Table Talk: Bamidbar
No More Sinai: “God spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of Meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after their exodus from the land of Egypt, saying.” (Bamidbar 1:1) The Ibn Ezra points out that once God began to speak to Moses from inside the Tent of Meeting, Moses never went up to Mt. Sinai again. The Rashbam explains that every time God spoke to Moses before the Tent of Meeting was erected, Moses would go up Mt. Sinai to meet with God. The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 1:3) says God spoke with Moses at the Burning Bush, in Midian (Exodus 4:19), in Egypt (Exodus 12:1), at Sinai, but finally only in the Tent of Meeting because of modesty, as it says, “Walk modestly with your Lord.” (Micah 6:8) Did Moshe experience a sense of loss when he could no longer climb up Sinai to speak with God? Why does the Midrash compare this new exclusive place of communication as protection of modesty? The verse is adamant that Moses was alone with God when he went up Sinai. Was that lacking in modesty?
Your “Lives” Story
What was it like to walk up to a table where Moses, Aaron, and the prince of your tribe were sitting, as you handed in your half-shekel to be counted? There were 2 million people. How often would you have a private audience with Moses and Aaron? The Chatam Sofer (Responsa Yoreh Deah #294), in the name of the Mahara Mifano, describes a remarkable process: Moses would look at each person through the clear lens of his prophetic powers and would see all the lifetimes of this person and the lives of his descendants. Based on his insights, Moses would determine whether this person should be granted the status as a head of a family in Israel. The Vilna Gaon (Commentary to Proverbs 16:4) describes the process of going to a prophet as being told what was the purpose of your life and how to achieve it. The GRA continues by saying that, in our times, when we cannot consult with a prophet, we all have enough spiritual clarity to make the same determination as a Prophet. How would you feel stepping up to Moses and Aaron? Would you be excited, nervous, scared, or all of the above? Would you jump at such an opportunity? How far would you go to determine the purpose of your existence?
If someone had two heads; would he be counted once or twice, or perhaps not even once as he is not expected to live very long? Must he wear two pair of Tefillin? The Chatam Sofer (Responsa Yoreh Deah #294) rules that he was only counted once. The Chidah (Bnei David: Bamidbar #3) in the name of the Ari implies that he would not be counted at all. How would you rule for Siamese twins who are living a full life? How would you rule for Siamese twins who share a skull?