Bring Up the Rear

(Torah Portion Beha’aloscha) Bring Up the Rear!

The Torah relates that after just about a year of being encamped at Mount Sinai, the Jews were instructed to begin traveling towards the Land of Israel.

At this time the Jews were encamped in a specific formation. The Tabernacle was in the center of the encampment surrounded by the Levites and the Kohanim who dwelled in the immediate proximity of the Temple. The rest of the Twelve Tribes were divided into four groups of three tribes, with each group dwelling in one of the four direction.

G-d instructed Moshe how they should travel – which tribal unit should travel first, and when the Levites, who carried the Temple and its components should travel.

The Torah tells us that the Tribe of Dan was the very last in the formation during their travels and they were entrusted with the task of picking up any lost items and returning them to their proper owners. They also assisted and encouraged people from the other tribes who lagged behind.

Why was the tribe of Dan entrusted with being in the position of returning lost items and encouraging those who lagged behind, more than any of the other tribes?

Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin o.b.m. explains that G-d wanted that the Tribe of Dan be involved with Mitzvos between man and man, because He knew that in the future, the Tribe of Dan would be vulnerable to idolatrous practices.

The tribe of Dan eventually buckled to the entreaties of Yeravan ben Nevat to accept his idolatrous calves. Additionally, Micha from the Tribe of Dan, was freed from Egypt yet already at the splitting of the Red Sea, he had thoughts of eventually setting up an idol. In the song that Moshe sang after the salvation at the Sea, there is a reference to G-d’s anger concerning Micha’s plan.

Micha’s wayward thoughts and plan didn’t come to fruition until many years after the Jews settled in the Land of Israel; he then set up a Temple that mimicked G-d’s Holy Temple.

Because of these two despicable weaknesses to idolatry that the Tribe of Dan would eventually succumb to, G-d gave them opportunities to perform Mitzvos of returning lost items and assisting those who lagged behind so that they would accrue merits which would protect them from becoming completely absorbed and lost through their idolatrous ways.

Although the Tribe of Dan was destined to sin and was considered a lowly tribe, when G-d chose the chief architects for the construction of the Temple He chose Betzalel from the prestigious tribe of Yehudah, and as his assistant He chose Ahaliav from the lowly tribe of Dan. The Medrash explains that when establishing and constructing the Holy Temple all people were included and therefore it did not matter to which tribe you belonged; everyone was encouraged to come forth and take part.

A similar concept can be gleaned from the crowns that adorned three vessels of the Temple. The Torah tells us that the Table upon which the Showbread was placed had an ornate crown, the golden Altar had a crown, and the Holy Ark, which contained both sets of tablets of the Ten Commandments and the Torah scroll that Moshe scribed by the word of G-d, also bore a crown.

Each one of these vessels represented a particular prestigious crown of responsibility and task. The Table represented the crown of Kingdom which was given to the Davidic Dynasty. The Altar which represented the service in the Temple, was taken by the Kohanim – the Priests who are the descendants of Aaron. The Holy Ark represents the crown of Torah. Who took this crown? The answer is that the crown of Torah is available to each and every Jew when he studies and embraces the Torah. He then merits to proudly and humbly wear this crown.

Knowing the Torah gives us G-d’s directives for life and guides our decision making process. We thus proudly bear the crown of Torah which attests to our cherished relationship with the Almighty and the respect we have for its teachings and laws.

We bear the crown of Torah humbly by subjecting ourselves to the will of G-d rather than to the dictates of our hearts or minds or to what society dictates as acceptable.

In our Parsha, G-d compliments Moshe by calling him the most humble of all people. Moshe had direct communication with G-d at any given time. The more Moshe knew G-d the more humble he became. Similarly, when we continually study and delve into the brilliance and timelessness of Torah it assists us in strengthening our relationship with G-d and enhances our dealings with others.

Wishing you a most enjoyable & uplifting Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks