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Essays on the weekly parsha by the Biala Rebbe shlita

Rav and Av Beis Din of Lugano, Switzerland

Available at:

Bamidbar, Year 1 (5770) Issue # 30

This week’s issue is dedicated to the memory of the Biala Rebbetzin zt”l
Baila Bracha bas Rav Avraham Moshe
whose yahrtzeit occurs this week, on erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan.



“Count the heads of the entire congregation of Bnei Yisrael by their families, by their fathers’
households, by number of the names of every man according to the headcount.”1
Hashem surely knew the exact number of Bnei Yisrael. In fact, when Moshe came to
count the Tribe of Levi, whose census included young infants, Moshe went from one
tent to another and a Heavenly Voice informed him how many children lived within
each one.2 Why then was Moshe commanded to count Bnei Yisrael himself?
Clearly the census of Bnei Yisrael was not just to tally their number, but had some
deep significance and benefit for every Jew who was counted.
The Shulchan Aruch states that Parshas Bamidbar must always be read on the
Shabbos immediately preceding Shavuos.3 Apparently, the counting discussed in this
week’s parsha is somehow a preparation for Kabbalas HaTorah.

The Letters of the Sefer Torah

By counting each Jew individually, Moshe Rabbeinu impressed upon each one his
individual importance. The Hebrew word used here for “count,” ‫שאו‬, actually means
“uplift,” since the counting uplifted each Jew by revealing to him the vital contribution
he was expected to make to Klal Yisrael.

Bamidbar 1:2
Rashi, Bamidbar 3:16
Orach Chaim 428:4
This concept is portrayed in Shulchan Aruch, where we learn that most forbidden
foods are nullified when mixed with sixty times their volume of permitted foods.
However, foods of great importance can never be nullified. For example, foods that are
always counted individually, rather than by weight or by measure, can never become
nullified.4 So too, each Jew was counted to reveal his great individual significance, such
that he must never considered himself a nameless face in the crowd, but an active,
important participant in the destiny of Klal Yisrael.
This was a major factor in Kabbalas HaTorah, as we learn from the verse, “Hashem
descended on Har Sinai before the eyes of the entire nation.”5 Our Sages learn from here
that if even one Jew had been missing from the “entire nation”, they could not have
received the Torah.6
The Zohar states that the six hundred thousand root souls of Israel correspond to the
six hundred thousand letters of the Sefer Torah.7 The omission of even one letter
renders the entire Sefer Torah invalid,8 since the Sefer Torah is not just a collection of
disjointed stories and laws, but a single, united, entity. The same is true of the united
community of Klal Yisrael. We cannot reach perfection as a collective whole without the
contribution of every individual Jew.
The commentaries note that a count of the letters in a Sefer Torah reveals barely half
of six-hundred thousand.9 To resolve this apparent contradiction to the Zohar, some
suggest that there are many letters made up of a combination of different letters, such as
the letter ç, which is made up of æ and å. These letters represent Jews whose personal
mission in the world can only be fulfilled by uniting with others and making a joint
In any case, it is certainly true that every Jew has his own letter in the Torah,
corresponding to the root of his soul and his personal mission in the world. The light
that shines from this letter of the Torah, and the transcendent wisdom it represents, can
be revealed in the world only by the Jew whose soul corresponds to it. When each Jew
reaches his own personal perfection, all the letters of the Torah will shine as one, thus
revealing Hashem’s holy wisdom in the world in perfect splendor.
One might scoff and say, “Who am I and what can I achieve in the world, that so
much depends on my Torah and mitzvos?” However, there are also many parts of the
Torah whose significance eludes us, yet we believe with perfect faith that beneath the
surface of the seemingly trivial details lies deep and holy wisdom, far beyond our ken.
As we said above, if any one letter from these seemingly “unimportant” portions would
be missing, then the monumental episodes of Akeidas Yitzchak, Yetzias Mitzrayim, and
the Ten Commandments would all be meaningless. The same is true of the seemingly
“unimportant” Jews, whose simple, humble mitzvos are absolutely vital to the destiny

Rema, Yoreh Dei’ah 110:1
Shemos 19:11
Mechilta, Yisro
Zohar, Shir HaShirim 74b
Rambam, Hilchos Sefer Torah 1:2
Chesed L’Avraham, Ramah M’Pano, Chasam Sofer, Pnei Yehoshua: Kiddushin 30a
of our nation. Through each mitzva, every Jew creates a brilliant light in Heaven, which
remains hidden to us for now, but will ultimately be revealed. Then, all the world will
see the true importance of the simple Jew, who once wondered how much his mitzvos
could achieve.

Appointing Each Jew to his Position

Rashi comments on this week’s parsha: “In Hashem’s love for Bnei Yisrael, He
counted them again and again. When they left Egypt, He counted them. When they fell
[by plague and by sword] after the Golden Calf, He counted them to see how many
remained. When He prepared to let His Shechinah rest upon them in the Mishkan, He
counted them.”
Clearly, each counting has its own significance. The census conducted in this week’s
parsha has two interesting marks of distinction. In this census Moshe was told to enlist
the help of the leaders of each Tribe, “And with you shall be one man from each Tribe, a
leader of his father’s household”10; whereas in the previous census Moshe tallied Bnei
Yisrael alone. Furthermore, in this census we find an interesting repetition of the
phrase, “To their families, to their father’s households.” These two points together seem to
imply that this census was more than just a counting of individuals, but a systematic
organization of each Tribe by household and by extended family.
Just as every Jew has his own unique mission to perform and his own special
positive commandment and prohibition, as we have discussed elsewhere,11 so too does
every family have its own group contribution to make. We find in the Gemara that Beis
Garmu had a family tradition for generation after generation to bake the lechem hapanim,
while Beis Avtinus would mix the spices for the ketores.12 These families carefully
guarded the secrets of their art, refusing to share it with anyone else for fear that these
special sacrifices might be offered to idolatry. Experts from across the world tried to
duplicate their procedure but failed, since these families had special Divine assistance to
fulfill the duties placed upon them by Heaven.
So too does each Tribe have its own mission in the service of Hashem. The Tribe of
Shimon produced scribes and schoolteachers.13 The Tribe of Yehudah produced
community leaders in Eretz Yisrael and Babylon.14 The Tribe of Levi clearly had their
own special function to serve in the Beis HaMikdash.
Since the purpose of this counting was to reveal to each Jew his own unique
importance, it was crucial that the leaders of each Tribe participate, in order that every
Jew recognize his role within the community, to work together with his own particular

Bamidbar 1:4
See Mevaser Tov on Parshas Chayei Sarah: “The Perfection of Time”
Yoma 38a
Rashi, Bereishis 49:7
Rashi, Bereishis 49:10; Sanhedrin 5a
group of relatives and neighbors, towards the collective purpose of the “families and
fathers’ households.”
As we discussed above, there are letters in the Torah formed by the combination of
two different letters. Without these combined letters, the entire Sefer Torah would be
invalid. So too, there are tasks that can be accomplished only by the combined efforts of
Klal Yisrael. Bnei Yisrael camped at the foot of Har Sinai, “like one man with one
heart.”15 Just as unity was the prerequisite to receiving the Torah, it is also the key to
proper fulfillment of the Torah. Without unity within our families, our shuls, and our
communities, no single Jew can fulfill his own personal purpose in this world, since, like
the letters of the Torah, we are all interconnected.
The angels must also unite in the service of Hashem, as we say in davening, “They
lovingly give permission to one another to sanctify their Creator.” Yet the unity of Bnei
Yisrael is much more profound than that of angels, since we must overcome the yetzer
hara that causes strife, and the personal interests that divide us. By pushing aside our
own interests and uniting for the common cause of serving the Creator, we merit to
draw the Torah down from Heaven and into our grasp.

A New Counting

Each year on Shavuos, the Torah is presented once again to Bnei Yisrael. Every
Jewish soul is then assigned a new task in Torah and mitzvos for the coming year. For
this reason Parshas Bamidbar is read each year on the Shabbos directly preceding
Shavuos. By means of this counting, our souls are elevated, united as one to be made
worthy of Kabbalas HaTorah, and impressed with the importance of fulfilling our
individual missions.
The Midrash states:

Bnei Yisrael are destined to be counted ten times: once when they
descended to Egypt, once when they ascended … and once in the
ultimate future, as it is written, “The sheep shall yet pass through the hands of
the counter. 16”17

Before every major development in Jewish history, Bnei Yisrael were counted.
Thereby, they were elevated to a higher spiritual level and granted a clearer recognition
of their importance as individuals. The talents and potentials that might otherwise lay
dormant were thus awakened and nurtured into fruition, since these talents would now
be necessary for the new situation at hand. The final counting will be conducted by

Rashi, Shemos 19:2
Yermiyah 33:13
Bamidbar Rabbah 2:11
Moshiach himself, in order to elevate Bnei Yisrael and assign each Jew a new task,
appropriate to the radically new circumstances of the Era of Moshiach.
Then, the light of each Jew will be revealed, and we will all finally become aware of
the holy letters of the Torah that shine from our souls. As the light emanating from
these letters combine to become one, the whole world will be illuminated with Hashem’s
holy wisdom which permeates all creation. A new light that will then shine on Tzion,
may it be soon and in our days.



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Bamidbar May 12 28 Iyar In memory of Rebbetzin Baila Beracha bas
Rav Avraham Moshe
Shavuos May 16 3 Sivan
Be’ha’aloscha May 26 13 Sivan
Shelach June 2 20 Sivan
Korach June 9 27 Sivan
Chukas Jun 16 4 Tammuz
Balak June 23 11 Tammuz
Pinchas June 30 18 Tammuz
Matos July 7 25 Tammuz
Devarim July 14 3 Av
V’eschanan July 21 10 Av
Eikev July 28 17 Av
Re’eh August 4 24 Av
Shoftim August 11 1 Elul In memory of Tzirel bas R’ Yaakov
Ki Seitzei August 18 8 Elul
Ki Savo August 25 15 Elul
Nitzavim September 1 22 Elul
Rosh Hashana September 5 26 Eul In memory of Sara bas Dovid and Chaim
Label ben Moshe