The Journey for the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land


לשכנו תדרשו

The Journey for the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land

“Save us HaShem Our God and gather us and save us from among the nations to thank Your holy Name to laud Your praise” (Psalms 106, 47/psukei dezimra). This week we begin the “Book of the Journey”, the journey from Mount Sinai to the Holy Land. This journey begins and ends with a census of the People, such a dominant theme of this book that our Sages and others called this book “the book of Numbers”. What is the significance of these numbers, and why are they used so extensively in regard to the army of Israel? In order to answer this question, let us take a deeper glance at the Hebrew word for army used here, Zeva or Zevaot. If we look for additional contexts of this word, we find that one of the names of God is Zevaot. Indeed, our sages teach us that Hana, the first to use this Name, turned to God as Zevaot – “the Lord of Hosts”, pleading before God the case that if You, God, have created all hosts of People, You surely have the power to give me a son (Brachot 31b).  In Dvarim 23, 15 we learn that indeed the Holy Presence resides in the encampment of the army of Israel.  Just as on a physical level, the power of an army is recognized according to the number of its soldiers, weaponry, etc., so too on a spiritual level, the spiritual power of our People is greatened with the greatening of our People’s population (example – “God does not disregard the prayers of the masses” (Br. 8a)), especially in the Holy Land, threshold of the Holy Presence, as we have shown in previous weeks (majority of world Jewry, etc.). Therefore, each number in this week’s parsha represents not only spiritual power, but also the quality of that spiritual power, according to the spiritual significance of numbers as we illustrated last week in the form of the numbers 7 and 50. The spiritual energy of the People is so great that in next week’s parsha lepers and other impure people are ordered to be sent outside of the People’s encampment in the desert (Num 5, 1-4). When our People entered the Holy Land, all walled cities in the Holy Land retained this spiritual status, not tolerating lepers and corpses within their grounds (Tosfot Erchin 32b explains that this is because the term “moshav” is used both for encampment in the desert and for a walled city in the Torah). This law is considered by the Mishnah (Kelim 1, 7) and the Rambam (Beit Habehira 7, 13) to be an additional level of holiness of walled cities over the rest of the Holy Land. As we explained earlier in regard to Shushan Purim, walled cities represent a particularly important settlement of the People in the Land. Was Hebron a walled city? According to a number of sources (see “Kriyat Hamgila B-Hebron” R. Ido Alba, at length)  it comes forth that Hebron was walled, but its wall was demolished in accordance to the law that the walls of a “City of Refuge” (Ir Miklat) must be demolished in order that it not be a large metropolis that “the avenger of blood” (who can kill the refugee who killed his relative in negligence) could easily reside in (see Rambam Rotzeah 8, 8). According to Tosfot in Erchin 32b the city retains its sanctity as a walled city till the demolition of its wall. Conversely, the turning of Hebron into a “City of Refuge” is also a sign of sanctity, but in a different way (Zohar 2, 114b). From these sources it becomes evident that Hebron is a holy city in a multi-faceted and unique way, in addition to it being the Threshold of the Garden of Eden, City of the Patriarchs, Channel of Prayers, and much more.

Real Stories from the Holy Land #17: “One day, after not answering the public phone next to my kollel for several months, I answered the phone. The call “happened” to be for me. I was told that my Tanach was given away in Maarat HaMachpela and “happened” to reach the hands of my friend David, who took it for safe-keeping. Several hours later I “happened” to meet this David at the men’s mikveh, after I hadn’t seen him for several months, subsequently returning my lost Tanach.”

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