Significance of Dates by Natan Wind


Very rarely are the specifics of Hashem and Moshe’s meetings presented in the Torah. The beginning of BaMidbar is one of the few occurrences where both the time and place of their meeting is mentioned. “VaYidabeir Hashem El Moshe BaMidbar Sinai BeOhel Moed BeEchad LaChodesh HaSheini BaShanah HaSheinit BeTzeitam MeiEretz Mitzraim,” “And Hashem spoke to Moshe, in the Sinai Desert, in the Tent of Meeting, on the first day of the second month, of the second year after the exodus from Egypt” (BaMidbar 1:1). This raises the apparent question as to why the specifics of this meeting in particular are mentioned.

The Midrash Tanchumah to Sefer BaMidbar gives an analogy to explain this unusual opening. A highly renowned millionaire was unable to find contentment in his personal life. He had just divorced his second wife, the daughter of a very rich oil magnate, who had embittered his days with her incessant bickering, and ultimately betrayed him, leading to divorce. He rarely spoke of these marriages and refused to give details about the weddings and divorces, keeping them secret. He also never presented the marriage contracts and dates of these events. Many years later, his friends presented him with a Shidduch (marriage proposal) whom they all felt was perfect for their friend. The woman in question was impoverished, but of noble stock and refined character. After hearing the descriptions of this girl’s personality and traits from all his friends, he announced publicly that he would marry this girl and he would then give her a marriage contract.

This parable refers to Hashem and His relationship with the world. After creating mankind, Hakadosh Baruch Hu became disappointed with each generation: Adam and Chava committed the first sin in Gan Eden; Kayin killed Hevel; Dor HaMabul denied the power of God; and the generation of Terach, Avraham’s father, worshiped idolatry. So, the Torah glosses over these events. But regarding Bnei Yisrael, who just came out of Egypt, Hashem was very detailed with regard to dates and places. These Jews were different from previous generations.

Accordingly, Hashem told Moshe to record the exact day, year, and place to show the importance of being with Am Yisrael, resembling a Ketubah (marriage contract). It confirms our dual commitment, as enumerated in the previous Parashah of Bechukotai.

This is exemplified in our Parashah’s next section: the census of Am Yisrael. When you count any collection you have, you count out of love, and in the process you show how important it is to you. This is exactly Hashem’s intent in asking Moshe to count every man of Bnei Yisrael. In counting them scrupulously, He shows His love and the importance of His nation to the rest of the world.

People cherish and record special milestones in their lives. This is because they are spiritually connected to the item, action, or event. Our challenge is to keep up this connection and show the rest of the world that we are the chosen nation: the “Am Segulah” to Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

-Adapted from The Midrash Says

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