Gabi Raiss‏

Former Shaliach in Cape Town (2001-2)
Currently Youth Director of the Chomat Shmuel neighborhood


“Kedusha” (holiness/sanctity) of a Place, Time and Man
Right at the beginning of Sefer Bemidbar (Numbers) we encounter a problem with the syntax of the first pasuk: “And the LORD spoke unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying”(Numbers, 1, 1).
 The second part of the pasuk is very clear, the first day of the second month in the second year, it goes from the smallest time unit to the largest – from day, to a month and a year.On the other hand, the first part of the pasuk is not understandable, God spoke to Moses ‘in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting’. Is the desert in the tent or the tent is in the desert?
I heard the answer to this question from Rabbi Alon on a Shabbat for shlichim of Torah Mitzion. In order to answer the question, we will first ask another, every Friday evening, when we receive the Shabbat every community sings the beautiful song of “Lekhah Dodi”.
In this song, written by Rabbi Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz, there is something unclear; while the first, second and last verses, and of course the chorus, speak about the Shabbat: “Let us go, my beloved, to meet the bride, and let us welcome the presence of Shabbat.” “Observe” and “recall” in a single utterance, We were made to hear by the unified God, God is one and God’s Name is one, In fame and splendor and praiseful song.” “To greet Shabbat let’s go, let’s travel, For she is the wellspring of blessing, From the start, from ancient times she was chosen, Last made, but first planned”. It seems very clear why we sing it on Shabbat’s eve.

However, the rest of the verses say nothing about Shabbat, rather they talk about Jerusalem, its destruction and the hope to see it rebuilt: “Sanctuary of the king, royal city, Arise! Leave from the midst of the turmoil; Long enough have you sat in the valley of tears, And He will take great pity upon you compassionately.” “Do not be embarrassed! Do not be ashamed! Why be downcast? Why groan? All my afflicted people will find refuge within you, And the city shall be rebuilt on her hill”. 
Why was it so important to the writer to emphasize Jerusalem in a song about Shabbat?

The answer is, what the Shabbat does to time, Jerusalem does to space. Imagine if God had not finished creation on the sixth day and rested on the seventh. What day would it be today? after the seventh day would have come the eighth, ninth and so on. The fact is when God rested on the seventh day, he created the week, as we know it today. Since then we count the days towards Shabbat; Sunday is the first day of the week only because Shabbat is waiting at the end of it.

In a similar way, Jerusalem does the same thing to space. When God chose Jerusalem as the place to put his presence, the “Shechinah”, he gave the rest of the world its meaning.

The same is with the first pasuk of our parsha, when God decided to put the tent of meeting in the wilderness of Sinai, it gave the desert a new significance, without the tent, the wilderness of Sinai is just another place in the world. But when to tent of meeting is there, then there is a meaning to mention the desert, this is why the wilderness is mentioned first in the pasuk before the tent.

The headline of this article spoke about the sanctity of time, place and men. I would like to add something about the holiness of men, In the parsha we read about the appointing of the “Neseim”, the leaders of the tribes, in my opinion, a leader can give meaning to his community – he can raise up the people who follow him. In many ways, this is also the work of the “Shlichut”. The shalich needs to bring out the very best from members of his host community.

I believe there is a leader in each and every one of us, that makes us want to be better, to try to do good, a leader that can lift us to new heights.