Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig
e-mail rebiyosil@earthlink.net

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FBamidbar (Numbers) 8:1-12:16
Haftorah: Zachariya 2:14-4:7

When the Ark would journey, Moshe said, "Arise, Hashem, and let your foes be scattered, let those that hate You flee from before You." And when it rested, he would say, Reside tranquilly, O L-rd, among the many thousands of Israel."
Bamidbar 10:35-36
These verses which are recited every Shabbat when the Ark is opened are enclosed both in the Sefer Torah and the printed Pentateuch by two special symbols in the form of two inverted Nunim. The Talmud draws attention to this marking:

Our Rabbis taught: " And it came to pass, when the ark set forward, that Moshe said..." The Holy One Blessed Be He made special markings above and below for this passage,
Tractate Shabbat 115b
Rashi gives reason to the strange markings.

When the Ark would journey: [The Torah] made signs for [this passage], in front of it and after it, to say that this is not its place. But why was it written here? In order to make an interruption between one passage which deals with troubles and another passage which deals with troubles, as stated in the chapter, Kol Kitvey Hakodesh (Tractate Shabbat 115b).
Rashi, Bamidbar 10:35
Rashi teaches us that the reason for the reversed Nunim is to separate between one trouble and another. But what were the troubles that are being separated and why a need to separate?

They journeyed from the mountain of Hashem a three-day distance, and the Ark of the Covenant journeyed with them a three-day distance to search out for them a resting place. The cloud of Hashem was over them by day when they journeyed from the camp.

A three-day distance: They traveled a distance of three days in only one day.
The first passage of trouble was in their departure from Mt. Sinai. While we have this romantic notion of Na'aseh V'nishma - first we will do [the Mitzvot] and then we will try to understand [them], The revelation of the Torah was very difficult to bear. Suddenly, 606 new Mitzvot were thrust upon this slave nation. And most of the 7 Mitzvot that they previously observed, were magnified and reinterpreted by Moshe in a much stricter rendering. (See the episode of the blasphemer Vayikra 24:10.) After the passage with the inverted Nunim we read of the grumblings of the Bnai Yisrael:

The people were like those who seek pretexts of evil in the ears of Hashem, and Hashem heard and His wrath flared, and a fire of Hashem burned against them, and it consumed at the edge of the camp. The people cried out to Moshe; and Moshe prayed to Hashem, and the fire sank. He named the place Taverah, for the fire of Hashem burned against them.
The sin of that generation of slaves perpetrated was that they could not elevate themselves to be worthy of spiritual nourishment. Or was it?

Chapter 11

The people took to seek complaints; it was evil in the ears of Hashem, and Hashem heard and His wrath flared, and a fire of Hashem burned against them, and it consumed at the edge of the camp. The people cried out to Moses; Moses prayed to Hashem, and the fire died down. He named that place Taberah, for the fire of Hashem had burned against them. The rabble that was among them cultivated a craving, and the Children of Israel also wept once more, and said, "Who will feed us meat? We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge; the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. But now, our life is parched, there is nothing; we have nothing to anticipate but the manna!" Now the manna was like coriander seed and its color was like the color of the Bedolach (crystal). The people would stroll and gather it, and grind it in a mill or pound it in a mortar and cook it in a pot or make it into cakes, and it tasted like the taste of dough kneaded with oil. When the dew descended upon the camp at night, the manna would descend upon it. Moses heard the people weeping in their family groups, each one at the entrance of his tent, and the wrath of Hashem flared greatly; and in the eyes of Moses it was bad.

Weeping in family groups? All the individual families gathered together and wept to publicize their complaint in the open. And our Rabbis said, the word Lemishpechota means, "over matters of family" over relations that were forbidden to them (Sifrei 90).
Rashi, Bamidbar 11:10

Rashi quotes a Sifrei (Midrash) that informs us that after the Torah was given at Sinai, a whole array of relationships that were previously permissible were now forbidden. However, the illegal aspect to the relationship was retroactive - any union that was now deemed illegal or incestuous was forbidden and the spouses had to separate.

Instead of crying over this cruel law, they complained about the Manna - which minimized their real complaint and directed their anguish and their anger to a holy object, a gift from Hashem, the Manna from Heaven. They cheapened their own suffering by redirecting the object of their anguish.

The Torah is teaching us that there two types of tragedies, one that befalls us and we have no control over, and one that we create by transferring our emotions to something else. There was never anything wrong with the Manna. The transference of emotion from the burden of separating families and severing relationships to the Manna was a shameful act of frustration.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig

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