“When you mount the lamps, let the seven lamps give light at the front of the lampstand” (Numbers 8:2).
Go see how the making of the lampstand and the lighting of its lamps wanders trough the books of the Pentateuch.
Exodus 25:31 “And make a lampstand of gold…” (10 verses)
Exodus 27:20 “And command…olive oil for light to mount an eternal flame…” (2 verses)
Exodus 37:17 “And he made the golden lampstand…” (8 verses)
Exodus 40:24 “And he mounted the lamps before G-d…” (2 verses)
Leviticus 24:2 “They would bring to you pure olive oil…to mount an eternal flame…” (4 verses)
Numbers 8:2 “When you mount the lamps…” (4 verses)
We will not cease showing how the Torah, which came from the mouth of the Glory, was written as patches on top of patches. What was said in Exodus 40:25, that Aaron mounted the lamps after the erection of the Tabernacle, “and he mounted the lamps,” is once again here in Numbers 8:2, with the lighting of the lamps repeated, “When you mount the lamps.”
What does Nachmanides say about this? Numbers 8:2 — “Why was the section about the lampstand put close to the section of the tribal leaders’ dedication…? This is a hint from the portion about the dedication of the lamps which occurred during the Second Temple period by Aaron and his sons, I mean a Hashmonean High Priest…There is another dedication in which there is the lighting of lamps, and I will make for Israel, through your sons, miracles and salvation and a dedication called by their name, the dedication of the House of Hashmoneans.” We have already quoted, in the portion of Lech Lecha, (part two), Maimonides’s first root, in which he came out strongly against all those who include the lighting of the Chanukah candles in the 613 commandments: “And they counted the lights of Chanukah, which was established by the Sages during the Second Temple period, and the reading of the scroll [of Esther] as positive commandments, etc., while there are those who say that Moses was told at Sinai to command us that at the end of the days of our sovereignty such and such will happen to us with the Greeks and we will be obligated to light the Chanukah candles, I can not see that anyone would imagine so or think thus.” See, too, Pamphlet 8, how our rabbis take a matter which was established in a later period and turn it, nonsensically, into a tradition from Moses at Sinai.
But we will ask this about what Nachmanides wrote: If this truly is a prophecy about the Second Temple period, why was it not written explicitly in our Torah: “Speak to Aaron and say to him: in the days of the Second Temple the Children of Israel will light the lamps eight days, forever.” Thus Moses, the prophet of prophets, would have once and for all blocked the claims of apostates, that Torah is not from the Heavens. But this is the way of the innocent believer, that only after event occurs does he try to find some odd clue which seems to show a hint in the Torah about the future. (This is nothing remarkable, for when you take things out of their plain meaning or out of context and distort reality, language, or logic, it is possible to bring proof of anything of this world and anything not of this world.)
Now come and hear something strange, two similar stories at different times. Understand this well, for there is a secret to the matter.
Numbers 11:4– “And the Children of Israel also cried and said, ‘Who will feed us meat?'”
Numbers 11:8– “And its taste [of the manna] was as the taste of rich cream.”
Numbers 11:18– “Make yourselves holy for the morrow and you shall eat meat.”
Numbers 10:29– “And Moses said to Hovev [Jethro]…come with us and we will be generous to you.”
And this matter demands explanation. The Children of Israel already cried in the book of Exodus that they were not receiving meat, as written in Exodus 16:3, “If only we had died…when we sat at the flesh pots.” That is why G-d rained down the manna and the meat, as written in Exodus 16:12, “At dusk you shall eat meat and at dawn take your fill of bread.” So why did they cry in the book of Numbers? They had already received and eaten bread! It seems clear that two stories by two different authors were mixed up here. Therefore there is a difference between the manna in Exodus, which tasted like wafers in honey and that in Numbers, which tasted like rich cream. Each author had his own point, and each had his own favorite taste. Know that the Children of Israel complained a third time when, in their travels to Hor haHar (Numbers 21:5): “And the nation spoke against G-d and Moses, ‘Why did you make us leave Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread and no water, and we have come to loathe the miserable food’.” The third time G-d’s patience wore out and he sent upon them the snakes, “and many people of Israel died.”
Another puzzling moment: Jethro had long before parted ways and gone back to his land, as written in Exodus 18:27, “And Moses sent his father-in-law and he went to his land.” So what is Jethro doing in the midst of our people? From what is written in our portion it is clear that Jethro stayed with Israel in the desert. Moses says, “Please do not leave us, for you know where we should camp in the wilderness and you can be our guide.” We see that Jethro accompanied them throughout their wanderings. (Did he just drop in for a visit? Anyone who hears that will laugh.) According to the author of Exodus Moses sent Jethro back to his land, while according to the author of Numbers Moses pleads with Jethro to stay.
If your soul desires to know what our rabbis say on the matter, look in tractate Yoma 75a and see amusing words of Aggadah; we will bring a few as example. The Children of Israel complain, asking for death in the desert, and those who create aggadot, who do not look in the Scriptures, say: “Pound it in a mortar–R’ Judah said in the name of Rav…this teaches us that along with the manna women’s adornments fell for the Children of Israel” (Rashi: herbs which they pounded in a mortar and with which they adorned themselves so their fragrance would please their husbands). Also: “This teaches that along with the manna there fell tzikei kdeirah for the Children of Israel” (Rashi: herbs to make cooking taste and smell good). The Children of Israel had the best of everything available and the manna gave them the finest luxuries, perfumes for the woman and rare herbs for their varied foods. This is the opposite of what is written in Number 11:6, “Now our gullets are shriveled. There is nothing at all! Nothing but this manna to look at!”
We have already mentioned in many places that we do not heed words of aggadah.
Another thing which should be paid heed is that our portion sports two backward nun letters in Numbers 10:35-36, at the start and end of the verses “And when the Ark traveled…Israel’s myriads of thousands.”
In tractate Shabbat 115b-116a: “The sages had learned: “‘And when the Ark traveled, Moses said’ — the holy One, blessed be He, made marks above and below to say that this is not its place. Rabbi said: this is not from G-d, but because this is a book in and of itself… As R’ Samuel the son of Nachman said, in the name of R’ Johanan, ‘She has hewn her seven pillars’ — these are the seven books of the Torah’…R’ Simeon the son of Gamliel said that in the future this section will be removed from its location and it will be written in its proper place. And why was it written here? To give a break between calamity and calamity.” And where is its proper place? According to R’ Simeon the son of Gamliel, as Rashi explained, “It should have been listed with the flags [of the tribes], in the portion of Bamidbar Sinai” (in Numbers 2:17, “and the Tabernacle traveled…,” for it is a direct continuation of the travels of the Children of Israel.) Here we are puzzled–is this the only place which is not the correct location of a section? There are so many sections written in a wrong place that they said “there is no chronological order in the Torah.” We have already expanded upon that many times. Now we will only bring one good example that the Gemara itself admits that, in Tractate Baba Kama 107a, “There is a mixture of sections here. When it is written ‘for it is this’ [ki hu zeh], it is written about the money lender [not of the one who damages his fellow, of whom the rest of the verse speaks].”
Rashi comments, “A verse from a different section has been mixed into this one, out of place.” So here, too, there should have been two backwardnuns. But were every section which is not in its proper location to be set off by backward nuns, there would be more backward nuns than any other letter in the Torah.
Another strange thing which R’ Simeon the son of Gamliel attributes to the Creator of the world is writing a section where it doesn’t belong, only to separate between two calamities (see Tosfot, who say that the first calamity is not at all clear). Is it difficult for the holy One, blessed be He, to write the Torah in an organized fashion so that readers will not be confused as to the sequence of events and even so separate between calamities? This is a very strange thing; why bother separating between calamities? Does the holy One, blessed be He, attach some mystical importance to the consecutive appearance of calamities? Did He not already write in His Torah an unbroken line of calamities? See Exodus 16:2, “And all of Israel grumbled,” and immediately after the received the manna, in chapter 17:2, “And the nation fought with Moses and said, ‘Give us water and we will drink’.” We have written these things to show you how Chazal state, out of hand, that in the future this section will be removed from its place (oh will the Torah Codes people have to change their skips programs in the future). The words of Rabbi are also difficult, for he turns 85 letters into a book of its own. What importance do these two verses have above other verses?
We will return to the issue of the two backward nuns found in our Torah scrolls. The Maharshal wrote about this in Respona 73, “And I wonder about them, to write two letters in the Torah which are not required and thus invalidate it, for even one extra letter invalidates…But the disciples erred and said that the signs [about which the Gemara wrote] were as nuns, but neither Maimonides nor any other author mentioned them…And I have seen in precise Torah scrolls…there is no extra nun written there, but they made the mark by reversing a regular nun, such as the one in b’nsoa [“When it traveled”]…This is also puzzling, for a backward letter is not a letter…” See his answer. The Beit Yosef in Yoreh Deah 275, at the end of the section, brings in the name of the Rashba, “The Rashba wrote about what Rashi said in his commentary on the Torah, that the nun of vayamat Terach b’Charan (Genesis 11:32) is backward, that with certainty, even if it is not written that way, the scroll is not invalidated.” But today no scribe purposely writes the nun of Charan backward. We have brought these words to show you that not only in defective and plene spelling are we not expert, as we said in Pamphlet 9, but also in the different and backward letters we have no clear tradition.
Another example of the matter: Maimonides, who had Ben-Asher’s scroll (upon which we rely) before him, wrote in the Laws of the Torah Scroll, chapter seven, halacha eight, “He [the scribe] should be careful about the crowns of letters and their number. There is a letter which has one crown and a letter which has upon it seven.” Today we write the seven letters, shin, ayin, tet, nun, zayin, gimel, and tzadi with three crowns; there are no others which have three, let alone seven, crowns, contrary to the words of Maimonides! Where is the tradition which passed from father to son, if even the writing of the Lord’s Torah fell victim to distortions?
To conclude this matter, it would be appropriate to copy the testimony of a scribe in the Rashba’s era, cited in the Rashba’s responsa section 232, attributed to Nachmanides. “If a Torah scroll is invalidated through defective and plene spelling, which contradict the Mesorah, I say that the books of Mesorah are no better than the books of the Talmud which say that in the Torah is written pilagshim and ashemim [without a yud], and klot and karnot[without a vav]. But our scrolls have pilagshim with a yud and ashemim with ayud, the opposite of what our Sages said. We do not follow the Talmud to change our scrolls… so why should we credit the books of Mesorah which are more recent?” That is, the scribe judges from minor to major premises. If we do not rely on the Talmud itself, how much more so should we not rely on the Mesorah. Rashba’s answer was: “This is the truth; we do not add nor take away in any place in the books according to Mesorah or the stories of aggadah, for they disagreed in many places in different lands, based on their sages, expert in defective and plene spelling.”
Therefore the versions of the Torah text are almost as numerous as the number of countries and sages, multiplied by hundreds of years! Only in recent generations did we grab hold of one unified text from the many and set it as a copy guide for the scribes. We gave it to the scribes and this text was elevated above all others. But who can tell us if this is the text G-d gave Moses at Sinai? If a single letter missing invalidates a whole scroll, what is the fate of the text we now have?
Words of True Knowledge.