Topic: Kabbalistic Concepts | Posted:May 21, 2014
Nachmanides, the Ramban, quotes a section in the Midrash explaining the portion of Bamidbar. The Israelites are set up in four camps surrounding the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, which is in the center. There are three tribes in each camp: one in the east, one in the south, one in the west, and one in the north. The Midrash explains why certain tribes were chosen to be in certain positions and why they were grouped in that way.
For instance, the Creator tells Moses that because the sun comes to the world rising from the east, the tribe of Judah - which represents Kingdom and has the strength of the sun, the strength of shining the Light to the world - will reside in the east. The north, however, is spoken about in both the Zohar and the Midrash as being considered dangerous, scary, and dark; “from the north darkness can come to the world.” The tribe of Dan was chosen to be in the north. Why? Because the tribe of Dan brought darkness to the world when they awakened idol worship. It says also that the tribe of Dan was the last one to travel; “because whoever worships idols should travel in the end, and not in the beginning.” But the tribe of Dan during the time of Moses did not worship idols. They were very spiritual people. So what does this mean?
When King Solomon was king, the Creator decided that from his son on, the kingdom would no longer be unified, and instead there would be two kings and two separate kingdoms – there would be a king of Judah and there would also be a king of Israel.
Jeroboam bar Nebat was chosen to be the king of Israel, and Rehav’am was going to remain the king of Judah. When Yarobh’am was told that he was chosen to be king, he was worried because Rehav’am controlled the city of Jerusalem, which was the focal point of the spiritual work where the people came to bring sacrifices in the Temple. He thought that if people kept going to Jerusalem to bring their sacrifices and do their spiritual work, they’d start feeling good and desire for Rehav’am to be their king as well - who at this point, was only the king of Judah; the tribe of Judah and Benjamin were under Rehav’am, and the other ten tribes were under the leadership of the king of Israel, Yarobh’am. But Yarobh’am worried that people would kill him and start seeing Rehav’am as their king.
This whole notion, of course, is ridiculous because the Prophet had come to Yarobh’am and told him that the Creator had chosen him for a specific job; that he is meant to be, and will be, the ruler of ten tribes. The Prophet told him not to worry, that this is the Creator’s job for him. But Yarobh’am, like most of us, started worrying, “I know that I’m promised my job by the Creator, but I have to make sure.” This is the source of all of our own problems, when we start worrying about the outside, thinking, “what if this happens, what if that happens…”
But Yarobh’am starts worrying, and so he comes up with this terrible idea. He decides rather than having everybody go to Jerusalem, he’s going to make two Golden Calves and tell the people they don’t have to go to Jerusalem anymore. They can just go to where the Golden Calf is, and bring their sacrifice and do their spiritual work there. He put one of the Golden Calves in Bethel, and the second, he put in the land that was controlled and owned by the tribe of Dan; and, as such, he began the downfall of many, many Israelites.
So, to take it back to the story – the reason the tribe of Dan traveled last was because many years later, when Yarobh’am had the terrible idea of creating two Golden Calves, the land of Dan accepted it. However, the tribe of Dan, during the time of Moses, were not idol worshippers; it was only their great-great-great-great grandsons who became idol worshippers. Then, why all these years earlier, before any of this ever happened, are they made to travel last and be put in the north?
The kabbalists teach that before anything becomes manifest, it first has a root, a seed. And sometimes what happens is that a seed is planted a thousand years prior, and it takes a thousand years for that seed to manifest and become a tree. And what the Midrash is telling us is that Moses saw there was a seed inside the tribe of Dan that would sprout many years later in their great-great-great-great grandchildren that would allow them to think it’s a good idea to have the Golden Calf of Yarobh’am in their land.
We often think that there are two states of being – there’s the state before we do something negative, and there’s the state when we actually do something negative. But really it’s one continuum, because no negative action, even the worst, ever comes out of nowhere. It begins in a seed that is planted - sometimes with a thought, sometimes with a small action - and then it leads to the worse and worse manifestations of negative actions.
So, when the Midrash says that Moses saw that tribe and told them there’s some cleansing that they had to do because while even though right then they were not worshipping idols, within them is a seed, that if it doesn’t change, will result in their tribe’s residing in the north and traveling last.
At the time, the tribe of Dan said, unfortunately, what most of us say. “What am I doing that’s so wrong?” They’re all, at the time of Moses, very spiritual people, very good people. But there was something inside them they were not allowing themselves to see. How many times do we do this ourselves - look inside, and say, “it's ok, I’m taking care of the big things.” Every single one of us today is doing certain things or allowing certain things to happen that are not terrible or might not even be so bad. But if they’re not uprooted today, then tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or ten years from now, it will lead us, or even our children, to a very, very negative place. The reality is that every single one of us has these aspects. The bigger things, hopefully, we’re awakened to; we say, “Okay, I can’t do that, and I know that if I keep doing this, it’s going to lead me to a terrible place.” But those little things that we are allowing ourselves to either do or not to do are what we need to become awakened to.
We need to realize that neither actions nor growth go from a state of positive to negative, but rather that an individual begins in the state of positive, yet with a small amount of thoughts that aren’t right, or a few actions that aren’t right, things become negative. However, it is the little things that, certainly for our children, but even more importantly for ourselves, we won’t see today, we won’t see tomorrow, or we might not see in a year. But when in three years from now we’re not going to see it, it’ll be way too late.
So the awakening we want to receive on this Shabbat is to really know that there are no little things that we can allow. If you see something small but you’re not pushing yourself and you’re allowing yourself to behave in this way because in your mind you’re saying it’s small - stop. And remind yourself that there is no such thing as small things; there’s no such thing as a little bit of negative thought or a little bit of negative action. Everything, every seed, sprouts a tree. Every little thought eventually manifests.
If you know this, then you can change it today. And had the tribe of Dan listened to what Moses told them, the Golden Calf of Yarobh’am would not have been placed in their land, and the thousands and thousands of deaths that occurred from that moment on would not have happened. Therefore, this understanding, this gift, is really to awaken us to the little negative thoughts. Hear the message that Moses gave the tribe of Dan and gives to us on this Shabbat; find those small things and use the power of this Shabbat to begin to uproot those negative seeds today.