By Rabbi Heshy Grossman
The encampment of the Bnai Yisrael was divided in three: Machaneh Shechina,
Levi, and Yisrael, each reflecting a different level of holiness. Those
present in each section were obliged to maintain a higher standard of
purity, and for this reason our Parsha details those individuals who were
"Command the Bnai Yisrael, and they should send away from the camp every
Tzarua, every Zav, and every Tamei L'Nefesh" (Bamidbar 5, 2)
These were distinct prohibtions: while the Tzarua was forbidden to enter
any part of the Machaneh, and a Zav permitted in the outermost section,
Machaneh Yisrael, the Tamei Meis was restricted only from the Mishkan and
These limitations reveal more than purity of the desert camp, they reflect
both the sanctity of each individual Jew and the winnowing process leading
to our redemption.
A human being is also divided in three: head, heart, and liver. Or, in the
language of our classical thinkers: Moach, Lev, Kaved, the first letters of
which spell out Melech - king, for the perfect man dominates his body and
self, utilizing his mental and physical capacities in the proper
disposition of his task.
It follows then, that those expelled from the Machaneh find parallels in
the weaknesses of each individual Jew.
A Tamei Meis is the man who has been in touch with death. His deficiency is
not inherent, but the result of contact with external impurity. Though free
of sin, his intellect cannot serve as sanctuary for the Neshama, the
highest element of man's soul. He may be fully observant, and study Torah
with diligence, but a life of holiness is beyond his scope.
Other individuals have internal problems of their own makings.
The Zav flows with impurity, his heart's desires reflecting the conflicting
nature of body and soul. Man cannot exist without desire, but the test of
his heart is this: does he yearn for the pleasures of the spirit, or the
indulgencies of the physical world? The Zav is rejected from the camp of
the Leviim, those who attach themselves to the Temple of G-d. But, though
far from sanctity, he silently holds dear the life of a Jew. For this
reason, throughout history, thousands of simple individuals sacrificed
their lives when faced with a test of Jewish loyalty. Though far from the
Mishkan, a hidden love for G-d is the hallmark of those whose forefathers
stood at Har HaMoriah. He stays within the Machaneh.
The Metzora spews venom. His blood and guts identify with our enemies, and
his evil tongue lashes out at G-d and His Torah, as he rejects the basic
fundamentals of faith. He is demonstrably removed from his place in the
camp, severing his ties with Klal Yisrael.
Even today, these distinctions are clear. While a life of purity is
difficult to achieve, most individuals are loathe to declare their disdain
for G-d's Torah. Though they may frequently sin, they count themselves
still in the community of Israel. The Metzora however, represents the man
who separates from the pack. Loyal only to himself, he dwells alone,
estranged from his G-d and his people.
Much as the Machaneh alludes to each individual Jew, it reflects as well a
higher dimension; the universe as a whole, and man in a larger sense.
While each man strives to crown himself as Melech, perfecting his role as
pinnacle of creation, G-d is directing the world in its entirety to an
ultimate goal, the coronation of heaven's kingdom, Melech Al Kol HaOlam.
Each aspect of the camp of Israel plays a part in this revelation, for it
is through the B'nai Yisrael that G-d's dominion is manifest. There is no
king without a nation, and the Jewish people are the human element in the
unfolding of this destiny. And, similar to the expulsion of certain
individuals from the desert camp, G-d weeds out undesirable aspects of life
from the world stage, isolating and discrediting those trends that stand
apart from His will.
Let us explain how this occurs.
The monarchy of a Melech, as opposed to a Moshel, is one that is assumed
voluntarily by his loyal subjects. While many rulers forcibly impose the
control of their hapless victims, a true king has no need to subject his
will upon others, rather, it is his dignity and stature that assures
It follows then, that for the Kingdom of G-d to be meaningful, the freedom
to choose be irrevocably granted to his subjects. Hence, man has the
ability to ignore G-d's command, and evil appears as a viable option.
At times, this choice is difficult, the distinctions between good end evil
blurred in the absence of Divine clarity. As history draws to a close, and
the truth is revealed, the gap bewtween right and wrong must widen, as G-d
disposes of the waste destined for the trash heap of history.
Ever since the original sin, the human body consumes food that contains
both healthy and harmful ingredients. From a cosmic perspective, the deeds
of man are the food that heaven digests, and G-d as well spits out the evil
and immorality of a rebellious world. In this way, the choice between good
and evil becomes clearly defined, starkly evident before all.
The Machaneh of the B'nai Yisrael still stands.
The Torah describes a strange form of idolatry, that of Ba'al Pe'or. This
deity was worshipped in a unique manner, its adherents defecating and
otherwise reveling in waste before its silent form.
How are we to understand this?
Imagine a thick piece of meat broiling over hot charcoals, the aroma of its
juices wafting into your kitchen. You can practically taste the tender
meat, and you long for just one bite.
The part of the steak that ends up being flushed down our drains tastes
particularly good. In fact, it is the dirty sweat of a hulking cow, the
loins and fat, that is the delicious smell stirring our desires.
In other words, it is the waste that we are drawn to.
Why does man find pleasure in sin?
Under careful analysis, we would recognize this: it is the prohibition
itself, the allure of forbidden fruit, that is the basis of attraction.
A sinner senses something lurking just around the bend, the eternal Kingdom
of G-d and the call to truth and righteousness. It is a call that he cannot
answer, so he quickly covers up its sound with the cackling laughter of
light-headed frivolity. How else are we to explain the phenomenal growth of
a multi-billion dollar entertainment industry that doesn't even pretend to
meaning and purpose, but merely aims to occupy man's mind, distracting him
from his troubles.
Why is he troubled? He senses that his end is near, and he has no answer to
G-d's eternal call. "Ayekka? -Where are you?" He doesn't know, for sin has
no purpose, no rhyme or reason, other than the escape of G-d's incessant
In this sense then, it is the very command of G-d that highlights the evil
of sin, and vice-versa.
The preferred form of worship to Ba'al Pe'or is the very behavior that Klal
Yisrael rejects, the waste that G-d spits out.
As the choice between good and evil becomes more clearly defined, the
decision of the evil-doer becomes an open rebellion. Removing themselves
deliberately from the community of Israel, they opt for an identity of
their own, outside the Machaneh.
Today, more than ever before, the choices facing modern man are of two
extremes - the disciplined morality of observant Judaism, or the reckless,
hedonistic pursuit of pleasure and excitement.
While the Mitzvos express meaning and design, the chase for mindless
entertainment is devoid of reason. When asked to explain the purpose of
this lifestyle, a typical response can offer little more than 'because', or
'I like it', 'it feels good'.
It is this state of affairs that reveals the unspoken truth: as the era of
a new dawn approaches, it becomes eminently clear that G-d is One, and His
Kingdom is One. This is a life of meaning and purpose, all else is leftover
waste, remnants of a long discredited ideology, doomed to oblivion.
"V'Hayah Hashem L'Melech Al Kol HaAretz, BaYom HaHu Yihyeh Hahshem Echad
JerusalemViews, Copyright (c) 1999 by Rabbi Heshy Grossman and Project