The Princes, The Priests, The Levites, Pesach Sheni, and the Trumpets

  • Rav Yoel Bin-Nun
 
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In memory of Zvi Tyberg z”l
On his 21st yahrzeit which falls on 12 Sivan
By Shulamit Tyberg Isaacs
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I. The Offerings of the Tribal Princes – In the Book of Bemidbar!
 
 
The section dealing with the offerings brought by the tribal princes in the course of the dedication of the altar opens with the priestly blessing (end of chapter 6) and closes with Aharon's lighting of the lamps (beginning of chapter 8).[1] Thus, the account of the dedication of the altar is found among various priestly functions.
 
Once again we must ask: Why are the offerings brought by the tribal princes recorded in the book of Bemidbar, and not in the book of Vayikra? Furthermore, why does the Torah find it necessary to discuss the "work of the menora" here, when it was already mentioned in the book of Shemot?[2] And finally, isn’t the role of Aharon and his sons with respect to the priestly blessing and the lighting of the menora more appropriate for the book of Vayikra?
 
The verse that opens the passage dealing with the offerings brought by the tribal princes – "And it came to pass on the day that Moshe had made an end of setting up the Mishkan" (Bemidbar 7:1) – clearly proves our approach, which views the book of Bemidbar as paralleling the book of Vayikra. From the setting up of the Mishkan, the subject of the final chapter of the book of Shemot (chapter 40), branch out the next two books of the Torah, which parallel each other. Accordingly, the offerings brought by the tribal princes for the dedication of the altar are spelled out in the book of Bemidbar (chap. 7), whereas the seven days of consecration of the priests are described in the book of Vayikra (chap. 8). This accords with the distinction that we suggested: The princes offered their sacrifices in the name of the tribes of Israel who camped around the Mishkan, while the priests served inside the Holy.
 
It is important to note that the book of Vayikra, which is primarily "the law of the priests," makes no mention of the offerings brought by the tribal princes, and the book of Bemidbar, which deals primarily with the tribes of Israel camped around the Mishkan, makes no mention of the days of consecration. This is despite the fact that according to the plain sense of Scripture, these two processes began on the very same day – on the first day of the first month (1 Nissan) of the second year to the exodus from Egypt.[3]
 
It is true that according to most opinions among Chazal, the days of consecration began seven days before the first of the first month and that "the eighth day" fell out on the first of the first month.[4] However, even according to this approach there remains an overlap between the offering of Nachshon ben Aminadav, the first of the tribal princes, and "the eighth day," on which Aharon offered sacrifices for the first time. Nevertheless, there is no mention of this in Bemidbar, just as nothing is said in Vayikra about the offering of the first tribal prince on that day.[5]
 
In my opinion, this mutual disregard proves the two perspectives – inward and outward. In the context of the inner Divine service, there is no mention of the camp of Israel, with its tribes and princes; conversely, in the context of the outer Divine service (the army, the camp, the standards, the tribes, and the princes), nothing is said about the inner Divine service.
 
It is not by chance that we have called the passages dealing with the camp and the army "the outer Divine service,” and this stands out in particular in connection with the offerings brought by the tribal princes for the dedication of the altar.
 
R. Kook wrote extensively about the body of Keneset Israel that is waking up and coming back to life,[6] about naturalness and about "the outer soul of Keneset Israel. He viewed the return to the nature of the Land of Israel – to agriculture, to nationalism, and to an army – as an awakening of Keneset Israel to the knowledge that it has a body as well as a soul, "outwardness" and not only "inwardness." According to R. Kook, even the "outer body" is part of the overall sanctity of Keneset Israel.
 
There were sharp critics of R. Kook’s novel approach from Kabbalistic and Chassidic circles. They resolutely refused to accept the idea of "the outward body" of Keneset Israel. But we see here that this idea is found explicitly in the Torah, in the book of Bemidbar as opposed to the book of Vayikra, and in accordance with the plain meaning of the texts – without having to resort to hidden mysteries and their interpretations. From here arise the values of moral rectitude in the "outer" arrangements of the lives of the people of Israel, in the standards and the camps, in the tribes and in the national leadership.
 
II. The Offerings of the Tribal Princes – Equality Between the Tribes of Israel
 
In the chapter describing the offerings of the tribal princes (chapter 7), we find absolute equality between the tribes. Twelve times the Torah spells out the offerings brought by each of the princes. The detailed account is presented in a precise manner that repeats itself and that appears superfluous and even boring. At the end, it adds a precise summary. Had the Torah followed its own approach in most places, it would have sufficed to bring the list of princes, spelling out the offerings in detail one time, and then write: "This is what the princes offered for the dedication of the altar, one prince each day for the dedication of the altar."
 
The most reasonable explanation for this phenomenon is that the repetition is intended to proclaim the equality between all the tribes of Israel. In the face of all the tensions, jealousies, contentions, and divisions between the various tribes – between the sons of Leah and the sons of Rachel, between the sons of Yaakov's two main wives and the sons of their handmaids – the Torah declares that before God, at the dedication of the altar, they are all equal.
 
The people of Israel are one.
 
III. Aharon and His Sons Will Bless the People of Israel
 
As noted above, in addition to the task of dismantling the Mishkan "when the camp sets forth" (4:5, 15), two additional roles are reserved for Aharon and his sons in the book of Bemidbar – to bless the people of Israel in the name of God (6:22-27) and to light the lamps of the menora (8:1-4). Blessing and light for the people of Israel.
 
According to our approach, however, why are the priestly blessing and the lighting of the lamps mentioned precisely here, in the book of Bemidbar?
 
The priestly blessing clearly expresses more than “inner sanctity.” The blessing comes not only for the priests and their glory, but for the people of Israel, whom the priests serve. In fact, the priests receive a blessing through the people of Israel. This is explicit in the wording of the Torah:
 
In this way you shall bless the children of Israel; you shall say to them… So shall they put My name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them. (Bemidbar 6:23:27)
 
In this context, it is interesting to note that the lifting of Aharon's hands to bless the people "on the eighth day" is mentioned in the book of Vayikra (9:22), but the content of the blessing appears only in the book of Bemidbar, as part of the "outer" holiness of the people of Israel, in the camp, around the Tent of Meeting.
 
IV. They Will Illuminate for the People of Israel
 
As opposed to the offerings brought by the tribal princes, the lighting of the lamps of the menora appears both in the book of Vayikra (24:1-4) and in the book of Bemidbar (8:1-4). The emphasis, however, is different.
 
In Vayikra, emphasis is placed on: "pure olive oil beaten for the light to cause a lamp to burn continually," as part of the continual service performed in the inner Holy:
 
Without the veil of the testimony, in the tent of meeting, shall Aharon order it from evening to morning before the Lord continually; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. (Vayikra 24:3)
 
At the end, mention is made of the menora that stands in the Holy:
 
He shall order the lamps upon the pure menora before the Lord continually. (Vayikra 24:4)
 
In the book of Bemidbar, on the other hand, it is precisely the menora that is emphasized, first with the lighting of the lamps:
 
The seven lamps shall give light in front of the menora. (Bemidbar 8:2)
 
Emphasis is also placed on the role of Aharon, who did "as the Lord commanded Moshe." At the end, an account is once again given of "the work of the menora, beaten work of gold," as in the book of Shemot (25:31-40). It is as if the Torah comes to explain the "pure menora" in Bemidbar, not (or not only) in accordance with its place in the Holy, but according to "the whole of it one beaten work of pure gold" (Shemot 25:36 which leads to Bemidbar 8:4).
 
All of this indicates that the menora actually has two roles and two sets of meaning. In the inner Holy, it is a central component of the Divine service "before the Lord continually." In the outer Holy, on the other hand, it is precisely the form of the menora that expresses a central idea to which the entire people of Israel lift up their eyes.
 
Indeed, Jewish history from the time of the Second Temple proves the extent to which the menora in the Temple, and afterwards the form of the menora, became a clear feature of Jewish identity in all synagogues, as well as in Jewish homes. Even the enemies of the Jewish People knew that the menora symbolizes the Jews; this is the reason so much emphasis was placed on it in Titus's Arch as an expression of Jewish destruction. From there it returned to Zion and to Jerusalem as the symbol of the State of Israel, which represents the people of Israel who have returned to the land of their fathers.
 
The roots of this miraculous historical process are found, as argued above, in the Torah, in the very description of the "work of the menora" in the book of Bemidbar, together with the camps and the standards. 
 
V. The Setting Aside of the Levites
 
The days of consecration, during which the priests were consecrated for their service, are described in detail in the books of Shemot (29) and Vayikra (8), and the eighth day is similarly described in the continuation of Vayikra (9). These days are not mentioned at all in the book of Bemidbar. On the other hand, the appointment of the Levites and their purification for their service in safeguarding the Holy and in dismantling and carrying the Mishkan on the journeys of the people of Israel are mentioned only in the book of Bemidbar. From here it is clear that the Levites belong to the "outer Holy," rather than the "inner Holy"!
 
This point is emphasized in our parasha: The tribe of Levi as a whole came from the tribes of Israel, and the replacement of the firstborns with the Levites proves that they were set aside and appointed from among the children of Israel:
 
… from among the children of Israel, to do the service of the children of Israel in the tent of meeting, and to make atonement for the children of Israel, that there be no plague among the children of Israel, through the children of Israel coming near the sanctuary. (Bemidbar 8:9)
 
"The children of Israel" are mentioned five times in this one verse, and sixteen times in the entire section!
 
It would appear that an authorized representation of the elders laid their hands on the heads of the Levites when they first entered their office:
 
And you shall present the Levites before the Lord; and the children of Israel shall lay their hands upon the Levites. (8:10)
 
The setting aside of the Levites was done by the power of the people of Israel, and for their sake.  
 
Therefore, it is also clear that the place of the Levites is together with the children of Israel, who are camped around the Mishkan – in the book of Bemidbar – and not in the days of consecration of the law of the priests in the book of Vayikra.
 
Only when Korach and his company and the two hundred and fifty princes of the congregation (16:2) rebel and challenge the setting aside of the Levites to safeguard the Holy, demanding their primal right to burn incense before God – only then will the tribe of Levi be redefined as the tribe of Aharon, "the tribe of your father" (18:2), who accompany the priests in the safeguarding of the Holy. Then the service of the Levites will also be redefined as "the charge of the tent of meeting," "the charge of the holy things," and "the charge of the altar" (18:1-7). There the "children of Israel" will be mentioned only twice, because the service of the Levites is still directed at keeping "the charge of the holy things and the charge of the altar, that there be wrath no more upon the children of Israel" (18:5) – in other words, for the benefit of the children of Israel and to safeguard their lives, even if they themselves object.
 
VI. Pesach in the Wilderness
 
The "Pesach in the wilderness" is not part of the story of the setting up of the Mishkan or of its dismantling in anticipation of Israel's journey in the wilderness. The passage concerning the Pesach observed in the wilderness seems to reflect an independent beginning of God's word "to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai," exactly a year after the command regarding the Pesach observed in Egypt. "The Pesach in the wilderness" is still not "the Pesach for all generations," because the latter's time will come only "when you come to the land…" (Shemot 12:25; 13:5-10). 
 
Therefore, in the passage dealing with "Pesach in the wilderness" there is also no mention of the Feast of Matzot. The seven day prohibition of chametz is meaningless with respect to manna, which is bread from heaven; only in the Land of Israel, where there is wheat and a harvest, will there be chametz and matza. It is true that the matza and maror associated with the Pesach offering applied even to the "Pesach in the wilderness," as in Egypt, but not the seven day prohibition of chametz, which in the Torah is an inseparable part of the mitzva of entering the Land of Israel.
 
In addition, from among the laws of the Pesach offering, there is no mention here of the obligation to undergo circumcision or of the prohibition: "No uncircumcised person shall eat thereof" (Shemot 12:48). This point connects with what is written in the passage dealing with the "Pesach in Gilgal" in the book of Yehoshua (5:3-7); the people of Israel did not undergo circumcision while they were traveling in the wilderness.[7]
 
What is so special about the Pesach offering that obligated the observance of "Pesach in the wilderness" and Pesach Sheni, the “Second Pesach”?
 
Pesach is an assembly of belonging and identification of every house and family as part of the people of Israel that left Egypt. This is the way many Jews understand Pesach to this very day, even "secular" Jews! This is also the meaning of the punishment of karet that awaits anybody who does not keep "the Pesach in its appointed season" (9:2-3, 13).
 
Therefore, it was necessary for Israel to observe Peasch in the wilderness before setting out on their grand journey, just as in the case of "the Pesach in Egypt" before the exodus. It was now that they encountered the problem of impure people, which was created by the laws of impurity in the law of Moshe. Those who "were unclean by the dead body of a man" and could not purify themselves and keep the Pesach "on that day" (9:6) feared that they would not be counted as part of the Jewish People, who were united in the memory of Pesach:
 
Why are we to be kept back, so as not to bring the offering of the Lord in its appointed season among the children of Israel? (9:7)
 
God's response with the possibility of Pesach Sheni came to include them among the children of Israel, without prejudice to the laws of purity. In this way, no man in Israel would be kept back.
 
VI. The Trumpets and the Taking Up of the Cloud for the Journey
 
The first chapters in the book of Bemidbar are sort of an introduction to the "taking up of the cloud," the trumpets, and the journey (9:15 and on). These verses are directly connected to the last verses in the book of Shemot:
 
And whenever the cloud was taken up from over the Mishkan, the children of Israel went onward, throughout all their journeys. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they journeyed not till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was upon the Mishkan by day, and there was fire therein by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys. (Shemot 40:36-38)
 
And on the day that the Mishkan was reared up, the cloud covered the Mishkan, even the tent of the testimony… And whenever the cloud was taken up from over the Tent, then after that the children of Israel journeyed; and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel encamped. At the commandment of the Lord the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the Lord they encamped… (Bemidbar 9:15-23)
 
This is also the decisive proof of the division from the end of the book of Shemot into two parallel complementary branches, the books of Vayikra and Bemidbar.   
 
The trumpets complement "the taking up of the cloud" with a human blast. The children of Israel journeyed and camped in accordance with the cloud of God, which indicated when to set out and when to camp. But the sons of Aharon the priests blew teki'ot with the trumpets. When they added also teru'a blasts, the camps would set out. A sign from God did not suffice; it was necessary that there also be a human sign, a teki'a and a teru'a "for their journeys."
 
From the passage dealing with the trumpets, we learn also about the blasts on the appointed seasons and on the new moons "over your burnt-offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace-offerings… for a memorial before your God" (10:10). But in the book of Vayikra this is not mentioned. Nor is any explanation given as to how one is to blow "on the seventh month, in the first of the month… a memorial proclaimed with the blast of horns" (Vayikra 23:24; "it is a day of blowing," Bemidbar 29:1).
 
Only from the section dealing with the trumpets in the book of Bemidbar could Chazal learn about the memorial of teki'ot and the memorial of teru'ot. Only in our parasha is it explicitly stated that the sound of a teki'a ("But when the assembly is to be gathered together, you shall blow (titke'u), but you shall not sound an alarm (titre'u); 10:7) expresses unity and joy, whereas the sound of a teru'a expresses war. Therefore, it is clear that it is a broken sound, precisely like the ascending and descending notes of a siren, whereas the memory of unity necessitates an unbroken sound.
 
Every journey begins with a single, unified camp, and if it is successfully completed, it also ends with a single, unified camp.  Therefore the set of blasts, teki'a – teru'ateki'a, precisely expresses the journeys, the teru'a corresponding to the trials and crises of the journey. The sounds of the trumpets "for the calling of the congregation and for causing the camps to set forward" (10:2) were established by Chazal as the memorial blast that each year opens the long, annual "journey" – on Rosh Hashana.
 
VIII. Setting Out – And the Fall into Confusion
  
After all these meticulous preparations, "the cloud was taken up over the Mishkan of the testimony" on the twentieth day of "the second month" "in the second year" to the exodus from Egypt (10:11), and the people of Israel set out on a long and difficult journey according to all the rules and arrangements of the camp and the journey.
 
However, it was precisely at this critical moment that everything went wrong. How? Why?
 
The answers to these questions can be found in the second shiur for this parasha.
 
 
(Translated by David Strauss)
 
 

[1] There is room to wonder about the division of the parshiyot for the public reading of the Torah, which separates between the priesthood and the tribal princes.
[2] The command in Shemot 25:31-40; the fashioning of the menora in Shemot 37:17-24; the lighting of the lamps in Shemot 40:24-25.
[3] See Shemot 40:2, 17 > Bemidbar 7:1 / Vayikra 8 and 9. 
[4] See in Seder Olam Rabba, chapter 6; Shabbat 87b; Rashi, Vayikra 9:1. See the objections raised by Ibn Ezra and the doubts expressed by the Ramban regarding this solution in their commentaries to Shemot 40:1. Ibn Ezra also mentions the view of R. Akiva (Sifrei Beha'alotekha 68) that those who were impure because of contact with a corpse on the fourteenth of the first month were Elitzafan and Uziel, who became impure through contact with the corpses of Nadav and Avihu "on the eighth day." This implies that the eighth day of the days of consecration fell out on the eighth of the first month, in accordance with the plain sense of the text, and that the days of consecration of the priests completely paralleled the offerings of the tribal princes.
[5] See Rashi, Vayikra 10:16, in the wake of Chazal, regarding the identification of the goat sin-offering that was burned as the goat of Rosh Chodesh. Ibn Ezra explains the matter in accordance with the plain sense of the text – that this was the goat of the eighth day, which was intended for the atonement of the people. 
[6] See, for example, Orot (Jerusalem, 1923), p. 15 (Ha-Milchama 7); pp. 52-53; 67-73; 77-80; 83-86 (Orot ha-Techiya 3; 15-19; 28-34; 40-47); pp. 104; 116 (Le-Mahalakh ha-Ide'ot be-Yisrael, 2, 6); pp. 132-135 (Zir'onim 7-8, Nishmat ha-Leumiyut ve-Gufah and Erekh ha-Techiya), and many other places.
[7] Apparently, on account of the danger of heat and the journey; see Yevamot 72a.