Bamidbar: Bearing the Load

An opening for God's help.

Rabbanit Shira Smiles,

Young women study Torah
Young women study Torah
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Summary by Channie Koplowitz Stein.

In parshat Bamidbar the Levites are given their specific tasks. If we analyze the task of Elazar, the son of Aharon, we will realize that the task of carrying all the supplies listed as his responsibility would require superhuman effort.
The lessons we can learn from this one verse are many, beginning with Elazar's very name.
In fact, it was virtually impossible. Even if one interprets the verse to mean that it was his responsibility to delegate the carrying of many of these supplies, rather than personally carrying them all, the task was still daunting. Yet Elazar gladly accepted his mission and was successful.

The lessons we can learn from this one verse are many, beginning with Elazar's very name. His name means "God will help", and therein lies the key to the success of this entire mission.

Elazar understood that no task, great or small, can be completed successfully without God's help. But he also understood that in order to get that help, Man must put in his own hishtadlus, his own effort and yearning to complete the task. Man must create an opening through which HaShem's help can enter. Even if the opening is no bigger than the eye of a needle, HaShem will stretch that opening as large as it needs to be for the necessary help to pass through.

As part of this hishtadlus, Elazar also understood that desiring and delegating are not enough. He knew that even if he delegated, he himself must carry at least his fair share of the load along with his designates, or the task would not be successful. This is not just a matter of morale, but also a matter of modeling. It is also the hallmark of the IDF, whose officers shout, "After me!" rather than, "Forward, march!" And it is the model we have from HaKodosh boruch Hu Himself, who carries the burden of our exile on His own shoulders, so to speak, to make our troubles bearable.

It would be simplistic to think that these concepts apply only to physical, material tasks. We are also enjoined to complete spiritual tasks. Each soul has its own predestined purpose and mission in life. All the circumstances surrounding us, both good times and challenges, were created specifically to help each of us fulfill our designated mission. As we work on our inner core, we must recognize that here too our success is dependant upon God's help, that whatever we accomplish is a result of HaShem's helping us achieve after He has seen our effort and desire to create and strengthen our relationship with Him. Our souls too would not be able to complete their missions without His help.

We can gain further insight by exploring the idea of the layout of the Israelite camp in the desert. Bnei Yisroel were encamped in formation around banners, each tribe and each family under its own banner. Where did this idea
No task, great or small, can be completed successfully without God's help.
come from?

The medrash tells us that when HaShem revealed Himself to Bnei Yisroel at Sinai, 22,000 angels descended with Him. They came down in formation, in camps, each under its own individual banner. Each banner signified the specific mission of that particular angel. Some of these missions may have appeared to be more important than others. Yet there was no jealousy, no pushing or shoving, no desire on the part of one angel to preempt another angel's mission. For each angel knew that its task was specifically designed for it, and it was provided with everything necessary to complete the task. Each angel was happy with where it stood, for it realized that it was completely fulfilling the will of the Almighty by standing exactly where it stood, that the task was the result of the love HaShem had in creating it. At that moment, Bnei Yisroel also wanted banners to identify who they were, to accept with love the position of each family and each individual, and not have the desire for a mission not designed for them. And HaShem gave them banners with which to encamp in the desert, to show His love for them (vediglo olai ahava - Shir HaShirim).

This love was further revealed in the census of parshat Bamidbar. Unlike the other times a census was taken, this census was not done by means of the half-shekel. Rather, each individual passed before Moshe, Aharon and the leaders of the tribes, and stated his name and his family's name. Each individual was recognized as unique, with his own mission and talents, and each was valued and counted.

Elazar understood this completely and therefore accepted this mission HaShem had designated for him. He knew that if he toiled in his task with love, HaShem would reward him by helping him to complete the task successfully.

This concept is clearly alluded to in both the omer ritual at the time the Holy Temple existed and in the counting of the omer we continue today. Bnei Yisroel would bring the first of the barley harvest and wave it before HaShem, symbolically stating that we understand that not just this barley that we bring as an offering, but all that we possess and that follows in our harvesting in fact belongs to Him who has given us this first produce. The key word we recite is "to your will," signifying the desire of the offerer to be close to HaShem, to create that opening for HaShem's spirit to enter his soul.

Today, this idea continues in the wording of the liturgy, derived directly from the command in the Torah, each night
Shabbat's essence is about the gifts HaShem gives us independent of Man's efforts.
of the counting from Passover to Shavuot. We are commanded to begin counting from the morrow of the Shabbat (referring to the holy day of the first day of Passover) seven complete Shabbatot, seven complete weeks. Shabbat's essence is about the gifts HaShem gives us independent of Man's efforts, for the whole world was created solely by the Ribbono shel olam for the benefit of Man. As we recite the liturgy of the omer, we bear witness that everything we have comes from Him, both the mundane and the spiritual. It is all a gift, just as is Shabbat. All HaShem requires of us with the omer is the opening supplied by our ratzon, our "desire", to come closer to Him.

Each of us has our mission imprinted within our souls. Each of us has a name that our parents and HaShem together gave us at birth that has implicit within it the mission HaShem has given us. It is both our privilege and our responsibility to accept this personalized mission with love, and in doing so, acknowledge that HaShem will help us to accomplish the task He has provided for us to give our lives meaning.

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