By Rabbi Aron Tendler
EVERYONE LOVES A PARADE
The Jews had been in the desert for 13 months. The Torah had been given.
The Golden Calf had been worshipped and destroyed. The Mishkan (Tabernacle)
had been constructed. Sefer Vayikra (Book of Leviticus) had been taught.
Moshe was commanded to count the working force of the nation, and each tribe
was assigned their exclusive place in the camp and in the travel line-up.
Shevet (Tribe of) Layvie was separated from the rest of the nation to work in
transporting the Mishkan, and they were ready to enter the Promised Land.
The first two and ½ Parshios: Bamidbar, Naso, and ½ of B'haloscha are focused
on preparing the Jews to enter the Land. The transition from the desert to
the Land would be traumatic, and the Bnai Yisroel needed to be prepared.
Therefore, the key features of these two and ½ Parshios is transitionary aids
and strategies. Whether the census, the individual placements of the tribes,
or the selection of Shevet Layvie, the focus is securing the nations
relationship with G-d in the aftermath of the desert experience. Therefore,
G-d decided to have a parade.
Parades serve many different functions. In many instances, such as most of
our parades, they are forms of entertainment. "Everyone loves a parade." In
other situations, they are intended to engender awe, respect, trust,
confidence, and a sense of security. At other times, a parade allows the
general public to show their appreciation for their heroes, or to commemorate
past events and achievements.
In order to accomplish the intended theme of a parade, great attention must
be given to the organization and presentation of the participants.
Spectators should be able to line the parade's route and understand the role
of each participant. Some will be followers and some will be leaders. Some
will appear to be more significant than others. The costumes and decorations
should help the spectator, as well as the participants, to understand both
the individual functions as well as the overall theme of the parade. In many
ways, a parade is a living and breathing organizational flow chart. If a
corporation should decide to have a parade, the spectators should be able to
identify the various different departments, the general and executive
administration, and most importantly, the product and vision of the
The first two and a half Parshios of Bamidbar describe the intended glorious
parade of the Jews as they were to enter into the Promised Land. A census of
every tribe was taken, and their specific place in the camp was assigned.
The tribe of Layvie, and later on the children of Aharon, were separated out
from the general population and accorded special attention, because their
charge was to be the focal point of the entire parade - the Mishkan. The
identifying banners and the call of the Shofar and trumpets rallied each
tribe to its special place, or called a halt to the parade's movement. The
appointments of the surrounding clouds and the leading pillar of fire added
on awesome and frightening specter to the advancing parade. The sheer
numbers of the entire nation alone, 3 million strong was overwhelming and
majestic. This is the scene that the beginning of Bamidbar describes.
What would have been the outcome if the intended parade had happened as
intended? What would have happened if the Spies had not undermined the
nations trust in G-d, and the nation would have not had to wander the desert
for 38 additional years?
We are told that, "The actions of the forefathers are a foretelling for the
children." Avraham's forced journey to Egypt, after which he was sent away
with great wealth, mirrors the entire sojourn of the Jews in Egypt and their
hurried exodus bearing with them the wealth of Egypt. Yakov's 20+ years of
exile, hardships, and success mirrors the exile and persecution of his
children, and their survival, throughout the millennium. The boundless
courage and devotion of Avraham and Yitzchak at the Binding of Yitzchak
foretold the countless sacrifices that we would be able to make throughout
history for the sake of sanctifying G-d's name.
Where can we find a precedent for the intended parade of the Bnai Yisroel
into Eretz Yisroel within the personal histories of the Avos - forefathers?
At the end of Sefer Bereshis (Genesis) (50:6-11), Yoseph was granted
permission by Pharaoh to bury Yakov in the land of Canaan. The text of the
Torah describes the general scene. Yoseph and his brothers, all of Pharaoh's
courtiers and palace elders, the elders of Egypt, a chariot brigade and
horsemen, all accompanied Yakov to his rightful resting-place in the Cave of
Machpelah. The Torah describes it as, "…a very imposing retinue… a great
imposing funeral." The Torah records that upon reaching the banks of the
Yarden (Jordan), at a place called Goren Haatad - the Bramble Barn (50:10),
the Canaanites witnessed the majestic and imposing retinue accompanying
Yakov's bier. They then proclaimed, "…Egypt is in deep mourning here."
The Medresh is more elaborate in its description of the funeral and tells the
following scene. When the funeral procession arrived at the edge of the
Yarden, the 31 kings who led the city-states of Canaan arranged themselves in
opposition to the burial of Yakov. Yoseph, who was the viceroy of Egypt and
represented the awesome power of Egypt, took his crown and placed it upon
Yakov's coffin. When the 31 kings saw that the crown of Egypt rested upon
Yakov's coffin, they all removed their own crowns and placed them upon the
coffin of Yakov, joining the funeral procession and the public mourning.
Yakov's funeral procession was the, "The actions of the forefathers that were
a foretelling for the children.
Just as all 12 sons were present and arranged around the body of Yakov, so
too were all the Bnai Yisroel in this week's Parsha, arranged around the
Mishkan, and bearing the bones of the twelve sons for re-burial in Eretz
Just as the elders of Egypt accompanied Yakov to Canaan, so too many of the
elders of Egypt threw their lot with the Jews and accompanied them out of
Just as 31 kings of Canaan initially arranged themselves in opposition to
Yakov's rightful claim to be buried in the land of his fathers', so too did
the inhabitants of Canaan plan their strategies for stopping the Jewish
occupation of Eretz Yisroel.
Just as the 31 kings were overwhelmed by the spectacle of Yakov's burial, and
understood that they were mere caretakers of the land awaiting the rightful
return of Yakov's sons to their land, so too would have been the reaction of
the inhabitants of Canaan. They would have witnessed the awesome spectacle
of G-d's parade and their initial resistance would have disappeared. They
would have realized that the Bnai Yisroel were the true master of the land
and would have immediately subjected themselves to the rule of Moshe and the
Bnai Yisroel. There would have been no need for prolonged warfare and
resistance. Instead, the Bnai Yisroel would have occupied the land with the
full acquiescence of the Seven Nations. They would have built the Bais
Hamikdash (Temple). Moshe, Aharon, and Miriam would have been their
teachers, and the era of Mashiach would have begun. Instead, the Spies
returned with their negative report, the Bnai Yisroel lost faith in G-d, and
the intended parade was sent on a 38-year detour.
The lesson of Bamidbar is obvious. Each and every one of us, as well as the
nation and the world as a whole, have a defined destiny. Whether or not we
will accomplish our individual or collective tasks is dependent on a complex
equation of interdependent circumstances and destinies. In the end, G-d's
intentions will be realized, however, each decision we make collectively and
individually can have a telling effect on the future of our children's
children, and all of humankind. If we each accept our G-d given position
within the never-ending parade of history, we are assured that the
foretelling of our fore-Fathers actions will be realized in a timely and
Copyright © 1999 by Rabbi Aron Tendler
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation,
Valley Village, CA.