Counting Israelites

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Counting Israelites

Michael Berg
May 20, 2020

There is a teaching in the Tiferet Shlomo about the song Shalom Aleichem, which has to do also with the portion of Bamidbar. It says, if you read the literal story, that Moses and Aaron are counting the Israelites. The Tiferet Shlomo asks what this whole idea of counting is really talking about; is it actually talking about counting the physical people?

It says in Tehillim, in Psalms, that the angels surround the individual, and we know that an angel is created from every spiritual action that a person does. So when it says the Creator tells Moses and Aaron to count the Israelites, “Elohei Tzevaot,” which translates as “the Light of the armies,” it refers to the angels that these individuals have created. Can you imagine - you come before Moses and he tells you you have, for example, five angels around you? This is the process that went on then, and it is also what happens on this Shabbat. It’s like we get X-rayed by Moses and Aaron. They come to every single one of us, and assess how many angels we have around us.

Then he goes on to explain the process of the angels that occurs every week. All the days of the week, we create the bodies of angels without their soul, and when we connect on Shabbat, these angels receive their souls. In fact, part of the excitement that we have on Friday night comes from the angels who are excited to receive their souls; and all the work that we do throughout the week will not give us Light unless we inject the souls into these angels.

So now we can understand the power of the song Shalom Aleichem. When we welcome the angels, we’re welcoming the angels that we created, bodies yet without souls. Through the connection of Friday night, and specifically through the song Shalom Aleichem, we are injecting souls into these angels. We invite them, and then when they’re alive, we tell the angels, “Now you can give me the blessings of the Light that I created.” And then we let them go, because after they’ve received their soul and they’ve given us the blessings of their Light, they can go up to their true resting place.

Also in this portion, the Creator tells Moses and Aaron, “When you are counting the Israelites, take with you the heads of the tribes.” It says in one of the commentaries about this, in Pirkei Avot, “Your house should be a place where the wise, the great souls, and the great scholars come and gather.” In a literal understanding of that Mishnah, it doesn’t make any sense. But what this means is if a person does an action in the right way, he receives an amount of the soul of a righteous person who’s left this world. In his Sulam commentary on the Zohar, Rav Ashlag says that a person cannot grow spiritually unless he receives the assistance and little parts of the soulfrom a righteous person, called an ibur.

There are three main ways that we can merit an ibur. One is by doing an action that the righteous person was known for, from the source of his soul. For instance, the great action of Rav Pinchas ben Yair was sharing. So if a person does a great action of sharing, he can likely get the spark of soul from Rav Pinchas ben Yair, or if a person has great humility, which was one of the qualities of Moses, he can receive a spark of the Light of Moses. The second way is through study. When we read from the Zohar, for example, we receive an injection of ibur a spark of Light, from the soul of Rav Shimon Bar Yochai. And the third way is by going to the graves of the righteous. We do this to ask that a part of their soul comes into our soul.

So when it says in the Pirkei Avot, “Your house should always be a place where the righteous come,” it means we should always be awakening ourselves to the need and importance of receiving assistance and sparks from the righteous. But it also says your house needs to be a place where these souls are coming all the time, not just once in a while. Therefore, we have to ask ourselves: this week, which souls, which iburim, did I bring into my house, into my body? It needs to be a constant process of bringing iburim, bringing assistance. It’s one of the most important preparations for Shavuot in order to receive the Light of Bila HaMavet LaNetzach, the Removal of Death, and therefore, we always read Bamidbar before Shavuot because this is what prepares us for it.

The Creator tells Moses and Aaron that this Shabbat is the secret of iburim, of the assistance that’s going to be given from the righteous souls of history. The Creator tells them that it is not only they who must prepare themselves to give a spark of their souls to the Israelites, but also to prepare all of the righteous souls to come down and see who’s ready to receive an iburim - not just now, but also in this year. If we merit connecting to the power of ibur on this Shabbat, every single one of us can merit receiving the Light of Shavuot.

On this Shabbat before Shavuot, all the supernal souls come down to give us the assistance to receive the gift of Bila HaMavet LaNetzach. And so when the Creator tells Moses and Aaron to count the Israelites, they are also seeing how many iburim, how many sparks of souls from different righteous people, each one has. Moses and Aaron gather up all the righteous souls who come down into our world and see who’s ready and desiring for an ibur; and they not only give us that ibur on this Shabbat, but even further than that, they give us the strength to shift how we see our spiritual life.