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The Marcos and Adina Katz
Ramban’s Introduction to the Book of Numbers
Rabbi David Horwiz
n his inroducion o Seer Ba-Midbar, Ramban develops he idea ha he en o Meeing (Ohel Mo’ed) can be seen as a coninuaion o Moun Sinai. He wries:
Ba-Midbar Sinai (in he Wilderness o Sinai): Aer having explained he laws o he oﬀerings in he hird book, He [God] now began o se orh in his book he commandmens which hey [he children o Israel] were old wih reerence o he en o Meeing. Now, He had already given a warning or all imes abou [he prohibiion o] impuriy relaing o he Sancuary and is holy hings. Here he deﬁned he boundaries o he abernacle while i was in he wilderness, jus as He had se bounds or Moun Sinai when he [Divine] Glory was here (Exodus 19:12), and He commanded ha he common man ha approaches shall be pu o deah (Numbers 1:51), jus as He had said here no hand shall ouch him [i.e., Moun Sinai], bu he shall surely be soned (Exodus 19:13). He also commanded [here], and hey shall no go in o see he holy hings as hey are being covered, les hey die (Numbers 4:20), jus as He warned here [a Sinai], les hey break hrough uno he Eernal o gaze, and many o hem perish (Exodus 19:21). He commanded here And you shall keep he charge o he holy hings and he charge o he alar [ha here be wrah no more upon he children o Israel (Numbers 18:5), jus as He said here, (Exodus 19:22) And le he priess also, ha come near o he Eernal, sanciy hemselves, les he Eernal break orh upon hem, and le no he priess and people break hrough o come up uno he Eernal, les he break orh upon hem. (Exodus 19:24). Tus He commanded [here] how he abernacle and is vessels are o be guarded, and how hey [he people] are o pich round abou i and how he people are o sand aar oﬀ, and how he priess ha come near he Eernal are o rea i [he abernacle] when i is resing and when i is being carried [during he journeying], and how hey are o guard i. Now hese are all signs o disincion and honor or he Sancuary, jus as he Rabbis o blessed memory have said (Sife Zua: Parasha Korah. 18:4): A kings palace ha has guards over i canno be compared o palace ha has no such guards.
[Elsewhere Ramban adds ha i is known ha he erm palace is a reerence o he Sancuary.]Ramban coninues and concludes ha he mizvoh menioned in Seer Ba-Midbar are only o be observed or a shor period o ime:
Now his whole book deals only wih hose commandmens which were mean only or a paricular ime, being he period when he Israelies sayed in he deser, and [i deals also] wih he miracles which were done or hem, in order o ell all he wondrous deeds o he Eernal which He wrough or hem. I ells how he began o desroy heir enemies beore hem by he sword, and He also commanded how he Land should be divided up amongs hem. Tere are no commandmens in his book which are binding or all imes excep or some commandmens abou he oﬀerings which he had begun in he Book o [he Law o]Priess [i.e., Leviicus], and whose explanaion was no compleed here, hereore he ﬁnished hem in his book.
Tere is a musar haskel implied in his las saemen o Ramban which is simple and proound. Wha i we knew ha we only would have ory years o live and no a minue more? Wha i we knew ha we would only have ory years o observe he commandmens o God? Wouldn’ we be especially careul o observe hem punciliously? Te children o Israel, ha is, he generaion o he deser, knew ha collecively hey would have no more (and ofen much less) han ory years o observe cerain mizvoh, and ha aferwards hey would all die.