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In his blessing Jacob likened Dan to Judah, hence the tribe of Dan
stood at the head of the fourth camp of Israel, and their prince
offered his gifts before those of Asher and Naphtali. Jacob in his
blessing to Dan thought principally of the great hero, Samson,
hence the gifts of this tribe allude chiefly to the history of this
Danite judge. Samson was a Nazirite, and to this alluded the silver
charger for storing bread, for it is the duty of a Nazirite, at the
expiration of the period of his vow, to present bread as an offering.
To Samson, too, alluded the bowl, in Hebrew called Mizrak,
"creeping," for he was lame of both feet, and hence could only
creep and crawl. The spoon of ten shekels of gold recalled the ten
laws that are imposed upon Nazirites, and that Samson had to
obey. The three burnt offerings had a similar significance, for
Samson's mother received three injunctions from the angel, who
said to her husband, Manoah: "She may not eat of anything that
cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor
eat any unclean thing." The sin offering, which consisted of a kid,
called in Hebrew, Sa'ir, corresponded to the admonition given to
Samson's mother, not to shave his hair, in Hebrew Se'ar. The two
oxen corresponded to the two pillars of which Samson took hold to
demolish the house of the Philistines; whereas the three kinds of
small cattle that were presented as offerings symbolized the three
battles that Samson undertook against the Philistines. [398]

The judge must pronounce judgement before it be executed, hence,
too, the tribe of Asher, "the executors of justice," followed Dan,
the judges. The name Asher also signifies "good fortune," referring
to the good fortune of Israel that was chosen to the God's people,
and in accordance with this name also do the gifts of the prince of
the tribe of Asher allude to the distinction of Israel. The charger,
one hundred and thirty shekels of silver in weight, corresponds to
the nations of the world, whom, however, God repudiated,
choosing Israel in their stead. The bowl of seventy shekels
corresponds to the seventy pious souls of whom Israel consisted
when they moved to Egypt. Both vessels were filled with fine
flour. God sent His prophets to the other nations as well as to
Israel, but Israel alone declared itself willing to accept the Torah.
This nation accepted "the spoon of then shekels of gold filled with
incense," every man among them being willing to accept the Ten
Commandments and the Torah. The three burnt offerings
corresponded to the three crowns that Israel received from their
God, the crown of the Torah, the crown of the Priesthood, and the
crown of the Kingdom, for which reason also golden crowns were
fashioned on the Ark in which the Torah was kept, on the altar on
which the priests offered sacrifices, and on the table that
symbolized the kingdom. But the highest of all is the crown of a
good name, which a man earns through good deeds, for the crucial
test is not the study of the Torah, but the life conforming to it. For
this reason also there was a sin offering among the offerings,
corresponding to the crown of good deeds, for these alone can
serve as an expiation. The two oxen indicate the two Torot that
God gave His people, the written and the oral, whereas the fifteen
peace offerings of small cattle correspond to the three Patriarchs
and the twelve fathers of the tribes, for these fifteen God had
chosen. [399]

As Jacob blessed after Asher and the Naphtali, so too did these two
tribes succeed each other in the offerings at the dedication of the
Tabernacle. Naphtali, Jacob's son, was a very affectionate son,
who was ever ready to execute his father's every command. The
prince of the tribe of Naphtali followed his ancestor's example, and
by his gifts to the sanctuary sought to recall the three Patriarchs
and their wives. "One silver charger, the weight whereof was an
hundred and thirty shekels," symbolized Sarah, who was unique
among her sex in her piety, and who almost attained the age of
hundred and thirty years. A silver bowl for sprinkling blood
recalled Abraham, who was thrown far away form his home. The
weight of the bowl was seventy shekels, as Abraham also was
seventy years old when God made with him the covenant between
the pieces. The charger and the bowl were both filled with fine
flour mingled with oil, as also Abraham and Sarah were imbued
with a love for good and pious deeds. The spoon of ten shekels of
gold alludes to Abraham as well, for Abraham conquered the evil
inclination and resisted the ten temptations, whereas the three
burnt offerings and the sin offering corresponded to the offerings
made by Abraham at the covenant between the pieces. The two
oxen for the peace offering indicate Isaac and Rebekah, whereas
the three kinds of small cattle allude to Jacob, Leah, and Rachel,
but the sum total of the offerings of these three species was fifteen,
corresponding to these three and the twelve fathers of the tribes.

Apart from the significance that the offerings of the tribal princes
had for each individual tribe respectively, they also symbolized the
history of the world from the time of Adam to the erection of the
Tabernacle. The silver charger indicated Adam, who lived nine
hundred and thirty years, and the numerical equivalent of the
letters of Kaarat Kesef, "silver charger," amounts to the same.
Corresponding to the weight of "an hundred and thirty shekels,"
Adam begat his son Seth, the actual father of the future
generations, at the age of a hundred and thirty years. The silver
bowl alludes to Noah, for, as it weighed seventy shekels, so too did
seventy nations spring from Noah. Both these vessels were filled
with fine flour, as Adam and Noah were both full of good deeds.
The spoon "of ten shekels of gold" corresponded to the ten words
of God by which the world was created, to the ten Sefirot, to the
ten lists of generations in the Scriptures, to the ten essential
constituent parts of the human body, to the ten miracles God
wrought for Israel in Egypt, to the ten miracles Israel experienced
by the Red Sea. The three burnt offerings were meant to recall the
three Patriarchs. The kid of goats indicated Joseph; the two oxen
corresponded to Moses and Aaron; the five rams to the five
distinguished sons of Zerah: Zimri, Ethan, Heman, Calcol, and
Dara; whereas the five goats and the five lambs symbolized the
five senses of mankind by means of which the existence of things
is determined.

The sum total of the gifts of the twelve princes of the tribes had
also a symbolical significance. The twelve chargers correspond to
the twelve constellations; the twelve bowls of the twelve months;
the twelve spoons to the twelve guides of men, which are: the
heart, that bestows understanding and insight; the kidneys, that
give counsels, good as well as evil; the mouth, that cuts all kinds
of food; the tongue, that renders speech impossible; the palate, that
tastes the flavors of food; the windpipe, that renders possible
breathing and the utterance of sounds; the esophagus, that
swallows food and drink; the lungs, that absorbs fluids; the liver,
that promotes laughter; the crop, that grinds all food; and the
stomach, that affords pleasant sleep. "All the silver of the vessels
that weighed two thousand and four hundred shekels"
corresponded to the years that had passed from the creation of the
world to the advent of Moses in the fortieth year of his life. All the
gold of the spoons, the weight of which was an hundred and
twenty shekels, corresponds to the years of Moses' life, for he died
at the age of a hundred and twenty. [401]

The different species of animals offered as sacrifices corresponded
to the different ranks of the leaders of Israel. The twelve bullocks
to the kings, the twelve rams to the princes of the tribes, the twelve
kids of the goats to the governors, and the twelve sheep to the
government officials. The twenty-four oxen for a peace offering
corresponded to the books of the Scriptures, and the divisions of
the priests, and were also meant to serve as atonement for the
twenty-four thousand men, who, owing to their worship of Peor,
died of the plague. The sixty rams of the peace offering
corresponded to the sixty myriads of Israel's fighting hosts; the
sixty he-goats to the sixty empires; and the sixty he-lambs to the
building of the second Temple that measured sixty cubits in height
and sixty in width. [402]

The gifts of the twelve princes of the tribes were not only equal in
number, but also in the size and width of the objects bestowed,
every tribe making exactly the same offering to the sanctuary.
None among them wished to outrival the others, but such harmony
reigned among them and such unity of spirit that God valued the
service of each as if he had brought not only his own gifts but also
those of his companions. As a reward for this mutual regard and
friendship, God granted them the distinction of permitting them to
present their offerings even on the Sabbath day. [403]


"Honor pursues him who tries to escape it." Moses in his humility
felt that his mission as leader of the people ended with the erection
of the Tabernacle, as Israel could now satisfy all their spiritual
needs without his aid. But God said: "As truly as thou livest, I have
for thee a far greater task than any thou hast yet accomplished, for
thou shalt instruct My children about 'clean and unclean,' and shalt
teach them how to offer up offerings to Me." God hereupon called
Moses to the Tabernacle, to reveal to him there the laws and
teachings. [404] Moses in his humility did not dare to enter the
Tabernacle, so that God had to summon him to enter. Moses,
however, could not enter the sanctuary while a cloud was upon it,
this being a sign "that the demons held sway," but waited until the
cloud had moved on. The voice that called Moses came from
heaven in the form of a tube of fire and rested over the two
Cherubim, whence Moses perceived its sound. This voice was a
powerful as at the revelation at Sinai when the souls of all Israel
escaped in terror, still it was audible to none but Moses. Not even
the angels heard it, for the words of God were destined exclusively
for Moses. Aaron, too, with the exception of three cases in which
God revealed Himself to him, never received His commands
except through the communications of Moses. God would call
Moses twice caressingly words by name, and when he had
answered, "Here am I," God's words were revealed to him, and
every commandment as a special revelation. God always allowed a
pause to take place between the different laws to be imparted, that
Moses might have time rightly to grasp what was told him. [405]

On the first day of the dedication of the Tabernacle, not lest than
eight important sections of laws were communicated to Moses by
God. [406] As a reward for his piety, Aaron and his descendants to
all eternity received the laws of sanctity, which are a special
distinction of the priests, [407] and these laws were revealed on
this day. It was on this day, also, that Aaron and his sons received
the gifts of the priests, for although even at the revelation on Sinai
Israel had set them aside, still they were not given to Aaron and his
sons until this day when the sanctuary was anointed. [408]

The second law revealed on this day was the separation of the
Levites from among the children of Israel, that they might be
dedicated to the sanctuary. "For God elevated no man to an office
unless He has tried him and found him worthy of his calling." He
did not say, "and the Levites shall be Mine," before He had tried
this tribe, and found them worthy. In Egypt none but the tribe of
Levi observed the Torah and clung to the token of the Abrahamic
covenant, while the others tribes, abandoning both Torah and
token of covenant, like the Egyptians, practiced idolatry. In the
desert, also, it was this tribe alone that did not take part in the
worship of the Golden Calf. Justly, therefore, did God's choice fall
upon this godly tribe, who on this day were consecrated as the
servants of God and His sanctuary. [409]

The ceremonies connected with the consecration of the Levites
had much in common with the regulations for cleansing of lepers.
Originally, the firstborn had been the servants of the sanctuary,
but, owing to the worship of the Golden Calf, they lost this
prerogative, and the Levites replaced them. It was for this reason
that the Levites were obliged to observe regulations similar to
those for the cleansing of lepers, because they took the place of
men who by their sins had defiled themselves. The offerings that
the Levites brought on this occasion consisted of two bullocks, on
for a burnt offering whenever the congregation, seduced by others,
commits idolatry; and Israel would not have worshipped the
Golden Calf had not the mixed multitude misled them. "But
whosoever worships an idol, by this act renounces the whole
Torah," hence did the Levites have to offer up another bullock for
a sin offering, in accordance with the law that "if the whole
congregation of Israel have done somewhat against any of the
commandments of the Lord concerning things which should not be
done, and are guilty, then they shall offer up a young bullock for
the sin." As the Levites had been chosen "to do the service of the
children of Israel in the Tabernacle of the congregation, and to
make an atonement for the children of Israel," God ordered all the
congregation of Israel to be present at the consecration of the
Levites, for whosoever had a sin offering up for himself must in
person bring it to the Tabernacle. Therefore, too, did the elders of
Israel have to put their hands upon the Levites, according to the
prescription that the elders must put their hands upon the sin of the
congregation. Aaron, like the elders, participated in the ceremony
of the consecration, lifting up every single Levite as a token that he
was now dedicated to the sanctuary. [410] Aaron's extraordinary
strength is proven by the fact that he was able to lift up twenty-tow
thousand men in one day. [411]


The third law revealed on this day was the command that the
children of Israel put out of the camp every leper and every
unclean person. When Israel moved out of Egypt, the majority of
the people were afflicted with physical defects and diseases,
contracted during their work on the structures they had been
compelled to erect in Egypt. One had his hand crushed by a falling
stone, another's eye blinded by splashing of loam. It was a battered
and crippled host that reached Sinai, eager to receive the Torah,
but God said: "Does it become the glory of the Torah that I should
bestow it on a race of cripples? Nor do I want to await the coming
of another, sound generation, for I desire no further delay of the
revelation of the Torah." Hereupon God sent angels to heal all
among Israel that were diseased or afflicted with defects, so that
all the children of Israel were sound and whole when they received
the Torah. They remained in this condition until they worshipped
the Golden Calf, when all their diseases returned as a punishment
for their defection from God. Only the women, during their stay in
the desert, were exempt from the customary ailments to which
women are subject, as a reward for being the first who declared
themselves ready to accept the Torah. When the Tabernacle had
been consecrated, God now said to Moses: "So long as you had not
yet erected the Tabernacle, I did not object to having the unclean
and the lepers mingle with the rest of the people, but now that the
sanctuary is erected, and that My Shekinah dwells among you, I
insist upon your separating all these from among you, that they
may not defile the camp in the midst of which I dwell."

The law in regard to lepers was particularly severe, for they were
denied the right of staying within the camp, whereas the unclean
were prohibited merely from staying near the sanctuary. [412] The
lepers were the very ones who had worshipped the Golden Calf,
and had as a consequence been smitten with this disease, and it
was for this reason that God separated them from the community.
Thirteen sins are punished with leprosy by God: blasphemy,
unchastity, murder, false suspicion, pride, illegal appropriation of
the rights of others, slander, theft, perjury, profanation of the
Divine Name, idolatry, envy, and contempt of the Torah. Goliath
was stricken with leprosy because he reviled God; the daughters of
Zion became leprous in punishment of their unchastity; leprosy
was Cain's punishment for the murder of Abel. When Moses said
to God, "But behold, they will not believe me," God replied: "O
Moses, art thou sure that they will not believe thee? They are
believers and the sons of believers. Thou who didst suspect them
wrongly, put not they hand into thy bosom,.....and he put his hand
into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was
leprous as snow. " Uzziah presumed upon the rights of the
priesthood, and went into the Temple to burn incense upon the
altar of incense. He was just about to commit the offence, when
"the leprosy brake forth in his forehead." Leprosy fell upon
Naaman, who had grown arrogant because of his heroic deeds. For
slandering Moses Miriam became leprous as snow; and Gehazi
was punished by leprosy because he frustrated the purpose of
Elisha, who desired to accept nothing from Naaman in order that
the cure might redound to the glory of God. [413]

Another important law revealed on this day referred to the
celebration of "the second Passover feast." Mishael and Elzaphan,
who had attended to the burial of Nadab and Abihu, were godly
men, anxious to fulfil the commandments of God, hence they went
to the house where Moses and Aaron instructed the people, and
said to them: "We are defiled by the dead body of a man;
wherefore are we kept back that we may not offer an offering of
the Lord in His appointed season among the children of Israel?"
Moses at first answered that they might not keep the Passover
owing to their condition of uncleanness, but they argued with him,
asking that even if, owing to their condition, they might not
partake of the sacrificial meat, they might, at least, be permitted to
participate in the offering of the paschal lamb by having the blood
of the offering sprinkled for them. Moses admitted that he could
not pass judgement on this case before receiving instruction
concerning it from God. For Moses had the rare privilege of being
certain of receiving revelations from God whenever he applied to
Him. He therefore bade Mishael and Elzaphan await God's
judgement concerning their case, and sentence was indeed
revealed immediately. [414]

It was on this day also that God said to Moses: "A heavy blow of
fate had fallen upon Aaron to-day, but instead of murmuring he
thanked Me for the death that robbed him of his two sons, which
proves his trust in My justice toward them, who had deserved
punishment more severe. Go then, and comfort him; and at the
same time tell him 'that he come not at all times into the holy place
within the vail before the mercy seat, which is upon the Ark.'"
These last words greatly aggrieved Moses, who not thought: "Woe
is me! For it seems as if Aaron had lost his rank, since he may not
at all times enter the sanctuary. The statement of the periods for
his admission into the sanctuary is also so indeterminate that I am
not at all sure whether they are to recur hourly, or daily, or
annually, every twelve years, perhaps even seventy, or not at all."
But God replied: "Thou art mistaken, I was not thinking of fixing a
certain time. Whether hour, or day or year, for Aaron may enter the
sanctuary at any time, but when he does so, he must observe
certain ceremonies." The ceremonies that Aaron, as well as every
other high priest, had to perform on the Day of Atonement before
his entrance into the Holy of Holies were symbolical of the three
Patriarchs, of the four wives of the Patriarchs, and of the twelve
tribes. Only by depending upon the merits of these pious men and
women might the high priest venture to enter the Holy of Holies
without having to fear the angels that filled this space. These were
obliged to retreat upon the entrance of the high priest, and even
Satan had to flee whenever he beheld the high priest, and did not
dare to accuse Israel before God. [415]

Aaron's grief about the death of his sons was turned to joy when
God, on the day of their death, granted him the distinction of
receiving a direct revelation from the Lord, which prohibited both
him and his sons from drinking wine or strong drink when they
went into the Tabernacle. [416]

On this day, also, Moses received the revelation concerning the red
heifer, whose significance was never vouchsafed to any other
human being beside himself. On the following day, under the
supervision of Eleazar, Aaron's son, it was slaughtered and burned.
Although, beside this one, a number of other red heifers were
provided in future generations, this one was distinguished by
having its ashes kept forever, which, mingled with the ashes of
other red heifers, were always used for the purification of Israel.
But it is in this world alone that the priest can purify the unclean
by sprinkling with this water of purification, whereas in the future
world God will sprinkle clean water upon Israel, "that thy may be
cleansed from all their filthiness, and from all their idols." [417]


The eighth law revealed on this day was the lighting of the
candlestick. After all the princes of the tribes had brought their
gifts to the sanctuary, and God had bidden Moses to let them offer
each his offering, one a day, throughout twelve days, Aaron,
profoundly agitated, thought: "Woe is me! It seems as if, owing to
my sin, my tribe has been excluded by God from participating in
the dedication of the sanctuary." Hereupon God said to Moses: "Go
to Aaron and say to him, 'Do not fear that thou art slighted, and art
deemed inferior to the other princes of the tribes. Thou, on the
contrary, shalt enjoy a greater glory than all of these, for thou art to
light the lamps of the candlestick in the sanctuary.'" When Israel
heard God's command that the lights of the sanctuary be lighted,
they said: "O Lord of the world! Thou biddest us make a light for
Thee that are the light of the world, and with whom light
dwelleth." But God replied: "Not because I need your light do I bid
you burn lamps before Me, but only the I might thereby distinguish
you in the eyes of the nations that will say, 'Behold the people of
Israel, that hold up a light before Him who bestoweth light upon
the world.' By your own eye-sight can you see how little need I
have of your light. You have the white of the eye and the black of
the eye, and it is by means of this dark part of the eye that you are
enabled to see, and not through the light part of the white of the
eye. How should I, that am all light, have need of your light!" God
furthermore said: "A mortal of flesh and blood lights one light by
means of another that is burning, I have brought forth light out of
darkness: 'In the beginning darkness was upon the face of the
deep,' whereupon I spake, 'Let there be light: and there was light.'
Shall I now be in need of your illumination? Nay, I commanded
you to light the candles in the sanctuary that I might distinguish
you and give you another opportunity of doing a pious deed, the
execution of which I will reward in the future world by letting a
great light shine before you; and, furthermore, if you will let the
candles shine before Me in My sanctuary, I shall protect from all
evil your spirit, 'the candle of the Lord.'" [418]

Simultaneously with the command to light the sanctuary, Moses
received the instruction to celebrate the Sabbath by the lighting of
candles, for God said to him: "Speak unto the children of Israel; if
you will observe My command to light the Sabbath candles, I shall
permit you to live to see Zion illuminated, when you will no longer
require the light of the sun, but My glory will shine before you so
that the nations will follow your light." [419]

Aaron was distinguished not only by being selected to dedicate the
sanctuary through the lighting of the candles, God ordered Moses
to communicate to his brother the following revelation: "The
sanctuary will on another occasion also be dedicated by the
lighting of the candles, and then it will be done by the descendants,
the Hasmoneans, for whom I will perform miracles and to whom I
will grant grace. Hence there is greater glory destined for thee than
for all the other princes of the tribes, for their offerings to the
sanctuary shall be employed only so long as it endures, but the
lights of the Hanukkah festival will shine forever; and, moreover,
thy descendants shall bestow the priestly blessing upon Israel even
after the destruction of the Temple." [420]

The candlestick that Aaron lighted in the sanctuary, was not the
common work of mortal hands, but was wrought by a miracle.
When God bade Moses fashion a candlestick, he found it difficult
to execute the command, not knowing how to set to work to
construct it in all its complicated details. God therefore said to
Moses: "I shall show thee a model." He then took white fire, red
fire, and green fire, and black fire, and out these four kinds of fires
He fashioned a candlestick with its bowls, its knops, and its
flowers. Even then Moses was not able to copy the candlestick,
whereupon God drew its design upon his palm, saying to him:
"look at this, and imitate the design I have drawn on thy palm."
But even that did not suffice to teach Moses how to execute the
commission, whereupon God bade him cast a talent of gold into
the fire. Moses did as he was bidden, and the candlestick shaped
itself out of the fire. As on this occasion, so upon other occasions
also did God have to present the things tangibly before Moses in
order to make certain laws intelligible to him. In this way, for
example, at the revelation concerning clean and unclean animals,
God showed one specimen of each to Moses, saying: "This ye shall
eat, and this ye shall not eat." [421]


God in His love for Israel had frequent censuses taken of them, so
that He might accurately estimate His possession. In scarcely half
a year they were twice counted, once shortly before the erection of
the Tabernacle, and the second time a month after its dedication.
[422] On the first day of the month of Iyyar, Moses received
instructions to take a census of all men over twenty who were
physically fit to go to war. He was ordered to take Aaron as his
assistant, so that in case he should overlook some of the men
Aaron might remind him of them, for "two are better than one."
They were also to take as their subordinate assistants Eleazar and
Ithamar, Aaron's sons, and a man each from the several tribes.
These twelve men were appointed not only to conduct the census,
but also to look after the spiritual welfare of their respective tribes,
the sins of which would be upon their heads unless, with all their
powers, they strove to prevent them. Moses and Aaron
nevertheless adjured the princes of the tribes, in spite of their high
rank, not to tyrannize over the people, whereas, on the other hand,
they admonished the people to pay all due respect to their
superiors. [423]

The names of these twelve princes of the tribes indicated the
history of the tribes they represented. The prince of the tribe
Reuben was called Elizur, "my God is a rock," referring to the
ancestor of this tribe, Reuben, Jacob's son, who sinned, but, owing
to his penance, was forgiven by God, who bore his sin as a rock
bears the house built upon it. The name of Elizur's father was
Shedeur, "cast into the fire," because Reuben was converted to
repentance and atonement through Judah, who confessed his sin
when his daughter-in-law Tamar was about to be cast into the fire.

The prince of the tribe of Simeon was named Shelumiel, "my God
is peace," to indicate that in spite of the sin of Zimri, head of this
tribe, through whom four and twenty thousand men among Israel
died, God nevertheless made peace with this tribe.

The prince of the tribe of Judah bore the name Nahshon, "wave of
the sea," the son of Amminadab, "prince of My people," because
the prince received this dignity as a reward for having plunged into
the waves of the Red Sea to glorify God's name.

The tribe of Issachar had for its prince Nethanel, "God gave," for
this tribe devoted its life to the Torah given by God to Moses.
Accordingly Nethanel was called the son of Zuar, "burden," for
Issachar assumed the burden of passing judgement on the lawsuits
of the other tribes.

Corresponding to the occupation of the tribe of Zebulun, its prince
was called Eliab, "the ship," son of Helon, "the sand," for this tribe
spent its life on ships, seeking "treasures hidden in the sand."

Elishama, son of Ammihud, the name of the prince of the tribe of
Ephraim, points to the history of Joseph, their forefather. God said:
"Elishama, 'he obeyed Me,' who bade him be chaste and not covet
his master's wife that wanted to tempt him to sin, and Ammihud,
'Me he honored,' and none other."

The other tribe of Joseph, Manasseh, also named their prince in
reference to their forefather, calling him Gamaliel, son of
Pedahzur, which signifies, "God rewarded Joseph for his piety by
releasing him from bondage and making him ruler over Egypt."

The prince of the tribe of Benjamin was named Abidan, "my father
decreed," son of Gideoni, "mighty hosts," referring to the
following incident. When Rachel perceived that she would die at
the birth of her son, she called him "son of faintness," supposing
that a similar fate would overtake him, and that he was doomed
through weakness to die young. But Jacob, the child's father,
decreed otherwise, and called him Benjamin, "son of might and of
many years."

The prince of the tribe of Dan bore the name Ahiezer, "brother of
help," son of Ammishaddai, "My people's judge," because he was
allied with the helpful tribe of Judah at the erection of the
Tabernacle, and like this ruling tribe brought forth a mighty judge
in the person of Samson.

The tribe of Asher was distinguished by the beauty of its women,
which was so excellent that even the old among them were fairer
and stronger than the young girls of the other tribes. For this reason
kings chose the daughters of this tribe to be their wives, and these,
through their intercession before the kings, saved the lives of many
who had been doomed to death. Hence the name of the prince of
the tribe of Asher, Pagiel, "the interceder," son of Ochran, "the
afflicted," for the women of the tribe of Asher, through their
intercession, obtained grace for the afflicted.

The prince of the tribe of Gad bore the name Eliasaph, "God
multiplied;" son of Deuel, "God is a witness." To reward them for
passing over the Jordan and not returning to their property on this
side of the river until the promised land was won, their wealth was
multiplied by God; for when, upon returning, they found the
enemy at home, God aided them and they gained all their enemies
possessions. God was furthermore witness that this tribe had no
wicked motive when they erected an altar on their land.

The prince of the tribe of Naphtali was called Ahira, "desirable
meadow," son of Enan, "clouds;" for the land of this tribe was
distinguished by its extraordinary excellence. Its products were
exactly what their owners "desired," and all this owing to the
plenty of water, for the "clouds" poured plentiful rain over their

At the census of the people the tribes were set down in the order in
which they put up their camp and moved in their marches. The
tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun formed the first group, the
royal tribe of Judah being associated with the tribe of learned men,
Issachar, and with Zebulun, which through its generosity enabled
Issachar to devote itself to the study of the Torah. The second
group consisted of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad. The sinful tribe of
Simeon was supported on the right by the penance of Reuben and
on the left by the strength of Gad. The tribes of Ephraim,
Manasseh, and Benjamin formed a group by themselves, for these
before all the other tribes were destined to appear gloriously
against Amalek. The Ephraimite Joshua was the first who was
victorious against Amalek, the Benjamite Saul followed his
example in his war against Agag, king of Amalek, and, under the
leadership of men out of the tribe of Manasseh, the tribe of
Simeon at the time of king Jehoshaphat succeeded in destroying
the rest of the Amalekites, and to take possession formed the last
group, and for the following reason were united in this way. The
tribe of Dan had already at the time of the exodus from Egypt been
possessed of the sinful thought to fashion an idol. To counteract
this "dark thought" Asher was made its comrade, from whose soil
came "the oil for lighting;" and that Dan might participate in the
blessing, Naphtali, "full with the blessing of the Lord," became its
second companion. [424]

At this third census the number of men who were able to go to war
proved to be exactly the same as the second census, taken in the
same year. Not one among Israel had died during this period, from
the beginning of the erection of the Tabernacle to its dedication,
when the third census took place. [425] But no conclusive
evidence concerning the sum total of the separate tribes can be
drawn from this number of men able to go to war, because the
ration of the two sexes varied among the different tribes, as, for
example, the female sex in the tribe of Naphtali greatly
outnumbered the male. [426]


Moses at the census did not take into consideration the tribe of
Levi, because God had not commanded him to select a prince for
this tribe as for all others, hence he drew the conclusion that they
were not to be counted. Naturally he was not sure of his decision
in this matter, and wavered whether or not to include the Levites in
the number, when God said to him: "Do not muster the tribe of
Levi, nor number them among the children of Israel." At these
words Moses was frightened, for he feared that his tribe was
considered unworthy of being counted with the rest, and was
therefore excluded by God. But God quieted him, saying: "Do not
number the Levites among the children of Israel, number them
separately." There was several reasons for numbering the Levites
separately. God foresaw that, owing to the sin of the spies who
were sent to search the land, all men who were able to go to war
would perish in the wilderness, "all that were numbered of them,
according to their whole number, from twenty years old and
upward." Now had the Levites been included in the sum total of
Israel, the Angel of Death would have held sway over them also,
wherefore God excluded them from the census of all the tribes,
that they might in the future be exempt from the punishment
visited upon the others, and might enter the promised land. The
Levites were, furthermore, the body-guard of God, to whose care
the sanctuary was entrusted - another reason for counting them
separately. God in this instance conducted Himself like the king
who ordered one of his officers to number his legions, but added:
"Number all the legions excepting only the legion that is about
me." [427]

The extent of God's love for Levi is evident through the command
given to Moses, to number in the tribe of Levi "all males from a
month old and upward," whereas in the other tribes none were
numbered save men able to go to war, from twenty years and
upward. Upon other occasions God had even the embryos among
the Levites numbered. This occurred upon Jacob's entrance into
Egypt, when the number seventy for his family was attained only
by including Jochebed who was still in the womb; and similarly at
a future time upon the return of the exiles from Babylon. For at
that time only twenty-three of the priestly sections returned, hence
to complete their number they had to include Bigvai, who
belonged to the missing section, even though he was still in the
womb. [428]

When Moses was ordered to number among the Levites all
children from a month old and upward, he said to God: "Thou
biddest me count them from a month old and upward. Shall I now
wander about their courts and houses and count each child, seeing
that Thou givest me such a command?" But God replied: "Do thou
what thou canst do, and I will do what I can do." It now came to
pass that whenever Moses betook himself to a Levite tent he found
the Shekinah awaiting him, tell him exactly the number of children
without his having to count them. [429]

In the choice of this tribe God showed His preference for the
seventh, for Levi was the seventh pious man, starting from Adam,
to wit: Adam, Noah, Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Levi. As
in this instance, so in many others did God indicate His love for
the seventh. He sits enthroned in the seventh heaven; of the seven
worlds the seventh alone is inhabited by human beings; of the
early generations the seventh was the most excellent, for it
produces Enoch. Moses, seventh among the Patriarch, was judged
worthy of receiving the Torah. David, seventh son of Jesse, was
chosen as king. In periods of time, also, the seventh was the
favorite. The seventh day is the Sabbath; the seventh month,
Tishri, is the month of the holy days; the seventh year is the
Sabbatical year of rest, and every seventh Sabbatical year of rest is
the year of jubilee. [430]

Another reason for numbering even the youngest boys among the
Levites was that the tribe of Levi as a whole had the responsibility
of atoning for the sin of the first-born among the children of Israel.
For it was these who until the time of the worship of the Golden
Calf performed the services of the priesthood, and their privilege
was taken from them owing to this, their sin. This prerogative was
then conferred upon the tribe of Levi, who, moreover, dedicating
themselves, man for man, to the service of the Lord, served as an
atonement for the first-born of Israel, that they might not be
destroyed as they deserved. [431]

The exchange of Levites in place of the first-born did, however,
present a difficulty. For God had communicated the number of
Levites to Moses in the following way: "Their number amounts to
as many as the number of My legion." For, when God came down
upon Sinai, twenty-two thousand angels surrounded Him, and just
as many men did the Levites number. Outside of these there were
three hundred first-born among the Levites that could not well be
offered in exchange for the first-born among the other tribes,
because their standing was the same as theirs. As the number of
first-born among the other tribes exceeded the number of Levites
by two hundred seventy-three, this surplus remained without actual
atonement. Hence God ordered Moses to take from them five
shekels apiece by the poll as redemption money, and give it to the
priests. The sum was fixed upon by God, who said: "Ye sold the
first-born of Rachel for five shekels, and for this reason shall ye
give as redemption money for every first-born among ye five

To avoid quarrels among the first-born, as otherwise each one
would try to lay the payment of redemption money upon his
neighbor, Moses wrote upon twenty-two thousand slips of paper
the word "Levi," and upon two hundred seventy-three the words
"five shekels," all of which were then thrown into an urn and
mixed. Then every first-born had to draw one of the slips. If he
drew a slip with "Levi" he was not obliged to remit any payment,
but if he drew "five shekels," he had to pay that sum to the priests.


Apart from the census of all male Levites, Moses now took another
census of the men from the ages of thirty to fifty, for only at this
age were the Levites permitted to perform service in the
Tabernacle throughout their march through the desert, a law that
indeed ceased to hold good when Israel settled in the Holy Land.
[433] These officiating Levites, as well as the priests, were divided
by Moses into eight sections, a number that was not doubled until
the prophet Samuel increased it to sixteen, to which David again
added eight, so that there were later twenty-four divisions among
the Levites and priests. [434]

The most distinguished among the Levites were the sons of
Kohath, whose charge during the march through the desert was the
Holy of Holies, and among the vessels particularly the Holy Ark.
This latter was a dangerous trust, for out of the staves attached to it
would issue sparks that consumed Israel's enemies, but now and
then this fire wrought havoc among the bearers of the Ark. It
therefore became a customary thing, when the camp was about to
be moved, for Kohath's sons to hasten into the sanctuary and seek
to pack up the different portions of it, each one planning cautiously
to shift the carrying of the Ark upon another. But this even more
kindled God's anger against them, and He slew many of the
Kohathites because they ministered to the Ark with an unwilling
heart. To avert the danger that threatened them, God ordered
Aaron and his sons to enter first into the sanctuary, and "to appoint
to the Kohathites, every one, his service and his burden, that they
might not go in to see when the holy things are covered, lest they
die." This was done because previous to this command the sons of
Kohath had been accustomed to feast their eyes on the sight of the
Ark, which brought them instantaneous death. But, according to
this order, Aaron and his sons first took apart the different portions
of the sanctuary, covered the Ark, and not till then called the sons
of Kohath to bear the burden.

During the march the Levites might wear no shoes, but had to walk
barefoot because they carried and ministered to holy objects. The
Kohathites had, moreover, to walk backwards, for they might not
turn their backs to the Holy Ark. They were, furthermore, owing to
their offices as bearers of the Ark, distinguished by being the first
of the Levites to be numbered in the census, although in other
respects the sons of Gershon led, for Gershon was the first-born of
Levi. [435]

When giving the commission to count the sons of Kohath, God
explicitly mentioned that Moses should undertake the census with
Aaron, but He did not do so when He ordered the numbering of the
sons of Gershon. Moses now thought that God had done this
intentionally because the former were directly under Aaron's
supervision while the Gershonites were not. Nevertheless, out of
respect to his brother, he bade his brother, as well as, out of
courtesy, the princes of the tribes to be present at the numbering of
the Levites, but he did not tell Aaron that he did so in the name of
God. In this Moses erred, for God wished Aaron to be present at
the numbering of the Levites. For this reason, when He ordered the
census of the third division, Merari's sons, to be taken, He
expressly mentioned Aaron's name. At the apportionment of the
service among the individual Levites, however, Aaron paid
attention only to the sons of Kohath, each of whom had his special
task allotted to him, whereas Moses appointed their tasks to the
sons of Gershon and Merari. [436] The highest chief of the
Levites, however, was Eleazar, who was "to have the oversight of
them that keep the charge of the santuary." But despite his high
position, Eleazar was modest enough to participate in the service
in person. During their marches from place to place, he himself
would carry all needful things for the daily offering. In his right
hand he carried the oil for the candlestick, in his left hand the
incense, on his are the things that were made in the pans, and,
attached to his girdle, the phial with the oil for ointment. [437]
Ithamar, Eleazar's brother, also had a duty in the sanctuary, for it
was he to whom the guidance of the service of Gershon's and
Merari's sons was assigned. For these must perform none but the
service God had specially assigned to them, as no Gershonite
might perform the duty of a Merarite, and vice versa, and each
individual, too, had his special duty, that no quarrel might arise
among them. [438]


When God appeared upon Sinai, He was surrounded by twenty-two
thousand angels, all in full array and divided into groups, each of
which had its own standard. Looking upon these angel hosts, Israel
wished like them to be divided into groups with standards, and
God fulfilled their wish. After Moses had completed the census of
the people, God said to Him: "Fulfill their wish and provide them
with standards as they desire. 'Every man of the children of Israel
shall pitch by his own standard, with the ensign of their father's
house; far off about the Tabernacle of the congregation shall they
pitch.'" This commission greatly agitated Moses, who thought:
"Now will there be much strife among the tribes. If I bid the tribe
of Judah pitch in the East, it will surely state its preference for the
South, and every tribe will likewise choose any direction but the
one assigned to it." But God said to Moses: "Do not concern
thyself with the position of the standards of the tribes, for they
have no need of thy direction. Their father Jacob before his death
ordered them to group themselves about the Tabernacle just as his
sons were to be grouped about his bier at the funeral procession."
When Moses now told the people to divide themselves in groups
round about the Tabernacle, they did it in the manner Jacob had
bidden them. [439]

"The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding
hath He established the heavens." The division of the tribes of
Israel according to four standards, as well as their subdivision at
each standard, is not arbitrary and accidental, it corresponds to the
same plan and direction as that of which God made use in heaven.
The celestial Throne is surrounded by four angels: to the right
Michael, in front Gabriel, to the left Uriel, and to the rear Raphael.
To these four angels corresponded the four tribes of Reuben,
Judah, Dan, and Ephraim, the standard bearers. Michael earned his
name, "Who is like unto God," by exclaiming during the passage
of Israel through the Red Sea, "Who is like unto Thee, O Lord,
among the gods?" and he made a similar statement when Moses
completed the Torah, saying: "There is none like unto the God of
Jeshurun." In the same way Reuben bore upon his standard the
words, "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord," hence
Reuben's position with his standard to the right of the sanctuary
corresponded exactly to Michael's post at the right of the celestial
Throne. Gabriel, "God is mighty," stands in front of the Throne, as
Judah, "mightiest among his brethren," was the standard bearer in
front of the camp. Dan, the tribe "from which emanated dark sin,"
stood at the left side of the camp with his standard, corresponding
to the angel Uriel, "God is my light," for God illuminated the
darkness of sin by the revelation of the Torah, in the study of
which this angel instructed Moses, and devotion to which is
penance for sin. The tribe of Ephraim was the standard bearer to
the rear of the camp, occupying the same position as Raphael,
"God heals," holds the celestial Throne; for this tribe, from which
sprang Jeroboam, was in need of God's healing for the wound that
this wicked king dealt Israel. [440]

God had other reasons for the divisions of the tribes that He
decreed, for He said to Moses: "In the East whence comes the light
shall the tribe of Judah, whence arises the light of sovereignty,
pitch its camp, and with them the tribe of Issachar, with whom
dwells the light of the Torah, and Zebulum, shining through the
wealth. From the South come the dews of blessing and the rains of
plenty, hence shall Reuben pitch on this side, for this tribe owes its
existence to the penitent deeds of its forefather, penance being that
which causes God to send His blessing upon the world. Beside
Reuben shall stand the warlike tribe of Gad, and between these
two Simeon, in order that this tribe, made weak by its sins, might
be protected on either side by the piety of Reuben and the heroism
of Gad. In the West are storehouses of snow, the storehouses of
hail, of cold, and of heat, and as powerless as are mortals against
these forces of nature, so ineffectual shall be the enemies of the
tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin, for which reason their
post was to the West of the camp. From the North comes the
darkness of sin, for this tribe alone will declare itself willing to
accept the idols of Jeroboam, hence its place is to the North of the
camp. To illuminate its darkness, put beside it shining Asher, and
Naphtali, filled with God's plenty." [441]

The four standards were distinguished from one another by their
different colors, and by the inscriptions and figures worked upon
each. The color of Judah's standard corresponded to the color of
the three stones in the breastplate of the high priest, on which were
engraved the names of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun, and was
composed of red, green, and fiery red. Judah's name, as well as
Issachar's and Zebulun's, was inscribed on the banner, and beside
the names was this inscription: "Rise up, Lord, and let Thine
enemies be scattered; and let them that hate Thee flee before
Thee." The standard of Reuben, about which gathered also the
tribes of Simeon and Gad, was the color of the emerald, the
sapphire, and the sabhalom, for on these three stones were the
names of these tribes engraved on the breastplate of the high
priest. Besides the names of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad the
following device was wrought on the second standard, "Hear, O
Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord." The third standard, around
which rallied the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Benjamin, bore
the color of the diamond, the turquoise, and the amethyst, for on
these three stones in the high priest's breastplate were engrave the
names of these three tribes. On this standard beside the names of
these three tribes was the motto, "And the cloud of the Lord was
upon them by day, when they went out of camp." As on the
breastplate of the high priest the stones chrysolite, beryl and
panther-stone bore the names of Dan, Asher, and Naphtali, so too
did the fourth standard, round which these three tribes gathered,
bear a color resembling these three stones. This standard contained
the names of Dan, Asher, and Naphtali, and the device: "Return, O
Lord, unto the many thousands of Israel." [442]

The standards had also other distinguishing characteristics. Judah's
standard bore in its upper part the figure of a lion, for its forefather
had been characterized by Jacob as "a lion's whelp," and also
sword-like hooks of gold. On these hooks God permitted a strip of
the seventh cloud of glory to rest, in which were visible the initials
of the names of the three Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,
the letters being radiations from the Shekinah. Reuben's standard
had in its upper part the figure of a man, corresponding to the
mandrakes that Reuben, forefather of this tribe, found, for this
plant had the form of a manikin. The hooks on this standard were
like those on the standard of Judah, but the second letters of the
names of the three Patriarchs, Bet, Zade, and 'Ayyin were seen
above them in the cloud. In the standard of Ephraim was fashioned
the form of a fish, for Jacob had blessed the forefather of this tribe
by telling him to multiply like a fish; in all other respects it was
like the other two standards, save the above the sword-like hooks
of gold were seen the third letters in the names of the Patriarchs,
Resh, Het, and Kof. Dan's standard contained the form of a
serpent, for "Dan shall be a serpent by the way," was Jacob's
blessing for this tribe; and the gleaming letters over the hooks
were: Mem for Abraham, Kof for Isaac, and Bet for Jacob. The
letter He of Abraham's name was not indeed visible over the
standards, but was reserved by God for a still greater honor. For,
over the Holy Ark, God let a pillar of cloud rest, and in this were
visible the letter Yod and He, spelling the name Yah, by means of
which God had created the world. This pillar of cloud shed
sunlight by day and moonlight by night, so that Israel, who were
surrounded by clouds, might distinguish between night and day.
These two sacred letters, Yod, He, would on week-days fly about
in the air over the four standards, hovering now upon this, now
upon that. But as soon as Friday was over and the Sabbath began,
these letters stood immovable on the spot where they chanced to
be at that moment, and remained in this rigid position from the
first moment of the Sabbath to the last.

Whenever God wanted Israel to break up camp and move on, He
would send on from its place over the Ark the cloud in which
beamed the two sacred letters Yod and He in the direction in
which Israel was to march, and the four strips of cloud over the
standards would follow. As soon as the priests saw the clouds in
motion, they blew the trumpets as a signal for starting, and the
winds thereupon from all sides breathed myrrh and frankincense.

Although it was the clouds that gave the signal for taking down
and pitching tents, still they always awaited the word of Moses.
Before starting the pillar of cloud would contract and stand still
before Moses, waiting for him to say: "Rise up, Lord, and let Thine
enemies be scattered; and let them that hate Thee flee before
Thee," whereupon the pillar of cloud would be set in motion. It
was the same when they pitched camp. The pillar of cloud would
contract and stand still before Moses, waiting for him to say:
"Return, O Lord, unto the many thousands of Israel," whereupon it
would expand first over the tribes that belonged to the standard of
Judah, and then over the sanctuary, within and without. [444]


The camp was in the form of a square, twelve thousand cubits on
each side, and in the middle was the space, four thousand cubits in
size, for the sanctuary, and the dwelling place of priests and
Levites. In the East of the sanctuary lived Moses, Aaron, and
Aaron's sons; the Levites of the family of Kohath lived in the
South, the sons of Gershon in the West, and the sons of Merari in
the North. Each of theses divisions had for its dwelling place a
space of a hundred cubits, while each group of three tribes that
joined under one standard had a space of four thousand cubits.
This was only for the dwelling place of the people, the cattle were
outside the encampment, and the cloud of glory separated the
dwelling places of the human beings from those of the animals.
Rivers surrounded the camp from without, and so also were the
different groups separated one from the other by rivers. But in
order that on the Sabbath, when riding was prohibited, intercourse
among the different parts of the camp might not be rendered
impossible, there were bridges of boards over the rivers. The
purple color of the cloud of glory was reflected in the waters of the
rivers, so that it spread afar a radiance like that of the sun and the
stars. The heathens, whenever they beheld these wondrous radiant
waters, were frightened and feared Israel, but at the same time
praised God for the miracles He wrought for Israel. [445]

These were miracles that were visible to the outer world as well,
but there were others that were known to Israel alone. During their
forty years' march they had no need of change of raiment. The robe
of purple which the angels clothed each one among them at their
exodus from Egypt remained ever new; and as a snail's shell grows
with it, so did their garments grow with them. Fire could not injure
these garments, and though they wore the same things throughout
forty years, still they were not annoyed by vermin, yes, even the
corpses of this generation were spared by worms. [446]

During their marches, as well as in their stay at a certain place,
they had not only the four standards that divided them into four
groups of three tribes each, each individual tribe had furthermore
its own special spot and its special ensign. Reuben's flag was red,
and on it were pictured mandrakes. Simeon's flag was green, with
a picture of the city of Shechem upon it, for the forefather of the
tribe had conquered this city. Judah's flag was azure, and bore the
form of a lion. Issachar's flag was black, and had two figures, the
sun and the moon, for from this tribe sprung the learned men who
busied themselves with astronomy and the science of the calendar.
Zebulun's flag was white, with the form of a ship, for this tribe
devoted to navigation. Dan's flag had a color like a sapphire, with
the figure of a serpent. Naphtali's flag was a dull red, the color of
wine, and on it was the figure of a hind, in memory of its
forefather, who was like "a hind let loose." Ashere's flag was red
like fire, and had the token of an olive tree, because this tribe had
much olive oil of excellent quality. The two tribes descended from
Joseph, - Ephraim, and Manasseh - both flags of the same deep
black color with a representation of Egypt, but they had other
forms besides. Ephraim's had the picture of a bull, to symbolize
Joshua, sprung of this tribe, whose glory was like "the firstling of
his bullock, that pusheth the people together to the ends of the
earth;" whereas Manasseh's was that of a unicorn, symbolizing the
judge Gideon that sprang from this tribe, "who with his horns of
unicorns pushed the people." Benjamin's flag had a color
composed of all the other eleven colors, and a wolf for his token,
Jacob having described this tribe a "a wolf that ravineth." The
different colors of the flags corresponded to the colors of the
stones set in the breastplate of the high priest, on which were
engraved the names of the twelve tribes. Reuben's stone had a red
color like his flag, Simeon's flag was green like the color of his
stone, and in this way with all the tribes the color of stones and of
flags harmonized. [447]


When Israel received the Torah from God, all the other nations
envied them and said: "Why were these choosen by God out of all
the nations?" But God stopped their mouths, replying: "Bring Me
your family records, and My children shall bring their family
records." The nations could not prove the purity of their families,
but Israel stood without a blemish, every man among them ready
to prove his pure descent, so that the nations burst into praise at
Israel's family purity, which was rewarded by God with the Torah
for this its excellence. [448]

How truly chastity and purity reigned among Israel was shown by
the division of the people into groups and tribes. Among all these
thousands was found only a single man who was not of pure
descent, and who therefore at the pitching of the standards could
attach himself to none of the groups. This man was the son of
Shelomith, a Danite woman, and the Egyptian, [449] whom
Moses, when a youth of eighteen, had slain for having offered
violence to Shelomith, the incident that had necessitated Moses'
flight from Egypt. It had happened as follows: When Moses came
to Goshen to visit his parents, he witnessed how an Egyptian
struck an Israelite, and the latter, knowing that Moses was in high
favor at Pharaoh's court, sought his assistance, appealing to him
with these words: "O, my lord, this Egyptian by night forced his
way into my house, bound me with chains, and in my presence
offered violence to my wife. Now he wants to kill me besides."
Indignant at this infamous action of the Egyptian, Moses slew him,
so that the tormented Israelite might go home. The latter, on
reaching his house, informed his wife that he intended getting a
divorce from her, as it was not proper for a member of the house
of Jacob to live together with a woman that had been defiled.
When the wife told her brothers of her husband's intentions, they
wanted to kill their brother-in-law, who eluded them only by
timely flight. [450]

The Egyptian's violence was not without issue, for Shelomith gave
birth to a son whom she reared as a Jew, even though his father
had been and Egyptian. When the division of the people according
to the four standard took place, this son of Shelomith appeared
among the Danites into whose division he meant to be admitted,
pointing out to them that his mother was a woman of the tribe of
Dan. The Danites, however, rejected him, saying: "The
commandment of God says, 'each man by his own standard, with
the ensign of his father's house.' Paternal, not maternal descent
decides a man's admission to a tribe." As this man was not content
with this answer, his case was brought to Moses' court, who also
passed judgement against him. This so embittered him the he
blasphemed the Ineffable Name which he had heard on Mount
Sinai, and cursed Moses. He at the same time ridiculed the
recently announced law concerning the shewbread that was to be
set on the table in the sanctuary every Sabbath, saying: "It
behooves a king to eat fresh bread daily, and no stale bread." [451]

At the same time as the crime blasphemy was committed by the
son of Shelomith, Zelophehad committed another capital crime.
On a Sabbath day he tore trees out of the ground although he had
been warned by witnesses not to break the Sabbath. The overseers
whom Moses had appointed to enforce the observance of the
Sabbath rest seized him and brought him to the school, where
Moses, Aaron, and other leaders of the people studied the Torah.

In both these cases Moses was uncertain how to pass judgement,
for, although he knew that capital punishment must follow the
breaking of the Sabbath, still the manner of capital punishment in
this case had not yet been revealed to him. Zelophehad was in the
meantime kept in prison until Moses should learn the details of the
case, for the laws says that a man accused of a capital charge may
not be given liberty of person. The sentence that Moses received
from God was to execute Zelophehad in the presence of all the
community by stoning him. This was accordingly done, and after
the execution his corps was for a short time suspended from the
gallows. [452]

The sin of the Sabbath-breaker was the occasion that gave rise to
God's commandment of Zizit to Israel. For He said to Moses, "dost
thou know how it came to pass that this man broke the Sabbath?"
Moses: "I do not know." God: "On week days he wore phylacteries
on his head and phylacteries on his arm to remind him of his
duties, but on the Sabbath day, on which no phylacteries may be
worn, he had nothing to call his duties to his mind, and he broke
the Sabbath. God now, Moses, and find for Israel a commandment
the observance of which is not limited to week days only, but
which will influence them on Sabbath days and on holy days as
well." Moses selected the commandment of Zizit, the sight of
which will recall to the Israelites all the other commandments of
God. [453]

Whereas in the case of the Sabbath breaker Moses had been
certain that the sin was punishable by death, and had been certain
that the sin was punishable by death, and had been in doubt only
concerning the manner of execution, in the case of the blasphemer
matters were different. Here Moses was in doubt concerning the
nature of the crime, for he was not even sure if it was at all a
capital offence. Hence he did not have these two men imprisoned
together, because one of them was clearly a criminal, whereas the
status of the other was undetermined. But God instructed Moses
that the blasphemer was also to be stoned to death, and that this
was to be the punishment for blasphemers in the future. [454]

There were two other cases beside these two in Moses' career on
which he could not pass judgement without appealing to God.
These were the claims of Zelophehad's daughters to the inheritance
of their father, and the case of the unclean that might not
participate in the offering of the paschal lamb. Moses hastened in
his appeal to God concerning the two last mentioned cases, but
took his time with the two former, for on these depended human
lives. In this Moses set the precedent to the judges among Israel to
dispatch civil cases with all celerity, but to proceed slowly in
criminal cases. In all these cases, however, he openly confessed
that he did not at the time know the proper decision, thereby
teaching the judges of Israel to consider it no disgrace, when
necessary, to consult others in cases when they were not sure of
true judgement. [455]


When God commanded Israel to set out from Sinai and continue
their march, the Israelites were glad, for during their stay in that
place they had throughout eleven days received new laws daily,
and they hoped that after having departed from the holy mountain
they would receive no further laws. Hence, instead of making a
day's march from Sinai, as God had commanded them, they
marched incessantly for three days, in order to be as far as possible
from the holy spot. They behaved like a boy who runs quickly
away after dismissal from school, that his teacher might not call
him back. Although this antipathy to His laws vexed God, He did
not therefore forsake them, but let the Ark move before them as
long as they desired to continue the march. For it was by this token
that the Israelites knew that the Shekinah was among them, as God
had promised them. As often as they broke camp or pitched camp
Moses would say to them: "Do what the Shekinah within the Ark
bids you do." But they would not believe Moses that the Shekinah
dwelt among them unless he spoke the words: "Rise up, Lord, and
let Thine enemies be scattered; and let them that hate Thee flee
before Thee," whereupon the Ark would begin to move, and they
were convinced of the presence of the Shekinah. The Ark
furthermore gave the signal for breaking camp by soaring up high,
[456] and then swiftly moving before the camp at a distance of
three days' march, until it found a suitable spot upon which Israel
might encamp. [457]

Hardly had they departed from Sinai when they once more began
to lead the wicked course of life that they had for a time
abandoned. They began to seek a pretext to renounce God and
again to be addicted to idolatry. [458] They complained about the
forced marches which at God's command they had been obliged to
make after their departure from Sinai, and in this way showed their
ingratitude to God who wanted them as quickly as possible to
reach the Holy Land, and for this reason allowed them to cover an
eleven days' distance in three days. [459] Their murmurs and
complaints, however, were not silent, but quite loud, for they were
anxious that God should hear their wicked words. In punishment
for their defamation of the Divine glory, God sent upon them a fire
emanating from the very glory. [460]

Upon twelve occasions did God send a Divine fire upon earth, six
times as a token of honor and distinction, but as many times as a
punishment. To the first class belong the fire at the consecration of
the Tabernacle, at the offering of Gideon as at that of Manoah and
of David; at the dedication of Solomon's Temple, and at the
offering of Elijah upon Mount Carmel. The six fatal fires are the
following: the fire that consumed Nadab and Abihu; that which
wrought havoc among the murmuring and complaining multitude;
the fire that consumed the company of Korah; the fire that
destroyed Job's sheep, and the two fires that burned the first and
second troops which Ahaziah sent against Elijah. [461]

This celestial fire wrought the greatest havoc among the idolatrous
tribe of Dan, and among the mixed multitude that had joined the
Israelites upon their exodus from Egypt. [462] The elders of the
people turned to Moses, saying: "Rather deliver us as a sheep to
the slaughter, but not to a celestial fire that consumes earthly fire."
[463] They should by right have prayed to God themselves, but in
this instance they were like the king's son who had kindled his
father's anger against him, and who not hastened to his father's
friend, begging him to intercede for him. So did Israel say to
Moses: "Go thou to God and pray for us." Moses instantly granted
their wish, and God without delay heard Moses' prayer and halted
the destroying fire. [464] But God did not simply take the fire
away from Israel and put it elsewhere, for it was of such a nature
that it would gradually have spread on all sides and finally have
destroyed everything. It had in this way caused the destruction in
Israel, for, beginning at one end of the camp, it spread so rapidly
that one could at not time tell how far it had gone. That the
presence of this Divine fire might continue to restrain Israel from
sin, God did not allow it to rise back to heaven, but it found its
place on the altar of the Tabernacle, where it consumed all the
offerings that were brought during Israel's stay in Egypt. This is the
same fire that destroyed Aaron's sons as well as Korah's company,
and it is the Divine fire that every mortal beholds in the moment of
his death. [465]

On this occasion also it was evident that pious men are greater
than the angels, for Moses took bundles of wool and laid them
upon the Divine fire, which thereupon went out. [466] He then said
to the people: "If you repent of your sin, then the fire will go out,
but otherwise it will burst forth and consume you." [467]


Not mindful of the punishment by fire, Israel still did not mend
their ways, but soon again began to murmur against God. As so
often before, it was again the mixed multitude that rebelled against
God and Moses, saying: "Who shall give up flesh to eat? We
remember the fish that we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers,
and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic. But
now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this
manna before our eyes." But all this murmuring and these
complaints were only a pretext to sever themselves from God, for
first of all, they actually possessed many herds and much cattle,
enough plentifully to satisfy their lusting after flesh if they had
really felt it; and manna, furthermore, had the flavor of every
conceivable kind of food, so all they had to do while eating it was
to wish for a certain dish and they instantly perceived in manna the
taste of the desired food. It is true that manna never gave them the
flavor of the five vegetables they mentioned, but they should have
been grateful to God for sparing them the taste of these vegetables
injurious to health. Here they showed their perversity in being
dissatisfied with measures for which they should have been
grateful to God. Manna displeased them because it did not contain
the flavor injurious to health, and they also objected to it because
it remained in their bodies, wherefore they said: "The manna will
swell in our stomachs, for can there be a human being that takes
food without excreting it!" God had, as a special mark of
distinction, given them this food of the angels, which is completely
dissolved in the body, and of which they could always partake
without injury to their health. It is a clear proof of the excellent
taste of manna that a later time, when the last manna fell on the
day of Moses' death, they ate of it for forty days, and would not
make use of other food until the manna had been exhausted to the
last grain, clearly showing that the taking of any different food was
disagreeable. But while manna was at hand in abundance, they
complained about seeing before them, morning and evening, no
other food than manna. [468]

The true state of affairs was that they had a lurking dissatisfaction
with the yoke of the law. It is certain that they had not had in
Egypt better food for which they now longed, for their taskmasters,
far from giving them dainties, gave them not even straw for
making bricks. But in Egypt they had lived undisturbed by laws,
and it was this unrestrained life that they desired back. Especially
hard for them were the new laws on marriage, for in Egypt they
had been accustomed to marry those closely related by blood, from
whom they were now obliged to separate. They now trooped
together in families, and awaiting the moment when Moses, about
to leave the house of study, would have to pass them, they began to
murmur publicly, [469] accusing him of being to blame for all the
sufferings they had been obliged to bear. Upon his advice, they
said, had they abandoned a most fruitful land, and instead of
enjoying the great fortune promised to them, they were now
wandering about in misery, suffering thirst from lack of water, and
were apprehensive of dying of starvation in case the supply of
manna should cease. When these and similar abuses were uttered
against Moses, one out of the people stepped forth and exhorted
them not so soon to forget the many benefactions they had known
from Moses, and not to despair of God's aid and support. But the
multitude upon this became even more excited, and raged and
shouted more violently than ever against Moses. [470] This
conduct of Israel called forth God's wrath, but Moses, instead of
interceding for the people, began to complain of their treatment of
him, and announced to God that he could not now execute the
commission he had undertaken in Egypt, namely, to lead Israel in
spite of all reverses, until he had reached the promised land. He
now begged God to relieve him of the leadership of the people in
some way, and at the same time to stand by him in his present
predicament, that he might satisfy the people's desire for flesh.


The sad predicament of Moses on this occasion is partly traceable
to the fact that he had to face alone the murmurs and complaints of
the people without the accustomed assistance of the seventy elders.
Since the exodus from Egypt the seventy elders of the people had
always been at his side, but these had recently been killed by the
fire from heaven at Taberah, so that he now stood all alone. This
death overtook the elders because like Nadab and Abihu they had
not shown sufficient reverence in ascending Mount Sinai on the
day of the revelation, when, in view of the Divine vision, they
conducted themselves in an unseemly manner. Like Nadab and
Abihu the elder would have received instantaneous punishment for
their offense, had not God been unwilling to spoil the joyful day of
the revelation by their death. But they had to pay the penalty
nevertheless: Nadab and Abihu, by being burned at the
consecration of the Tabernacle, and the elders similarly, at
Taberah. [472]

As Moses now utterly refused to bear the burden of the people
alone, God said to him: "I gave thee sufficient understanding and
wisdom to guide My children alone, that thou mightest be
distinguished by this honor. Thou, however, wishest to share this
guidance with others. Go, then, and expect no help from Me, 'but I
will take of the spirit that is upon thee and will put it upon them;
and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou
bear it not thyself alone'" [473]

God bade Moses choose as his helpers in the guidance of the
people such men as had already been active leaders and officers in
Egypt. In the days of Egyptian bondage it frequently happened that
the officers of the children of Israel were beaten if the people had
not fulfilled their task in making bricks, but "he that is willing to
sacrifice himself for the benefit of Israel shall be rewarded with
honor, dignity, and the gift of the Holy Spirit." The officers
suffered in Egypt for Israel, and were now found worthy of having
the Holy Spirit come upon them. [474] God moreover said to
Moses: "With kindly words welcome the elders to their new
dignity, saying, 'Hail to you that are deemed worthy by God of
being fit for this office.' At the same time, however, speak
seriously with them also, saying, 'Know ye that the Israelites are a
troublesome and stiff-necked people, and that you must ever be
prepared to have them curse you or cast stones at you'"

God commanded the selection of the elders to take place at the
Tabernacle, that Israel might reverence them, saying, "Surely these
are worthy men," but they were not permitted with Moses to enter
the Tabernacle and hear God's word. The people were however
mistaken in assuming that God's word reached the ears of the
elders, for He spoke with Moses alone, even though the prophetic
spirit came upon them also. [475]

Now when Moses wished to proceed to the selection of the seventy
elders, he was in a sore predicament because he could not evenly
divide the number seventy among the twelve tribes, and was
anxious to show no partiality to one tribe over another, which
would lead to dissatisfaction among Israel. Bezalel, son of Uri,
however, gave Moses good advice. He took seventy slips of paper
on which was written "elder," and with them two blank slips, and
mixed all these in an urn. Seventy-two elders, six to each tribe,
now advance and each drew a slip. Those whose slips were
marked "elder" were elected, while those who had drawn blank
slips were rejected, but in such a wise that they could not well
accuse Moses of partiality. [476]

By this method of appointment, it came to pass that there were six
elders for each tribe except the tribe of Levi. The names of those
chosen were: from the tribe of Reuben, - Hanoch, Carmi, Pallu,
Zaccur, Eliab, Nemuel; from the tribe of Simeon, - Jamin, Jachin,
Zohar, Ohad, Shaul, Zimri; from the tribe of Levi, - Amram,
Hananiah, Nethanel, Sithri; from the tribe of Judah, - Zerah, Dan,
Jonadab, Bezalel, Shephatiah, Nahshon; from the tribe of Issachar,
- Zuar, Uzza, Igal, Palti, Othniel, Haggi; from the tribe of Zebulun,
- Sered, Elon, Sodi, Oholiab, Elijah, Nimshi; from the tribe of
Benjamin, - Senaah, Kislon, Elidad, Ahitub, Jediael, Mattaniah;
from the tribe of Joseph, - Jair, Joezer, Malchiel, Adoniram,
Abiram, Sethur; from the tribe of Dan, - Gedaliah, Jogli, Ahinoam,
Ahiezer, Daniel, Seraiah; from the tribe of Naphtali, - Elhanan,
Eliakim, Elishama, Semachiah, Zabdi, Johanan; from the tribe of
Gad, - Haggai, Zarhi, Keni, Mattathiah, Zechariah, Shuni; from the
tribe of Asher, - Pashhur, Shelomi, Samuel, Shalom, Shecaniah,
Abihu. [477]

Moses gathered these seventy elders of novel extraction and of
lofty and pious character round about the tent in which God used
to reveal Himself, bidding thirty of them take their stand on the
south side, thirty on the northern, and ten on the eastern, whereas
he himself stood on the western side. For this tent was thirty cubits
long and ten cubits wide, so that a cubit each was apportioned to
the elders. [478] God was so pleased with the appointment of the
elders that, just as on the day of the revelation, He descended from
heaven and permitted the spirit of prophecy to come upon the
elders, so that they received the prophetic gift to the end of their
days, as God had put upon them of the spirit of Moses. But Moses'
spirit was not diminished by this, he was like a burning candle
from which many others are lighted, but which is not therefore
diminished; and so likewise was the wisdom of Moses unimpaired.
Even after the appointment of the elders did Moses remain the
leader of the people, for he was the head of this Sanhedrin of
seventy members which he guided and directed. [479]

The position of the elders was not of the same rank as that of
Moses, for he was the king of Israel, and it was for this reason that
God had bidden him to secure trumpets, to use them for the calling
of the assembly, that this instrument might be blown before him as
before a king. Hence shortly before Moses' death these trumpets
were recalled from use, for his successor Joshua did not inherit
from him either his kingly dignity or these royal insignia. Not until
David's time were the trumpets used again which Moses had
fashioned in the desert. [480]


When Moses had completed the appointment of the elders and had
asked them to accompany him to the Tabernacle, there to receive
the Holy Spirit, Eldad and Medad, two of these elders, in their
humility, did not obey his summons, but hid themselves, deeming
themselves unworthy of this distinction. God rewarded them for
their humility by distinguishing them five-fold above the other
elders. These prophesied what would take place on the following
day, announcing the appearance of the quails, but Eldad and
Medad prophesied what was still veiled in the distant future. The
elders prophesied only on this one day, but Eldad and Medad
retained the gift for life. The elders died in the desert, whereas
Eldad and Medad were the leaders of the people after the death of
Joshua. The elders are not mentioned by name in the Scriptures,
whereas theses two are called by name. The elders, furthermore,
had received the prophetic gift from Moses, whereas Eldad and
Medad received it directly from God. [481]

Eldad now began to make prophecies, saying: "Moses will die, and
Joshua the son of Nun will be his successor as leader of the people,
whom he will lead into the land of Canaan, and to whom he will
give it as a possession." Medad's prophecy was as follows: "Quails
will come from the sea and will cover the camp of Israel, but they
will bring evil to the people." Besides these prophecies, both
together announced the following revelation: "At the end of days
there will come up out of the land of Magog a king to whom all
nations will do homage. Crowned kings, princes, and warriors with
shields will gather to make war upon those returned from exile in
the land of Israel. But God, the Lord, will stand by Israel in their
need and will slay all their enemies by hurling a flame from under
His glorious Throne. This will consume the souls in the hosts of
the king of Magog, so that their bodies will drop lifeless upon the
mountains of the land of Israel, and will become a prey to the
beasts of the field and the fowls of the air. Then will all the dead
among Israel arise and rejoice in the good that at the beginning of
the world was laid up for them, and will receive the reward for
their good deeds." [482]

When Gershon, Moses' son, heard these prophecies of Eldad and
Medad, he hurried to his father and told him of them. Joshua was
now greatly agitated about the prophecy that Moses was to die in
the desert and that he as to be his successor, and said to Moses: "O
lord, destroy these people that prophesy such evil news!" But
Moses replied: "O Joshua, canst thou believe that I begrudge thee
thy splendid future? It is my wish that thou mayest be honored as
much as I have been and that all Israel be honored like thee." [483]

Eldad and Medad were distinguished not only by their prophetic
gift, but also by their noble birth, being half-brothers of Moses and
Aaron. When the marriage laws were revealed, all those who had
been married to relatives by blood had to be divorced from them,
so that Amram, too, had to be separated from his wife Jochebed,
who was his aunt, and he married another woman. From this union
sprang Eldad, "not of an aunt," and Medad, "in place of an aunt,"
so called by Amram to explain by these names why he had
divorced his first wife, his aunt. [484]


The prophecy of these men concerning the quails turned out as
they had predicted, the quails being, as God had foretold to Moses,
no blessing for the people. For God said to Moses: "Tell the people
to be prepared for impending punishment, they shall eat flesh to
satiety, but then they shall loathe it more than they now lust for it. I
know, however, how they came to have such desires. Because My
Shekinah is among them they believe that they may presume
anything. Had I removed My Shekinah from their midst they
would never have cherished so foolish a desire." Moses, knowing
that the granting of the people's wish would be disastrous to them,
said to God: "O Lord, why, pray, dost Thou first give them flesh,
and then, in punishment for their sin, slay them? Who ever heard
any one say to an ass, 'Here is a measure of wheat; eat it, for we
want to cut off they head?' Or to a man, 'Here is a loaf of bread for
thee; take it, and go to hell with it?'" God replied: "Well, then,
what wouldst thou do?" Moses: "I will go to them and reason with
them that they may desist from their lusting after flesh." God: "I
can tell thee beforehand that thy endeavors in this matter will be
fruitless." Moses betook himself to the people, saying to them: "Is
the Lord's hand waxed short? Behold, He smote the rock, that the
waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; He can give bread
also; can He not provide flesh for His people?" The people,
however, said: "Thou are only trying to soothe us; God cannot
grant our wish." [485] But they erred vastly, for hardly had the
pious among them retired to their tents, when upon the godless,
who had remained in the open, came down quails in masses as
thick as snowflakes, so that many more were kill by the descent of
the quails than later by the tasting of them. The quails came in
such masses that they completely filled the space between heaven
and earth, so that they even covered the sun's disk, and settled
down on the north side and the south side of the camp, as it were a
day's journey, lying, however, not directly upon the ground but two
cubits above it, that people might not have to stoop to gather them
up. Considering this abundance, it is not surprising that even the
halt that could not go far, and the lazy the would not, gathered
each a hundred kor. These vast quantities of flesh did not,
however, benefit them, for hardly had they tasted of it, when they
gave up the ghost. This was the punishment for the grave sinners,
while the better ones among them enjoyed the taste of the flesh for
a month before they died, whereas the pious without suffering
harm caught the quails, slaughtered them, and ate of them. This
was the heaviest blow that had fallen upon Israel since their
exodus from Egypt, and in memory of the many men who had died
because of their forbidden lusting after flesh, they changed the
name of the place where this misfortune occurred to
Kibroth-hattaavah, "Graves of those who lusted." [486] The winds
that went forth to bring the quails was so powerful a storm that it
could have destroyed the world, so great was God's anger against
the ungrateful people, and it was only due to the merits of Moses
and Aaron that this wind finally left the world upon its hinges.


When the seventy elders were appointed, and the spirit of the Lord
came upon them, all the women lighted the candles of joy, to
celebrate by this illumination the elevation of these men to the
dignity of prophets. Zipporah, Moses' wife, saw the illumination,
and asked Miriam to explain it. She told her the reason, and added,
"Blessed are the women who behold with their eyes how their
husbands are raised to dignity." Zipporah answered, "It would be
more proper to say, 'Woe to the wives of these men who must now
abstain from all conjugal happiness!'" Miriam: "How does thou
know this?" Zipporah: "I judge so from the conduct of thy brother,
for ever since he was chosen to receive Divine revelations, he no
longer knows his wife." [488] Miriam hereupon went to Aaron,
and said to him: "I also received Divine revelations, but without
being obliged to separated myself from my husband," whereupon
Aaron agreed, saying" "I, too, received Divine revelations, without,
however, being obliged to separated myself from my wife." Then
both said: "Our fathers also received revelations, but without
discontinuing their conjugal life. Moses abstains from conjugal
joys only out of pride, to show how holy a man he is." Not only did
they speak evil of Moses to each other, but hastened to him and
told him to his face their opinion of his conduct. [489] But he, who
could be self-assured and stern when it touched a matter
concerning God's glory, was silent to the undeserved reproached
they heaped upon him, knowing that upon God's bidding he had
foresworn earthly pleasures. God therefore said: "Moses is very
meek and pays no attention to the injustice meted out to him, as he
did when My glory was detracted from, and boldly stepped forth
and exclaimed, 'Who is on the Lord's side? Let him come unto me.'
I will therefore now stand by him."

It is quite true that this was not the only occasion on which Moses
proved himself humble and gentle, for it was part of his character.
Never among mortals, counting even the three Patriarchs, was
there more meek a man than he. The angels alone excelled him in
humility, but no human being; for the angels are so humble and
meek, that when the assemble to praise God, each angel calls to
the other and asks him to precede him, saying among themselves:
"Be thou the first, thou are worthier than I." [490]

God carried out His intention to uphold Moses' honor, for just as
Aaron was with his wife and Miriam with her husband, a Divine
call suddenly reached Amram's three children, one voice that
simultaneously called, "Aaron!" "Moses!" and "Miriam!" - a
miracle that God's voice alone can perform. The call went to
Moses also, that the people might not think that Aaron and Miriam
had been chosen to take Moses' place. He was ready to hearken to
God's words, but not so his brother and his sister, who had been
surprised in the state of uncleanness, and who therefore, upon
hearing God's call, cried, "Water, water," that they might purify
themselves before appearing before God. [491] They then left their
tents and followed the voice until God appeared in a pillar of
cloud, a distinction that was conferred also upon Samuel. The
pillar of cloud did not, however, appear in the Tabernacle, where it
always rested whenever God revealed Himself to Moses, and this
was due to the following reasons. First of all, God did not want to
create the impression of having removed Moses from his dignity,
and of giving it to his brother and sister, hence He did not appear
to them in the holy place. At the same time, moreover, Aaron was
spared the disgrace of being reproached by God in his brother's
presence, for Moses did not follow his brother and sister, but
awaited God's word in the sanctuary. But there was still another
reason why God did not want Moses to be present during His
conference with Aaron and Miriam - "Never praise a man to his
face." As God wanted to praise Moses before Aaron and Miriam,
He preferred to do so in his absence. [492]

Hardly had God addressed Aaron and Miriam, when they began to
interrupt Him, whereupon He said to them: "Pray, contain
yourselves until I have spoken." In these words He taught people
the rule of politeness, never to interrupt. He then said: "Since the
creation of the world hath the word of God ever appeared to any
prophet otherwise than in a dream? Not so with Moses, to whom I
have shown what is above and what is below; what it before and
what it behind; what was and what will be. To him have I revealed
all that is in the water and all that is upon the dry land; to him did I
confide the sanctuary and set him above the angels. I Myself
ordered him to abstain from conjugal life, and the word he
received was revealed to him clearly and not in dark speeches, he
saw the Divine presence from behind when It passed by him.
Wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against a man like
Moses, who is, moreover, My servant? Your censure is directed to
Me, rather than to him, for 'the receiver is no better than the thief,'
and if Moses is not worthy of his calling, I, his Master, deserve
censure." [493]


God now gently rebuked Aaron and Miriam for their transgression,
and did not give vent to His wrath until He had shown them their
sin. This was an example to man never to show anger to his
neighbor before giving his reason for his anger. The effects of
God's wrath were shown as soon as He had departed from them,
for while He was with them, His mercy exceeded His anger, and
nothing happened to them, but when He was not long with them,
punishment set in. Both Aaron and Miriam became leprous, for
this is the punishment ordained for those who speak ill of their
neighbors. [494] Aaron's leprosy, however, lasted for a moment
only, for his sin had not been as great as that of his sister, who
started the talk against Moses. His disease vanished as soon as he
looked upon his leprosy. Not so with Miriam. Aaron in vain tried
to direct his eyes upon her leprosy and in this way to heal her, for
in her case the effect was the reverse; as soon as he looked upon
her the leprosy increased, and nothing remained but to call for
Moses' assistance, who was ready to give it before being called
upon. [495] Aaron thereupon turned to his brother with the
following words: "Think not that the leprosy is on Miriam's body
only, it is as if it were on the body of our father Amram, of whose
flesh and blood she is." Aaron did not, however, try to extenuate
their sin, saying to Moses: "Have we, Miriam and I, ever done
harm to a human being?" Moses: "No." Aaron: "If we have done
evil to no strange people, how then canst thou believe that we
wished to harm thee? For a moment only did we forget ourselves
and acted in an unnatural way toward our brother. Shall we
therefore lose our sister? If Miriam's leprosy doth not now vanish,
she must pass all her life as a leper, for only a priest who is not a
relative by blood of the leper may under certain conditions declare
her clean, but all the priests, my sons and I, are her relatives by
blood. The life of a leper is as of one dead, for as a corpse makes
unclean all that comes in contact with it, so too the leper. Alas!" so
Aaron closed his intercession, "Shall our sister, who was with us in
Egypt, who with us intoned the song at the Red Sea, who took
upon herself the instruction of the women while we instructed the
men, shall she now, while we are about to leave the desert and
enter the promised land, sit shut out from the camp?"

These words of Aaron, however, were quite superfluous, for
Moses had determined, as soon as his sister became diseased, to
intercede for her with God, saying to himself: "It is not right that
my sister should suffer and I dwell in contentment." [496] He now
drew a circle about himself, stood up, and said a short prayer to
God, which he closed with the words: "I will not go from this spot
until Thou shalt have healed my sister. But if Thou do not heal her,
I myself shall do so, for Thou hast already revealed to me, how
leprosy arises and how it disappears." This prayer was fervent,
spoken with his whole heart and soul, though very brief. Had he
spoken long, some would have said: "His sister is suffering terribly
and he, without heeding her, spends his time in prayer." Others
again would have said: "He prayeth long for his sister, but for us he
prayeth briefly." God said to Moses: "Why dost thou shout so?"
Moses: "I know what suffering my sister is enduring. I remember
the chain which my hand was chained, for I myself once suffered
from this disease." God: "If a king, or if her father had but spit in
her face, should she not be ashamed seven days? I, the King of
kings, have spit in her face, and she should be ashamed at least
twice seven days. For thy sake shall seven days be pardoned her,
but the other seven days let her be shut out from the camp." For
want of priest who, according to the tenets of the law, must declare
a leper clean after the healing, God Himself assumed this part,
declaring Miriam unclean for a week, and clean after the passing
of that period. [497]

Although leprosy came to Miriam as a punishment for her sin, still
this occasion served to show how eminent a personage she was.
For the people were breaking camp and starting on the march
when, after having saddled their beasts of burden for the march,
upon turning to see the pillar of cloud moving before them, they
missed the sight of it. They looked again to see if Moses and
Aaron were in the line of procession, but they were missing, nor
was there anywhere to be seen a trace of the well that
accompanied them on their marches. Hence they were obliged to
return again to camp, where they remained until Miriam was
healed. The clouds and the well, the sanctuary and the sixty
myriads of the people, all had to wait a week in this spot until
Miriam recovered. Then the pillar of cloud moved on once more
and the people knew that they had not been permitted to proceed
on their march only because of this pious prophetess. This was a
reward for the kind deed Miriam had done when the child Moses
was thrown into the water. Then Miriam for some time walked up
and down along the shore to wait the child's fate, and for this
reason did the people wait for her, nor could they move on until
she had recovered. [498]


The punishment that God brought upon Miriam was meant as a
lesson of the severity with which God punishes slander. For
Miriam spoke no evil of Moses in the presence of any one except
her brother Aaron. She had moreover no evil motive, but a kindly
intention, wishing only to induce Moses to resume his conjugal
life. She did not even dare to rebuke Moses to his face, and still,
even in spite of her great piety, Miriam was not spared this heavy
punishment. [499] Her experience, nevertheless, did not awe the
wicked man who, shortly after this incident, made an evil report of
the promised land, and by their wicked tongues stirred up the
whole people in rebellion against God, so that they desired rather
to return to Egypt than to enter Palestine. The punishment that God
inflicted upon the spies as well as upon the people they had
seduced was well deserved, for had they not been warned of
slander by Miriam's example, there might still have been some
excuse. In that case they might have been ignorant of the gravity of
the sin of slander, but now they had no excuse to offer. [500]

When Israel approached the boundaries of Palestine, they appeared
before Moses, saying: "We will send men before us, and they shall
search out the land, and bring us word again by what way we must
go up, and into what cities we shall come." This desire caused God
to exclaim: "What! When you went through a land of deserts and
of pits, you had no desire for scouts, but now that you are about to
enter a land full of good things, now you wish to send out scouts.
Not only was the desire in itself unseemly, but also the way in
which they presented their request to Moses; for instead of
approaching as they had been accustomed, letting the older men be
the spokesmen of the younger they appeared on this occasion
without guidance or order, the young crowding out the old, and
these pushing away their leaders. [501] Their bad conscience after
making this request - for they knew that their true motive was lack
of faith in God - caused them to invent all sorts of pretexts for their
plans. They said to Moses: "So long as we are in the wilderness,
the clouds act as scouts for us, for they move before us and show
us the way, but as these will not proceed with us into the promised
land, we want men to search out the land for us." Another plea that
they urged for their desire was this. They said: "The Canaanites
fear an attack from us and therefore hid their treasures. This is the
reason why we want to sent spies there in time, to discover for us
where they are hiding their treasures." They sought in other ways
to give Moses the impression that their one wish was exactly to
carry out the law. They said: "Hast not thou taught us that an idol
to which homage is no longer paid may be used, but otherwise it
must be destroyed? If we now enter Palestine and find idols, we
shall not know which of them were adored by the Canaanites and
must be destroyed, and which of them were no longer adored, so
that we might use them." Finally they said the following to Moses:
"Thou, our teacher, hast taught us that God 'would little by little
drive the Canaanites before us.' If this be so, we must send out
spies to find out which cities we must attack first." [502] Moses
allowed himself to be influenced by their talk, and he also liked
the idea of sending out spies, but not wishing to act arbitrarily he
submitted to God the desire of the people. God answered: "It is not
the first time that they disbelieve My promises. Even in Egypt they
ridiculed Me, it is now become a habit with them, and I know what
their motive in sending spies is. If thou wishest to send spies do so,
but do not pretend that I have ordered thee."

Moses hereupon chose one man from every tribe with the
exception of Levi, and sent these men to spy out the land. These
twelve men were the most distinguished and most pious of their
respective tribes, so that even God gave His assent to the choice of
every man among them. [503] But hardly had these men been
appointed to their office when they made the wicked resolve to
bring up an evil report of the land, and dissuade the people from
moving to Palestine. Their motive was a purely personal one, for
they thought to themselves that they would retain their offices at
the head of the tribes so long as they remained in the wilderness,
but would be deprived of them when they entered Palestine. [504]


Significant of the wickedness of these men are their names, all of
which point to their godless action. The representative of the tribe
of Reuben was called Shammua, the son of Zaccur, because he did
not obey God, which was counted against him just as if he had
pursued sorcery. Shaphat, the son of Hori, was Simeon's
representative. His name signifies, "He did not conquer his evil
inclination, and hence went out empty-handed, without having
received a possession in the land of Israel." The tribe of Issachar
was represented by Igal, the son of Joseph. He bore this name
because he soiled the reputation of the Holy Land, and therefore
died before his time. Benjamin's representative was Palti, the son
of Raphu, so called because "he spat out the good qualities that
had previously been his, and therefore wasted away." The name of
Gaddiel, the son of Sodi, Zebulun's representative, signifies, "He
spoke infamous things against God in executing the secret plan of
the spies." Manasseh's representative, Gaddi, the son of Susi, was
so called because he blasphemed God and aroused His wrath; for it
was he who said of the land, "it eateth up its inhabitants." But the
worst one among them was Ammiel, the son of Gemalli, the
representative of Dan, for it was he who said, "The land is so
strong that not even God could go up against it," hence his name,
which means, "He cast a shadow upon God's strength," and he was
punished according to his wicked words, for he did not enter the
promised land. Asher's representative was Sethur, the son of
Michael, who had resolved to act against God and instead of
saying, "Who is like unto God?" he said, "Who is God?" Naphtali's
representative was named Nahbi, the son of Vophsi, for he
suppressed the truth, and faith found no room in his mouth, for he
brought forth lies against God. The last of these spies, Gad's
representative, bore the name Geuel, the son of Machi, for he was
humbled because he urged untruths against God.

As the ten sinners were name in accordance with their actions, so
too did the names of the two pious spies among them correspond
to their pious actions. Judah's representative was name Caleb, the
son of Jephunneh, because "he spoke what he felt in his heart and
turned aside from the advice of the rest of the spies." The pious
representative of Ephraim was Hoshea, the son of Nun, a fitting
name for him, for he was full of understanding and was not caught
like a fish by the spies. Moses who perceived, even when he sent
out the spies, the evil intentions they harbored, changed Hoshea's
name to Joshua, saying: "May God stand by thee, that thou mayest
not follow the counsel of the spies." [505]

This change of name that was brought about by the prefixing of the
letter Yod at last silenced the lamentations of this letter. For ever
since God had changed Sarai's name to Sarah, the letter Yod used
to fit about the celestial Throne and lament: "Is it perchance
because I am the smallest among the letters that Thou has taken
me away from the name of the pious Sarah?" God quieted this
letter, saying: "Formerly thou wert in a woman's name, and,
moreover, at the end. I will not affix thee to a man's name, and,
moreover, at the beginning." This promise was redeemed when
Hoshea's name was changed to Joshua. [506]

When the spies set out on their way, they received instructions
from Moses how to conduct themselves, and what in particular,
they were to note. He ordered them not to walk on the highways,
but to go along private pathways, for although the Shekinah would
follow them, they were still to incur no needless danger. If they
entered a city, however, they were not to slink like thieves in
alleyways, but to show themselves in public and answer those who
asked what they wanted by saying: "We came only to buy some
pomegranates and grapes." They were emphatically to deny that
they had any intention of destroying the idols or of felling the
sacred trees. Moses furthermore said: "Look about carefully what
manner of land it is, for some lands produce strong people and
some weak, some lands produce many people and some few. If
you find the inhabitants dwelling in open places, then know that
they are mighty warriors, and depending upon their strength have
no fear of hostile attack. If, however, they live in a fortified place,
they are weaklings, and in their fear of strangers seek shelter
within their walls. Examine also the nature of the soil. If it be hard,
know then that it it fat; but if it be soft, it is lean." [507] Finally he
bade them inquire whether Job was still alive, for if he was dead,
then they assuredly needed not to fear the Canaanites, as there was
not a single pious man among them whose merits might be able to
shield them. [508] And truly when the spies reached Palestine, Job
died, and they found the inhabitants of the land at his grave,
partaking of the funeral feast. [509]


On the twenty-seventh day of Siwan Moses sent out the spies from
Kadesh-Barnea in the wilderness of Paran, [510] and following his
directions they went first to the south of Palestine, the poorest part
of the Holy Land. Moses did like the merchants, who first show the
poorer wares, and then the better kind; so Moses wished the spies
to see better parts of the land the farther they advanced into it.
When they reached Hebron, they could judge what a blessed land
this was that had been promised them, for although Hebron was
the poorest tract in all Palestine, it was still much better than Zoan,
the most excellent part of Egypt. When, therefore, the sons of Ham
built cities in several lands, it was Hebron that they erected first,
owing to its excellence, and not Zoan, which they built in Egypt
fully seven years later.

Their progress through the land was on the whole easy, for God
had wished it so, that as soon as the spies entered a city, the plague
struck it, and the inhabitants, busied with the burial of their dead,
had neither time nor inclination to concern themselves with the
strangers. [511] Although they met with no evil on the part of the
inhabitants, still the sight of the three giants, Ahiman, Sheshai, and
Talmai inspired them with terror. These were so immensely tall
that the sun reached only to their ankles, and they received their
names in accordance with their size and strength. The strongest
among them was Ahiman, beholding whom one fancied oneself
standing at the foot of a mountain that was about to fall, and
exclaimed involuntarily, "What is this that is coming upon me?"
Hence the name Ahiman. Strong as marble was the second brother,
wherefore he was called Sheshai, "marble." The mighty strides of
the third brother threw up plots from the ground when he walked,
hence he was called Talmi, "plots." [512] Not only the sons of
Anak were of such strength and size, but his daughters also, whom
the spies chanced to see. For when these reached the city inhabited
by Anak, that was called Kiriath-Arba, "City of Four," because the
giant Anak and his three sons dwelt there, they were struck with
such terror by them that they sought a hiding place. But what they
had believed to be a cave was only the rind of a huge pomegranate
that the giant's daughter had thrown away, as they later, to their
horror, discovered. For this girl, after having eaten the fruit,
remembered that she must not anger her father by letting the rind
lie there, so she picked it up with the twelve men in it as one picks
up an egg shell, and threw it into the garden, never noticing that
she had thrown with it twelve men, each measuring sixty cubits in
height. When they left their hiding place, they said to one another:
"Behold the strength of these women and judge by their standard
the men!" [513]

They soon had an opportunity of testing the strength of the men,
for as soon as the three giants heard of the presence of the Israelite
men, they pursued them, but the Israelites found out with what
manner of men they were dealing even before the giants had
caught up with them. One of the giants shouted, and the spies fell
down as men dead, so that it took a long time for the Canaanites to
restore them to life by the aid of friction and fresh air. The
Canaanites hereupon said to them: "Why do you come here? Is not
the whole world your God's, and did not He parcel it out according
to His wish? Came ye here with the purpose of felling the sacred
trees?" The spied declared their innocence, whereupon the
Canaanites permitted them to go their ways unmolested. As a
reward for this kind deed, the nation to which these giants
belonged has been preserved even to this day. [514]

They would certainly not have escaped from the hands of the
giants, had not Moses given them two weapons against them, his
staff and the secret of the Divine Name. These two brought them
salvation whenever they felt they were in danger from the giants.
For these were none other than the seed of the angels fallen in the
antediluvian era. Sprung from their union with the daughters of
men, and being half angels, half men, these giants were only half
mortal. They lived very long, and then half their body withered
away. Threatened by an eternal continuance of this condition, half
life, and half death, they preferred either to plunge into the sea, or
by magic herb which they knew to put an end to their existence.
[515] They were furthermore of such enormous size that the spies,
listening one day while the giants discussed them, heard them say,
pointing to the Israelites: "There are grasshoppers by the trees that
have the semblance of men," for "so they were in their sight."

The spies, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, had resolved
from the start to warn the people against Palestine, and so great
was their influence that Caleb feared he would yield to it. He
therefore hastened to Hebron where the three Patriarchs lie, and,
standing at their graves, said: "Joshua is proof against the
pernicious influence of the spies, for Moses had prayed to God for
him. Send up prayers now, my fathers, for me, that God in His
mercy may keep me far from the counsel of the spies." [517]

There had always been a clash between Caleb and his comrades
during their crossing through Palestine. For whereas he insisted
upon taking along the fruits of the land to show their excellence to
the people, they strongly opposed this suggestion, wishing as they
did to keep the people from gaining an impression of the
excellence of the land. Hence they yielded only when Caleb drew
his sword, saying: "If you will not take of the fruits, either I shall
slay you, or you will slay me." They hereupon cut down a vine,
which was so heavy that eight of them had to carry it, putting upon
each the burden of one hundred and twenty seah. The ninth spy
carried a pomegranate, and the tenth a fig, which they brought
from a place that had once belonged to Eshcol, one of Abraham's
friends, but Joshua and Caleb carried nothing at all, because it was
not consistent with their dignity to carry a burden. [518] This vine
was of such gigantic size that the wine pressed from its grapes
sufficed for all the sacrificial libations of Israel during the forty
years' march. [519]

After the lapse of forty days they returned to Moses and the
people, after having crossed through Palestine from end to end. By
natural means it would not, of course, have been possible to
traverse all the land in so short a time, by God made it possible by
"bidding the soil to leap for them," and they covered a great
distance in a short time. God knew that Israel would have to
wander in the wilderness forty years, a year for every day the spies
had spent in Palestine, hence He hastened their progress through
the land, that Israel might not have to stay too long in the
wilderness. [520]


When Moses heard that the spies had returned from their
enterprise, he went to his great house of study, where all Israel too
assembled, for it was a square of twelve miles, affording room to
all. [521] There too the spies betook themselves and were
requested to give their report. Pursuing the tactics of slanderers,
they began by extolling the land, so that they might not by too
unfavorable a report arouse the suspicion of the community. They
said: "We came unto the land whither thou sentest us, and surely it
floweth with milk and honey." This was not an exaggeration, for
honey flowed from the trees under which the goats grazed, out of
whose udders poured mile, so that both mile and honey moistened
the ground. But they used these words only as an introduction, and
the passed on to their actual report, which they had elaborated
during those forty days, and by means of which they hoped to be
able to induce the people to desist from their plan of entering
Palestine. [522] "Nevertheless," they continued, "the people be
strong that dwell in the land, and the cities are walled, and very
great: and moreover we saw children of Anak there." Concerning
the latter they spoke an untruth with the intention of inspiring
Israel with fear, for the sons of Anak dwelt in Hebron, whither
Caleb alone had gone to pray at the graves of the Patriarchs, [523]
at the same time as the Shekinah went there to announce to the
Patriarch that their children were now on the way to take
possession of the land which had been promised to them of yore.
[524] To intensify to the uttermost their fear of the inhabitants of
Palestine, they furthermore said: "The Amalekites dwell in the
land of the South." They threatened Israel with Amalek as one
threatens a child with a strap that had once been employed to
chastise him, for they had had bitter experiences with Amalek. The
statement concerning Amalek was founded on fact, for although
southern Palestine had not originally been their home, still they
had recently settled there in obedience to the last wish of their
forefather Esau, who had bidden them cut off Israel from their
entrance into the promised land. "If, however," continued the spies
in their report, "you are planning to enter the land from the
mountain region in order to evade Amalek, let us inform you that
the Hittites, and the Jebussites, and the Amorites dwell in the
mountains; and if you plan to go there by sea, let us inform you
that the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan." [525]

As soon as the spies had completed their report, Joshua arose to
contradict them, but they gave him no chance to speak, calling out
to him: "By what right dost thou, foolish man, presume to speak?
Thou hast neither sons nor daughters, so what dost thou care if we
perish in our attempt to conquer the land? We, on the other hand,
have to look out for our children and wives." Joshua, therefore,
very much against his will, had to be silent. Caleb now considered
in what way he could manage to get a hearing without being
shouted down as Joshua had been.

Caleb had given his comrades an entirely false impression
concerning his sentiments, for when these formed the plan to try to
make Israel desist from entering Palestine, they drew him into
their council, and he pretended to agree with them, whereas he
even then resolved to intercede for Palestine. Hence, when Caleb
arose, the spies were silent, supposing he would corroborate their
statements, a supposition which his introductory words tended to
strengthen. He began: "Be silent, I will reveal the truth. This is not
all for which we have to thank the son of Amram." But to the
amazement of the spies, his next words praised, not blamed,
Moses. He said: "Moses - it is he who drew us up out of Egypt,
who clove the sea for us, who gave us manna as food." In this way
he continued his eulogy on Moses, closing with the words: "We

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