Parshat Bemidbar: In the Desert - Life During the Journey to Egypt

Uploaded by gdashdcast on 06.04.2010

Welcome to the book of Bemidbar,
the fourth book of the Torah.
This chapter, its first,
is about a people who want
to leave slavery behind.
But they’re scared of freedom
at the same time.
Bemidbar means "in a desert."
The Jews have not yet arrived in the land
God promised them,
and they’re not construction workers
in Egypt anymore.
They are in between,
in transition, wandering.
It's tiring, and it's scary
so much so that later on the Israelites
actually decide that slavery was better.
They yearn for Egypt's
excellent fish and fruit,
the cucumbers, and the melons,
and they whine to Moses about it.
It’s strange, but slavery has its good points.
It's a little like being a child.
You don't have much power,
but you don't have to worry
about the basics,
like where your next meal is coming from
or what you're going to do with your day.
If you’re a slave in Biblical Egypt
you eat fish and leeks and you make bricks.
But just as today people head out
into the wilderness to clear their heads
and figure things out, so back then
this trek from Egypt to the Promised Land
is the perfect time for the Israelites
to start figuring out who they really are.
They count themselves
and divide up by families.
God helps by assigning
a census-taker to each tribe.
In this way the undifferentiated mass
of former slaves start
to sort themselves out.
Take him, for example.
He’s over 20 years old,
which means he can bear arms
and go to war.
He’s in the tribe of Asher,
whose leader is Pagiel,
and the census counted 41,500 men
of fighting age in his tribe.
They reside in the northwest corner
of the camp between
the tribes of Dan and Benjamin.
He used to be a slave,
with no identity of his own.
Now he is someone.
Actually, he’s a lot of things.
He’s just not sure how to be them yet.
An Israelite? A free man? A soldier?
But on the other hand,
he and the other Israelites
have really only reached the halfway point
between childhood and maturity.
Because they don't know exactly
what their unique purpose in life is,
the work that only they can do.
Some Israelites do know this.
There’s only one group of people
that God specifically says not to count
The tribe of Levi
because they have a special mission
they transport the Tabernacle
as the Israelites make their way
through the desert.
The Levites are lucky.
If the rest of the Tribes of Israel
are just coming of age,
then the Levites are truly grown-up
They not only know who they are
but they even know
their unique mission in life.
Except that, even when you already know
what you’re supposed to do,
it’s not that easy
to go ahead and do it.
Remember Nadav and Avihu?
The sons of Aaron, the High Priest?
They tried to offer their own sacrifice to God
and they were struck down because of it.
Adulthood, with the power
to make your own rules and the freedom
to ignore your responsibilities,
can be dangerous – even deadly.
Being an adult is hard.
Being a child is hard, too.
As a child, someone else has control
and makes all the rules for you,
but you're safe.
It's hard to be an adult
for the exact opposite reason
instead of someone controlling you
at every moment, no one is controlling you
at any moment.
And being in the desert, being Bemidbar,
is kind of like the time in between
the time you grow
from slavery into freedom.
All you can do is use your time in the desert
wisely to figure out
what it is that you really love,
and are meant, to do.
Producer: Sarah Lefton
Animation Director: Nick Fox-Gieg
Animation: Liesje Kraai
Editorial Director: Matthue Roth
Theme Music: Tim Cosgrove
Written and Narrated by Helen Chernikoff
Sound Recording: Dugans