Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Approaching Shavuot

Last year Rabbi Yair Kahn had charge of the yhe-parsha list for the Virtual Beis Midrash for Sefer Bamidbar and did a very nice series on which a political interpretation of that book can be built. One might be able to think that the arrangement of the tribes in Parsha Bamidbar is hierarchical, with east going first. However, we notice that each firstborn has a place of honor and each division has a tribe known for its skill in battle. Rabbi Kahn argues that the arrangement is really one of harmony between the tribes, with each tribe and each individual recognized and maintaining the distinctiveness of the tribes. The important separation is between the machaneh Yisrael, the camp of Israel, and the camp of the shechina in the center. The revolt of Korach and the concept of the nazir break down this distinction in their own way. Sefer Bamidbar also exploits the contrast between the ideal arrangement, set to conquer the Land of Israel, and the true arrangement who sent the spies and had not fully renounced the mentality of slavery. A contrast is made between the first generation who remembers the food they ate in Egypt for nothing and the second generation who complains, "Why did you take us to die in a land where there is no wheat, figs, or pomegranates?" (characteristic of the Land of Israel) The analysis of Balak is also original.

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