Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: Count the sons of Gershon as well, according to the household of their fathers.
The first of the two pasukim above is familiar. There are just so many times that it appears in Chumash. But it really seems out of place here. Typically, it instructs Moshe to take what Hashem communicated to him, and present it to the Bnei Yisrael. That doesn’t work here! It was Moshe alone – not the people – who was commanded to do the counting!
We’ll begin to answer the question by posing a different one. Hashem commands us, “You shall cling to Him.” Numerous sources ask how this is possible. How does one cling to a consuming fire? The Zohar’s answer is that we should cling “to His midos.” How does that answer the question? The Torah did not tell us to cling to His midos, but to cling to Him!
Indeed, there is no way for finite Man to cling to the Infinite G-d. Hashem devised a solution. He contracted His essence, and placed it within Torah. Our connection with Torah is the method through which we engage Him directly. The midos that the Zohar speaks of are the midos of Torah she-b’al peh interpreting the Written Torah – the 13 hermeneutical principles, like gezerah shaveh, binyan av, etc. (In truth, those 13 principles are really different forms of the 13 characteristics of Hashem that Michah speaks of.) When a person attaches himself to the letters of Torah and tefillah – each letter of which is a palace housing His presence – he clings to G-d.
Alas, people are weak. All sorts of foreign thoughts intrude when a person engages the holy letters of the Torah. Now, human thoughts are also based on language; these thoughts also are constructed from letters. These intruding thoughts are composed of letters fallen from their spiritual perch through a person’s less than perfect actions. These thoughts should not be seen as demonic interlopers, trying to confuse and confound the person thinking them. Rather, they seek to regain their original stature. They strive for elevation.
This is what our pesukim hint at. The instruction to “count” the members of Gershon’s group is, in the text, expressed as naso es rosh. This can be read as: Naso, raise up, א”ת, the 22 letters from aleph to tav, and reunite them with their beginning, their source in Hashem. Then, those letters of Gershon – those which fell and were driven out (garesh=drive out) from their former lofty holiness – can return to the household of the fathers, the three Avos, and their contributions of Chesed, Yir’ah, and Tifferes. In other words, when a person learns or davens with both ahavah and yir’ah, and does so with the intention of glorifying (tifferes > l’fa’er, to glorify) Hashem, he raises up the fallen letters to the Avos.
Thus, Moshe really did have a message to convey to the entire Am Yisrael, one that continues to this day.
- Based on Meor Einayim by Rav Menachem Nochum of Chernobyl ↑
- Bamidbar 4:21-22 ↑
- Devarim 11:22 ↑
- Zohar 3:138a ↑