G-d told Moshe, "Speak to Aharon, and tell him that when he lights up
the menorah, the seven lamps should illuminate towards the Menorah."
Today, thank G-d, for the most part, Christians and Jews do their own
thing in their own places in a peaceful manner.. Many gentile groups still
actively try to convert Jews, holding onto their age-old belief that until
a Jew converts, his soul is doomed and the final salvation of mankind
cannot happen until the Jewish people are no more, but their efforts are
far more subtle (and perhaps more dangerous). There was a time, not too
long ago, when the only option to conversion for a Jew was a brutal
This led to the famous debates of the Dark Age, in which Jewish scholars
were forced to appear before Christian scholars, and often the local
ruler, to defend Torah and traditional interpretations. The survival of an
entire Jewish community often came down to who bested whom in these
debates, and winning the debate for the Jews did not always mean winning
the struggle, and any relief gained by the Jews was often short-lived.
In Ptolemy's time the Torah was translated into Greek, called the
Septuagint (Megillah 9a), in order to know what the Jews were learning
more than to convert them. The only "religion" the Greeks espoused was
Hellenism, and there was no need to debate Torah scholars to prove its
worthiness from the Greek perspective. The Hellenistic perspective did not
even pretend to come as an "improvement" to Judaism, whose concept of G-d
was far different than that of the Greek world.
However, not so with Christianity. The very existence of the Jewish people
was perceived as a contradiction to Christianity because both claimed to
be G-d's Chosen People, and only one could fit the bill. As long as the
Jewish people retained any of its chosenness, Christianity felt insecure
and needed to put the Jews "in their rightful place." Hence the public
debates that were designed to cause the humiliation of Jews and Torah.
But Tanach - Torah, Prophets, and Writings, is vast. Debates could last
for hours, even days because of the constant referral to references which
required looking up. To simply this procedure, the possukim of Tanach was
numbered, and chapters were created to make quick and easy referral
possible. It was certainly a logical system that many have retained since
that time, and often use them as if they were always part of our tradition.
However, if you look into a Sefer Torah, - the form in which Moshe
received and passed on Torah, you won't find the same chapter and verse
numbers as you do in all Chumashim. You will find breaks, and they are
called pesuchos and stumos - openings and closings, divinely established
breaks in the text. According to the Ba'al HaTurim, these breaks were
given to Moshe as opportunities to contemplate and digest what he had just
been taught by G-d. According to Halacha, a valid pesuchah or stumah must
have a space of at least nine letters.
The pesuchos and stumos were obviously not random, but logical breaks
between matters and issues raised and discussed in the Torah. Therefore,
they were recognized as logical breaks in the text, and the gentiles who
numbered the verses and chapters, for the most part, followed the lead of
Nevertheless, because of their source and the reason for the numbering,
many Jews until this very day refuse to use them, as if doing so is to
acknowledge the people who not only defamed Torah, but murdered countless
Jews in the process. Some even feel that there is some kind of spiritual
impurity involved with them, and considering that the translation of Torah
into Greek was considered to be a very dark day in Jewish history, we can
certainly find a historical precedent for such an opinion.
But, nothing happens by chance (Chullin 7b), G-d has many messengers
(Rashi, Shemos 16:32), and all that He does is for the good (Brochos 60b).
There are many factors that affect our decision-making process, some of
which we are aware and can perhaps affect, most of which we are unaware
and have no control over. But, NO MATTER WHAT, whatever a person, nation,
or the world does, it will always be according to G-d's master plan, and
it will ALWAYS contribute to the fulfillment of His mandate for Creation
in some way or form.
And, as we have said all along, if something is wondrous in our eyes, then
it is direct Divine Providence (Tehillim 118:23), that is, a message from
G-d we are meant to see. Therefore, it can be considered more that just
interesting that this week's parshah is both the EIGHTH of Sefer Bamidbar
and the THIRTY-SIXTH in the entire Torah, especially in light of the
Ramban's response to Rashi on the opening lines:
When Aharon saw the dedication of the princes, he became distraught
because he was not included with them, neither he or his tribe. The Holy
One, Blessed is He said, "By your life! Yours will be greater than theirs
since you will light and prepare the Menorah" (Rashi, Bamidbar 8:2)
The Ramban refutes this explanation for the Menorah at the beginning of
this week's parshah, and concludes with the following words:
The parshah is alluding to the dedication of the lights at the time of the
Second Temple, which came through Aharon and his sons, who were the
Chashmonaim and their sons.
In other words, out of nowhere, this parshah begins with an allusion to a
future EIGHT-day holiday that is celebrated by lighting THIRTY-SIX
candles, in a book that has a total of THIRTY-SIX chapters.
What a coincidence!
In the beginning, G-d made . . . (Bereishis 1:1)
Question: How many worlds are there today?
Answer: Do you mean physically or spiritually?
Is there any better way to answer a question than with another question,
especially when the real answer is from the realm of Sod? The story goes
something like this:
In the beginning, there was only G-d, what Kabbalah calls the Light of Ain
Sof (Without End). It is not the essence of G-d, G-d forbid, something
about which we never think. But this light was everywhere anything could
be, and it is infinite and beyond comprehension.
Then G-d decided to make man, which meant making Creation, which meant
making a place in which Creation could exist, which meant withdrawing His
light at the "center," leaving behind what is called the "Challal," a
spherical hollow. It was inside this hollow that G-d, step-by-Divine-step,
put every detail into its designated place that eventually resulted in the
world in which we live. As big as the physical universe seems to us, it is
a faint dot within the massive Challal, though it was for this dot of
humanly existence that all of it occurred.
However, nothing is really created from the absence of G-d's light, and
therefore G-d willed that some of the Light of Ain Sof should be allowed
back into the Challal. It didn't just shine across the entire vast
Challal, like a beam of a flashlight in a dark room on the distant wall.
Rather, it came into the Challal in stages, creating a new level of
existence before descending further into and toward the center of the
Challal. It is this process, explain the Kabbalists, that gave rise to the
concept of measure and boundary, up and down, the most basic elements
necessary for spiritual growth.
We have just summarized hundreds of pages of some of the most important
pages in some of the most important works of Kabbalah. And, if the Arizal
revealed only two handbreaths and left some 2000 hidden, then you can
imagine how much is actually missing from this explanation! Nevertheless,
it will serve the purpose of bringing us to the point that answers the
above question and the connection to this week's parshah and history.
When it was all said and done, the light had successfully created five
levels, often referred to as "worlds," in the process of making a home and
an environment in which man could survive and perfect himself (something
that can only be enjoyed in the World-to-Come). This, of course meant that
Creation had to support free-will, which meant that Creation had to allow
for evil. But how can a light as holy and as perfect as that of the Light
of Ain Sof create something as unholy and imperfect as evil?
The answer is, hold the light back a little. If there are five levels
(called: Adam Kadmon, Atzilus, Beriyah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah), and each
has ten levels of its own, then there are FIFTY levels altogether from the
top of the Sefiros - the edge of the Challal - to the bottom. If the Light
of G-d is allowed to descend all the way to the bottom, then there is no
place for evil to exist.
Therefore, as the light traveled downward away from its Source, G-d
stopped it at a certain point from the bottom, to allow a place for evil
(and therefore free-will) to exist. How many levels from the bottom did
the Light stop? According to Kabbalah, FOURTEEN levels (Sha'arei Leshem,
p. 188), the gematria of the Dalet-Yud, which spells the Hebrew word that
According to Rashi, this is alluded to in the actual Name of G-d that was
used to make Creation: Shadda-I, spelled Shin-DALET-YUD. When G-d told the
light, "Enough!" He was not only telling it to stop descending, but He was
also telling it where to stop: fourteen levels from the bottom. How many
levels did the light enter? THIRTY-SIX altogether, and considering that
the B'nei Yissachar says that one of the four places G-d hid the light
with which He made Creation is in the Chanukah lights. We can assume that
a very deep and sublime connection exists between the two.
"Because the hand is upon the Throne of G-d . . ." (Shemos 17:16)
Thus, when G-d took a vow to eliminate Amalek, who draws his life force
from these fourteen levels, He said, "Because the hand (Yud-Dalet) is upon
the Throne of G-d . . ." (Shemos 17:16). Yud-Dalet obviously has the same
gematria as Dalet-Yud -(fourteen), making this a reference to the fourteen
levels. G-d was saying: As long as those fourteen levels are allowed to
remain void of My light, Amalek will live and thrive, and wreak havoc upon
mankind, and particularly with the Jewish people.
Thus, Yehoshua bin Nun, literally, son of FIFTY, required FOURTEEN years
to conquer and then divide up the Land of Israel among the Tribes.
According to the Pri Tzaddik, Eretz Yisroel is said to be on the level of
the Fifty Gates of Understanding. In the one battle they lost, the "Battle
of Ai," the conquering Jewish army lost THIRTY-SIX men (Yehoshua 7:5). And
in Sefer Bamidbar, which is THE book that prepares the Jewish people for
life in Eretz Yisroel, just HAPPENS to have THIRTY-SIX chapters.
Thus, rectification of Creation is synonymous with the destruction of
Amalek, which is the result of drawing the "Light of THIRTY-SIX" all the
way down to the bottom of Creation, resulting in Yemos HaMoshiach.
If so, then we can understand an interesting halachah, one that is unique
to Chanukah itself. Normally we do mitzvos in a way that accords them the
greatest honor, as the posuk says, "This is my G-d and I will glorify
Him!" (Shemos 15:2). Why then is it ideal to place one's Menorah between
three and ten tefachim from the ground, which is almost on the ground
itself, and seemingly not very honorable?
Unless, of course we are talking about drawing the Light of Thirty-six
down to the very bottom of Creation, the final fourteen un-illuminated
levels, and eliminating evil completely. And, as we know from Shabbos
halachah, three tefachim is the level above ground that is considered as
if being on the actual ground itself. That's all history is about. That is
all history has EVER been about, and it is really the meaning of being
a "light unto the nations." We are meant to be a vehicle to draw the light
down to the bottom of Creation.
Having said this, perhaps we can see the sod as to why this parshah
follows the previous one, which is what caught the attention of both Rashi
and the Ramban. Rashi saw in it the consolation for Aharon HaKohen who was
remiss about not being included in the offerings of the princes; the
mitzvah of Menorah which is unique to kohanim was his compensation. The
Ramban saw beyond that mitzvah to the time of Chanukah, when it would be
his family, the Chashmonaim, who would re-kindle the Menorah after the
Greeks put it out.
Building upon an insight from the Arizal and a deeper understanding of the
previous parshah about the gifts of the princes, we can see how both Rashi
and the Ramban were right on the money, ah, I mean, Chanukah gelt.
Nachshon, the son of Aminadav of the tribe of Yehudah offered on the
first day. He offered one silver dish, 130 shekels in weight . . .
As the Arizal points out (Sha'ar HaPossukim, Shemos), the number 130 plays
a major part in the gifts of the princes in the previous parshah because
they are connected to the 130 years Adam HaRishon did teshuvah for the sin
of eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Eiruvin 18b). Why
130 years? Because his sin blemished five Names of G-d (all sins do on
some level), each name equaling 26; 5 times 26 equals 130.
It's a long story, and one which we have discussed in the past. But the
gist of it is that Adam's 130 years led to the creation of the souls of
the Erev Rav -(Mixed Multitude), who caused the golden calf, which made
necessary the Mishkan, and the gifts of the princes for it in last week's
parshah. And, what made Adam's sin possible was the fourteen levels the
light did not descend at the beginning of Creation.
Thus, the Mishkan and the princely gifts were all part of the tikun, part
of the process of drawing the Light of 36 to the final fourteen Amalekian
levels. And thus, Aharon KaKohen was disturbed by the fact that neither he
nor his tribe was involved in such an important tikun, especially since he
was involved with the golden calf, albeit for the sake of Heaven.
However, as Rashi explains, the Menorah was his consolation. It was G-d
saying to Aharon HaKohen, "You want to be involved in the tikun? By your
life! Your tribe is responsible for the vehicle to draw down the Light of
36 in creation. -Hence, it is the 36th parshah from Creation, and they
will be the one's to cause it to come to every Jewish home after the
miracle of the Chashmonaim; hence, it is the eighth parshah in Bamidbar.
This, Rabbi Shimshon Pincus, zt"l, explained, is our specific task at this
late stage of history. One need only read the headlines and check out the
entertainment industry to see how rock-bottom society has reached. Yet, at
the same time there are people doing teshuvah, learning Torah, making
Shabbos, etc., in spite of all the "shmutz" around them, and with the evil
that is lurking about.
Rav Pincus referred to this as Shiras HaMoshiach -(Song of the Moshiach).
And, he says something even more remarkable: this song and praise of G-d
counts much more to G-d than any of the songs sang by Jews in the past.
For, so close to the end of history we are also in the basement of
history, where it is quite dark, spiritually-speaking. Light a spiritual
match down here, and you can't imagine how much good the light can do!
To adapt a phrase from Neil Armstrong the astronaut, every spiritual step
taken at this stage of history may be one small step for the person, but
one giant leap for mankind. And, in spite of the spiritual void we find
ourselves in, G-d is always with us, right down here in the muck of
Perhaps this is the underlying message of chapter and verse numbers that
were chosen by those who were against Torah, but which, in the end,
support the very lessons Torah came to teach.
Have a great Shabbos,
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.