications and simplify the concept so it is understood well. Daat (lit. knowledge), the third stage, is the mind’s ability to focus and hold its attention on the Chochma and the Binah. If we take the statement from our parashah “this census beginning on the first day of the second month” and “the Tree of Life produces twelve fruits and in every month gave its fruits”, we may deduce that YHVH chose to muster the forces of the Torah on the month that corresponds with the letter “vav,” the sign of Taurus and the Tribe of Joseph.
The letter “vav” was originally a pictograph of a nail. This reminds us of the messiah who was pierced through His wrists and feet by nails. Also, according to rabbinic tradition, the three different letters that appear in YHVH (Yud, Heh, and Vav) represent the three pillars of the G-dhead, the vav representing “the Son of Yah). Moreover, the Vav in the middle of the word “OR” (the word for “light” in Hebrew spelled alef-vav-resh), represents the Middle Pillar of the G-dhead (the Son of Yah) who is between the Alef (which stands for “Abba” [Father] and the Resh (which stands for the Ruach HaKodesh [Holy Spirit]. The sign of Shor (Taurus) was understood by the ancient Hebrews to symbolize the atonement of Israel and the nations and to point to the offering of the 70 bullocks.
The patriarch Joseph represents the Suffering Servant (Messiah Yahshua), often called “Messiah ben Yosef,” because like Joseph the patriarch, he was cast into a pit, sold by his own for silver, yet rose out of the pit and redeemed his brothers. This entire narrative/teaching illustrates that there is nothing insignificant in G-d’ s Torah and that there is great symbolism in the fact that YHVH chose the first day of the second month to bear fruit of mustering the forces of the Torah.
There are of course other times that B’nai Israel was counted. The first time was the incident of the Golden Calf. It appears again in the parashah of Pinchas where they were counted after the plague. IN the Prophets, we read the narrative where King David decides to take a census of the nation. However, we learn that his motivation was not G-d-centered, the nation is punished, and the plague kills many in the camp. This should lead us to ask whether taking a census is a “good idea” or not?
Rashi comments on our parashah (1:1), that G-d counts us many times in order to show His love. According to this perspective, counting is definitely a positive thing. The commentator S’forno maintains that taking a census of each person highlights individuality. It show that no two people are alike. Every one of us as a specific job to do that we may glorify G-d according to His purpose (Romans 8:28; Psalms 20:4). All the individuals combined form a nation where everyone uses his or her individual talents, knowledge, and skills for the benefit of the nation as the entire nations seeks to bless the nations and glorify G-d.
Conversely, there are negative ramifications with taking a census of B’nai Israel. First, B’nai’ Israel’s (true believers) strength is not like the strength of other nations. The strength of other nations is in their numbers. ON the other hand, B’nai Israel’s influence on the nations/world is not in their numbers. It is because they are the only nation chosen by G-d to fulfill His commandments. We are to be an example. That is what it means to be chosen; a treasured people. We are to lead the way, showing others how G-d blesses those who love and follow Him, and the curses that will ultimately result either temporally or in the next world, for those who rebel against Him and His Torah. It does not matter how many true believers there are (B’nai Israel). What matters is how we conduct ourselves. Quality and not quantity is the order of the day and every day. Another important concept is that true believers (B’nai Israel) do not considered themselves as an army of one. We have individual talents, skills, and knowledge that is to be used individually but also as a contributing factor towards the success and welfare of all true believers (B’nai Israel).
Therefore, we can now understand the potential for positive and negative in counting B’nai Israel. This is why Moshe counted only when YHVH ordered a census be taken. King David on the other hand, counted Israel for his own personal agenda. His motives were not in line with G-ds and the result was a plague upon the nation. Form this we must come to an internalized understanding that man cannot presume to second-guess G-d. Remember, if we follow G-d’s Torah and love G-d with all our hearts, souls, and minds (might), He will reveal His will for our individual lives and subsequently provide opportunities and guidance through the Ruach HaKodesh on how we are to be used as part of the body of B’nai Israel for G-d’s ultimate glory.
B’rit Chadashah (Hoshea) 2:1-22
Our parashah addresses counting B’nai Israel in the desert. In the haftarah, Hoshea speaks of the future redemption beginning by stating “B’nai Israel will be and numerous as the sand on the seashore, which is so plentiful, it cannot be measured.” The Torah and the haftarah section show that numeric greatness is also part of B’nai Israel’s legacy. This is possible because of the two sticks that will be joined together as described in Ezekiel (37:17-19).
B’rit Chadashah 1Cor 12:12-31
The verses in this chapter teach that true believers have an organismic unity like that of a human body. Indeed, we are parts of a whole, the sum of which is greater than the individual part. The body we are speaking of in this context is that of the Messiah (v.27). I encourage exploration of the following verses for more information 6:15; Rom. 12:5; Eph. 1:23, 2:16, 4:4-16. Therefore, all members of the messiah’s body, whether Jews or Gentiles, slaves or free (v. 13), have their places determined by G-d and have appropriate functions (ministries) which they should find and develop, trusting G-d for empowerment by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit). This is done through diligent prayer, seeking, asking, and knocking. We should appreciate, not envy others’ ministries and gifts. The purpose of the gifts, skills, knowledge is NOT self-aggrandizement. Rather, they are for building up the whole body in love. Let’s expound on verse 28.
G-d determined several distinct ministries including emissaries, prophets, and teachers. Then He mentions those who work miracles and those with gifts of healing. Listed next are those with the ability to help those in need and the skill of administration. But exercise f those gifts would be manifestly improved if one had the charismatic qualities that are not mentioned in this passage. These are wisdom, knowledge, faith, and discernment of spirits. At the end of this list are the two “showy charismata” that are most easily abused; speaking in different kinds of tongues and interpretation. We must remember that those who exercised this gift of “tongues” spoke in RECOGNIZABLE LANGUAGES with the others. At the same time Sha’ul addressed with abuses involved in manifesting the gift of tongues. He instructs the Corinthians not to forbid speaking in tongues and wishes that all would speak using this gift. By the way, this gift is NOT meant for today based on the Torah. Sha’ul was speaking to a first century audience. Later in Scripture we are told in 1 Cor. 13:8 that charity never faileth, but whether knowledge, it shall vanish away. 1 Cor. 13:9 states “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 1 Cor. 13:10. But when that which is perfect is come 5046: teleios; from G5056; complete (as noun, with G3588), completeness: of full age) is come, then that which in part shall be done away. The word “perfect” is neuter in Greek so does not refer to a man or a woman but to an object. It can therefore be interpreted as referring to the Torah when which was completed by the addition of the B’rit Chadashah (NT) which was given as Torah (Heb. 8:6). May we come to understand this truth and not fall into the misunderstanding of those who think, teach, and believe that this refers to Yahshua coming to earth to abolish G-d’s Torah with His appearance. G-d forbid! (Rom. 3:31; Matt. 5:17).
Rabbi Tamah Davis