Torah Portion: B’midbar (Numbers) In The Desert 1:1-4:20

HafTorah: Hosea 2:1-22

This week we start the fourth book of Torah, B’Midbar or ‘In the Desert.” Usually this Torah section is read on the Sabbath right before Shavuot but not this year. It is never read after Shavuot. On our June 3rd celebration of Shavuot we will talk more about the appointed time of Shavuot.

This week I want us to look at B’Midbar. I sent out a question asking why G-d requested a counting here. In fact this is the third time the people have been counted. They were also counted when they left Egypt in Shemot (Exodus) 12, after the sin of the calf in Shemot 32 and here. So why would G-d require these countings? I think in each case G-d was teaching the people an important lesson, a lesson for us also. Do you ever feel lost in a crowd or that G-d has no notice of you? Maybe He notices leaders but not us? These countings teach us a powerful lesson. When they left Egypt G-d wanted them to learn that each one of them were important and vital to the task ahead. No one person counted for more, no one counted less. G-d was concerned with each one. Here in B’Midbar we see this emphasized even more. Here in our Torah portion they were named, their history was recounted by going over their heritage I think G-d was saying to them and to us, “You are important. I know you. I know your background. I know all about you. Don’t think I have forgotten you. Each of you is precious to me.” This is something we need more than ever. Today we can become lost with Facebook, Twitter and all of these things that allow us to live alone without much in depth human contact. These verses tell us we are never forgotten. G-d knows us, loves us and is always with us. So here we see that message for these people and for us. He is our King and our Father.

Now I would like to touch on my other question. What is the connection between the HafTorah found in Hosea 2 and the Torah portion? What did you find? Both do include numbers. B’Midbar, a census, and in Hosea, a time when the people could not be counted for there will be too many to count. The wilderness or desert plays a part in each. B’Midbar, in the very name of the book and in Hosea 2:14, “I will lead her into the wilderness.” B’Midbar is on a deeper level about a marriage contract between G-d and the people with the giving of the Torah being that contract. Here in Hosea we read of Hosea’s marriage to Gomer. G-d uses this imagery of marriage to teach Israel and us a powerful lesson. G-d uses what happened between Hosea and his wife to speak to us. Hoses did not give up on Gomer. G-d does not give up on us. Why because He loves us and has a relationship with each of us. That relationship is as a man who loves his wife and will not give up on her. G-d makes this point in Hosea 2:16 by contrasting two Hebrew words. He contrasts the common word used even today for husband, ba’ali which translates in English to “My lord, or my master.” It is a word based on power of one over the other. The wife is looked at as one to obey or one who is owned by another. G-d says in this verse that He desires a different word to describe His relationship with us. That word is, “ishi,” or my man, one who loves me, cherishes me, sees me as his partner. He does not see me as one that is owned.” This goes back to Genesis 2:23-25 where he says, “bone of my bone, “ two distinct people, each which respects the other. They are called “ish and isha or man and woman. This is the relationship G-d desires, where we know He loves us and as our partner in this world wants the best for us. He has betrothed us as His and given us a way to live together, to be what He intended, as a husband should relate to his wife in this world.

So He is our “Ishi” not one who does not value us and only experiences his power over us.