Parashat Bamidbar (In the Wilderness) Numbers 1:1-4:20


Parashat Bamidbar (In the Wilderness) Numbers 1:1-4:20

Haftarah: Hosea 2:1-22

The Children of Israel celebrated Passover only one time in the wilderness. They did so in the first year after coming out of Egypt. Why did they not keep Passover the other 39 years? The answer is because after the faithlessness of the people in regard to the incident with the spies, they were prohibited from entering the land for 40 years. Hence, although Israel kept Passover the first year after the Exodus, once it became clear that they were not going to entering the Land until the 40 years had expired and the faithless generation had died out, there was no need to observe Passover. Why was this?

One needs to remember that it was only after Joshua led the people across the Jordan, i.e. entrance into Promised Land did the people once again circumcise themselves in preparation for Passover. In fact, it was only after entering the Land that the entire Torah became incumbent upon the people. Passover was foundational, as the festival of redemption, to inaugurate them as the people of G-d and begin their full observance of His will.

In this week’s Torah portion HaShem spoke to Moses on the first day of the second month in the second year after the Exodus. This means after the people had kept Passover for the second time (the first time was in Egypt). The purpose that HaShem spoke to Moses was to take a census of the people in preparation for them to enter the Land. This census organized the people, including the Levities and the Kohanim (Priests), in regard to worship. This preparation continued into the following three Torah portions. In fact, it is in the third parashah “Behaalotcha” that one reads about this second Passover being observed. It is important to note that all the preparation moved along properly until the incident with the spies. The question that needs to be asked is why did HaShem spend all the time preparing the people, since He knew that the people would behave faithlessly and He was not going to allow them to enter the Land for 40 years? The answer relates to a very important aspect of the nature of G-d.

While it is absolutely true that HaShem knows all things (omniscient) and He knew all things from eternity past, it does not mean that G-d’s actions are always subject to His omniscience. For example, just because HaShem knows that I am going to be a poor steward of $20, this knowledge does not necessarily demand that He keeps me from receiving the $20. Scripture reveals that HaShem is always faithful in doing His part in regard to what He commands His people to do. This is seen in this example by Him preparing the Children of Israel to enter the Land.  HaShem responded faithfully, despite the fact that He knew that due to Israel’s faithlessness, He was going to sentence them to 40 years in the wilderness. G-d allowing man to fail is part of the framework which He created man to live within and is an integral part of our learning process.

HaShem is not required to act in light of His foreknowledge. He may or may not, depending upon what He deems best. The Sovereignty of G-d does not demand that everything which happens must be HaShem’s will. HaShem created people with the ability to choose. A major aspect of G-d’s Sovereignty lies in how He uses His omniscience and foreknowledge to manifest His will and nature to man. The fact that HaShem did everything necessary on His part to prepare the people demonstrates that our failures rest upon us and not upon anything that G-d did not do.

Shabbat Shalom


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