Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Bamidbar

Human Nature

The book of Bamidbar is perhaps one of the saddest, so to speak, of all of the Holy Scriptures. Whereas the book of Shemot, which records for us the sin of the Golden Calf also gives us pause, it concludes with the final construction of the Mishkan and God’s Presence, so to speak, resting within the encampment of Israel. But the book of Bamidbar, which begins on a high note of numerical accomplishment and the seemingly imminent entry of the Jewish people into he Land of Israel, ends on a very sour note. It records the destruction of the entire generation including its leadership without their entrance into the Promised Land.

The narrative of the book of Bamidbar tells us of rebellion and constant carping, military defeats and victories, false blessings, human prejudices and personal bias. But the Torah warned us in its very first chapters that “this is the book of human beings.” And all of the weaknesses exhibited by Israel in the desert of Sinai, as recorded for us in the book of Bamidbar, are definitely part of the usual human story and nature.

Over the decades that I have taught this book of Bamidbar to students and congregants of mine, invariably many of them have then asked me incredulously: ”How could the Jewish people have behaved in such a manner?” I cannot speak for that generation of Jews as described in the book of Bamidbar but I wonder to myself “How can so many Jews in our generation relate to the existence of the State of Israel in our time so cavalierly?

How do we tolerate the cruelties that our one-size-fits-all school systems inflict on the ‘different’ child? How do we subject our daughters to the indignities of the current matchmaking process? How, indeed!?” And my answer to myself always is that for the great many of us, human nature trumps common sense, logic and true Torah values. I imagine that this may have been true of the generation of the book of Bamidbar as well.

One of the wonders of the book of Bamidbar is that the count of the Jewish people at the end of the forty years of living in the desert was almost exactly the same as it was at the beginning of their sojourn there when they left Egyptian bondage. Though the following is certainly not being proposed by me as an answer or explanation to this unusual fact, I have always thought that this is a subtle reminder to us that that no matter how great the experiences, no matter how magnificent the miracles, no matter how great the leaders, human nature with all of its strengths and weaknesses basically remains the same.

It is not only that the numbers don’t change much, the people and the generations didn’t and don’t change much either. Human nature remains pretty constant. But our task is to recognize that and channel our human nature into productive and holy actions and behavior – to bend to a nobility of will and loyalty. Only by recognizing the propensity of our nature will we be able to accomplish this necessary and noble goal.

Shabat shalom and Chag Sameach,

Rabbi Berel Wein


Crash course in Jewish history

Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com


 






ARTICLES ON VAYEITZEI AND CHANUKAH:

View Complete List

Point of Order
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5761

World Rectification
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5771

Twin Peaks
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5768

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Chanukah, Chutzpah, and Coming Close to G-d
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5757

History Reenacted
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5767

Nice Guys Finish Second -- Second in Command to Pharoah
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5766

> The Meaning of Miracles
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766

Straightening Out The Cause And The Effect
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5773

It's a Match!
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5761

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Shadowy Existence
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5763

A Torah Perspective
Shlomo Katz - 5766

It's Who You're Dealing With
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5761

ArtScroll

Caught Not Taught
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5758

Holy Eyes
Rabbi Label Lam - 5772

Build with Your Dreams
Shlomo Katz - 5772

Just Doing My Job!
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5759



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information