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Parshat Bamidbar (5769)

In this week's Torah portion, G-d tells Moses to count the Jews and then begin the journeys in the desert.

The birth, independence, identity and existence of the Jews depended on miracles. Their origin from Abraham, the Exodus from Egypt, the receiving of the Torah and their sustenance in the desert was all totally above nature.

But in addition to this, their life in the desert and later in Israel centered around an edifice called the Holy Temple (in the desert it was portable and was called the "Mishkan") where they were reminded of these miracles constantly and served the Creator who made them.

But the Temple service was in the hands of the Levites.

At first glance it is not so clear why each person couldn't just do it himself? Why did there have to be a special class for serving G-d?

To understand this, here are two stories (Ma ShSiper Li HaRebbe vol. 2 pgs. 90 and 82)

The Fourth Rebbe of Chabad, Rebbe Shmuel, nicknamed the Maharash, was perhaps the most mysterious of all the chain of seven Rebbes.

On one hand he surrounded himself with pomp and riches, golden vessels, ornamented clothes and a fine carriage drawn by the most expensive horses. But on the other, it was obvious that he was doing it all for supernal purposes.

Everyday the Rebbe would tell his driver to hitch up the horses to his magnificent carriage and take aride into the woods.

It was inconceivable to the Rebbe's Chassidim that the Rebbe would just go for a pleasure ride, they were sure that there must be some deep mystical practices the Rebbe did there in the woods far from the human eye. But the only one that knew, besides the Rebbe, was his driver and the Rebbe warned the driver to never tell anyone what he saw.

The driver was no fool. He knew that one word would get him fired and the pay was good. So anytime any of the Chassidim asked him anything he would simply turn and walk away.

But the curiosity of the Chassidim and their desire to learn was stronger than the driver's opposition and they devised a plan.

I just so happened that one of them, who was friendly with the driver and had done him several favors with no thought of remuneration, had a birthday or some other occasion and had invited the driver to come.

The other Chassidim took advantage of this, bought several bottles of vodka, and made sure that anytime anyone made a 'L'Chaim' the driver would be included.

Then, when everyone was inebriated, and the driver many-times so, each began telling personal stories until it became the driver's turn.

He stood, cleared his throat, took another L'chaim, sat down and began to talk in a quiet voice.

"You know, you fellows have a very wonderful Rabbi! But he is also very strange. Very strange person." Everyone was listening.

"You know, I take him everyday to the woods. Deep, deep, deep into the woods." He paused, took anotherL'Chaim and continued. "You know what he does? We stop in the same place every day. There is a big log there. The Rebbe sits down on this log and starts to cry. That's right. He cries and cries like a baby. And while he's crying, ants begin to pour out of these holes in the ground and cover his body. Big ants that bite. Until his whole body is covered. And he cries and cries!

"Then, suddenly, all at once after a few minutes, all the ants leave! He doesn't do anything but cry and for some reason they all leave him.

"Then, the Rebbe stops his crying, returns to the carriage and we leave. But I can't understand it! I can't figure it out. I mean, your Rebbe has a beautiful house, nice horses, a good driver, a fine wife and children. He has a good life! What has he got to cry about?! Why is he crying? And even more I don't understand those ants. How they know when to leave him? I mean, he doesn't do anything to make them leave! They just all leave at once! It's like he is their boss or something."

The second story:

Once the Rebbe Maharash was on a long train ride and one of his Chassidim by the name of Rav Yaakov Reshel got on the train near nightfall at the city of Dvinsk to accompany him. His intention was to accompany the Rebbe for less than an hour till he went to sleep and then get off at the next stop and return to Dvinsk.

But, to his surprise, a few minutes into the ride, the Rebbe asked him to stay till the morning.

Rav Yaakov was honored by the request and couldn't refuse. It was, in fact, a great pleasure to be with the Rebbe. But he hadn't brought his Talit and Tefillin (prayer shawl and phylacteries Jews put on for the morning prayers).

He paid for an adjoining compartment and when the Rebbe lay down to sleep he left the Rebbe's room and went to his. Early the next morning the Rebbe, who had woken even earlier and had already finished praying, sent a porter to call Rav Yaakov to his room. When he entered he saw that the Rebbe was sitting with eyes closed laughing.

He didn't have a chance to sit down before the train came to a stop and a well dressed, clean shaven young man got on, asked the conductor something and then headed straight for the Rebbe's compartment. But when he entered and saw the Rebbe sitting there, smiling with eyes closed and Rav Yaakov standing there he seemed confused and just sat down opposite the Rebbe.

The train began to move and five minutes later when they were outside of the town the Rebbe suddenly opened his eyes, stared deeply into those of the young man and said "Why do you possess a dangerous item? What have you got in your pocket? Show me!"

The young man turned pale and began to shake. He stuck his trembling hand into his pocket and pulled out...a small pistol! He handed it to the Rebbe who opened the window and threw it out into the passing bushes.

It seems that the Maskilim (Jews that wanted to uproot Judaism and replace it with more 'modern' ideas) had planned to assassinate the Rebbe because of all the troubles he made for them at government levels. But when the young man saw the Rebbe was not alone and then felt his holiness, he changed his mind.

The Rebbe gave his Talit and Tefillin to Rav Yaakov who left the Rebbe and the young man alone and went to his compartment to pray. When he returned the Rebbe took the Tefillin and said to his young companion "Would you like to pray?"

Suddenly, the young man began to frown and then burst out in awesome tears as he took the Tefillin. The Rebbe comforted him; 'Don't worry, one who is forced to sin is not a really a sinner'.

At the next stop the young man got off and the stop after Rav Yaakov parted from the Rebbe and also got off.

This answers our question. The reason G-d chose one particular tribe to be in charge of holy things is that there has to be someone totally separated from the world and devoted totally to G-dliness who can 'raise' and inspire those 'normal' people who are occupied with more mundane things.

Just like the Rebbe in our stories; the reason he cried and invited the ants was because he was a totally holy person: as we see that he ruled over the ants and knew what the young man was thinking. But on the other hand he suffered in order to raise and purify the world. That is why he opposed the 'Maskilim' and put himself into danger because his 'job' was to raise and purify others; as we see he did to the young 'assassin'.

But in the future, when Moshiach changes man's priorities, all Jews will be at the level of Levites; their only occupation will be to know and and assist the entire world in Knowing the Creator (Mimonidies, M'lachim 12:5).

But it all depends on us to do just a little more, even one more good deed to bring Moshiach even one instant earlier....

Moshiach NOW!

Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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