Today Jews the world over begin reading Bamidbar, the Book of Numbers,
Numbers 01:1 - 04:20.
As explained at Yoma 68b, Bamidbar takes its name from the census that the book opens with. This counting of the people reveals an important teaching. All of the Israelites were counted, the great and the small, the rich and the poor, the observant and the non-observant. All of Israel stood as one to be counted for this and ten counts.
We can learn from this that all Jews are equally Jews, all are equally members of the eternal Covenant, despite those who reject various segments of our people. We are not Orthodox or non-Orthodox Sephardic or Ashkenazi, Chassidic or non-Chassidic, born Jew or convert, male or female, European, American, African, or Israeli... No! We are all Jews! Each Jew is counted equally. Each is a Child of the One Creator G-d. HaShem chose, appointed and anointed each and every one of us both individually and collectively. HaShem is One and we are one.
However, even though we are one Body, we do not all have the same function. It was the Will of HaShem, knowing our weaknesses, both individually and collectively, to establish a holy priesthood among us, the Cohenim.
At 1:48 we see the Levites were also counted, but their numbers were kept separate, signifying that their service is distinct from the rest of the Israelites. Their primary job is Torah study and service to their Jewish kin as priests.
The Cohenim and Levites empower the priesthood of the Israelites – who collectively are the priesthood for the other nations as declared at Exodus 19:6.
Recall that the children of Moshe and Aaron were few in number and that two of them died due to Avodah Zara, referenced as their offering of 'strange fire” before HaShem at 3:4. It is for this reason that HaShem anointed the Levites as helpers of the Cohenim as explained by the sage Abarbanel.
The Cohenim and Levites were supposed to guide the Jewish people in preparing the way for Mashiach ben David, but in this task they failed. During the Babylonian captivity HaShem revealed to the sages and remaining prophets, headed by Ezra haNavi, that they should establish the rule of the Rabbinate.
The Rabbis are anointed by HaShem to lead our people until the coming of HaMashiach. Unfortunately as time past the Rabbinate became partially corrupt and many divisions arose among the people in part as a result. Beginning in the 1800's the various divisions began reaching critical mass. This was all forewarned:
Rabbi Nachman warned that great heresy will spread throughout the world before the coming of HaMashiach. He said, 'Fortunate are those who strengthen their emunah during those times'. He noted that Daniel haNavi foretold that 'before the coming of the Messiah, many will be tested and refined, that evil will increase, while the wise will have understanding,' and so on.
Rebbe Nachman's 'fire' continues to burn today and he advises us to take care to remain strong in emunah but also warns that even for those who strong emunah at this time will still face great and difficult challenges.
“I am telling this in advance for the sake of those few good people who will be strong in their faith. They will have great internal battles. But my words will console and strengthen them, for they will see that someone already predicted this.” (Sichot Haran 35).
In today's reading from Likutey Moharan # 80 the Rebbe explains that surviving the days before the revelation of HaMashiach will require great emunah and peace, shalom. He declares: Peace is of paramount importance, as is well known. As the sages say: G-d found no vessel to contain His blessings other than Shalom.” This is cited at Uktzin 3:12.
May we all be the emissaries of Peace!
Let's consider this lesson, Book 1, lesson # 80.