20 Jun 2006

[English: Numbers]; the fourth book of the “Chumash,” or the Five Books of Moses; literally, “In the Desert,” because it deals with the experiences of the Jewish People in the desert on their forty-year trek. It begins with the census of the People of Israel in the Desert [hence, “Numbers”], and goes on to recount other events which qualify it for the title of “Saddest Book of the Five Books.” These include rebellions of the Jewish People against G-d and Moshe which were “mini,” “midi,” or “maxi.” On the “mini” level, being somewhat ridiculous considering Who their Protector Was, were complaints about their desert diet, where they enjoyed the miraculous “mohn,” or food from heaven, in comparison to what it had been in “Mitzrayim” (Egypt). On the “midi” level were complaints about lack of water, which can never be too pleasant in the desert.

On the “maxi” level, there occurred an event, triggered by the slanderous report of the “Meraglim,” or Spies, sent to report on “Eretz Yisrael,” or Land of Israel. Their report said the Land was physically beautiful, but inhabited by nations of fierce giants, whom the Jewish People could never conquer. This was an outright statement of disbelief in the Power of Hashem to deliver on His Promise of the Land to the “Avot” and to their descendants. For this betrayal, the Jewish People were punished by being condemned to wander in the desert for forty years, until they would all die, and only their children would enter the Holy Land. This is one of the disasters that the Jewish People brought upon themselves that occurred on Tishah B’Av, and contribute to making it the “Saddest Day on the Hebrew Calendar.”
Other rebellions and punishments were the Rebellion of Korach and Bilaam’s treacherous advice to Balak following the failed Prophecy of Bilaam.