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Seven.
Seven is the theme of today’s parashah.  Well, one of them.  Seven and love.

Today’s reading covers many things, among them are the building and lighting of the menorah lamps, hammered out of solid gold with each side facing the other.  It moves on to the purification and assignment of the Levites to protecting the people Israel from plagues resulting from coming too near the sanctuary.

One major part of our religion comes from Chapter 9, where Hashem set the rules for Pesach, including a secondary festival for those who may have become impure by helping with the dead during the first festival and, thus, been ineligible to participate.

We cover trumpets and traveling, troop movements and Tabernacle assemblies.  There’s manna which, according to Rabbi Yonatan Eybeschutz, fulfilled our people physically, but not psychologically due to its abundance.  Moshe saw the lack of morale in the tribes and Hashem had him bring 70 of the elders and leaders of the tribes to the Tent of Meeting to eventually show their folly in complaining about the lack of meat.

G-d brought in immense amounts of quail which some of the people ate so voraciously that they didn’t even cook it.  Hashem saw this, arguably rightly so, as indignation and second-guessing about having ever been taken out of Egypt, where meat was plentiful but manna was unavailable.  Those who suffered from this greed did not suffer much longer; Hashem put forth a plague which struck those who felt that way.

Finally, we have Miriam and Aaron talking behind Moshe’s back about how he married a Cushite woman and how they were jealous that Hashem spoke to Moshe directly.  Hashem called the three of them, Miriam, Aaron, and Moses, to the Tent of Meeting, and chastised the first two about speaking poorly of Moses.  He then put a temporary disease on Miriam which delayed the departure of the people from Hazeroth.

Amidst all this, it’s easy to miss one extraordinarily interesting part on page 826 in Chapter 10, verse 35.

Now, I can’t read Hebrew, but I’m pretty sure that Nun is upside down, and I’m also pretty sure the Nun at the end of the chapter is also upside down.

The Nun is, of course, the 14th letter of the aleph-bet.  It is one of a few letters written differently, depending on its position.  In the  beginning or middle of a word it’s bent while, at the end of a word, it’s straight.

Rashi explains that the difference between the two nuns represents people.  The bent nun represents a person who serves “bent over” out of humility and love.  At the end, in the World to Come, they will be able to stand tall.

What is between these two nuns?

“When the Ark was to set out, Moses would say
‘Advance, O Lord!
May your Enemies be scattered,
And may Your foes flee before You!’
And when it halted he would say:
‘Return, O Lord,
You who are Israel’s myriads of thousands!’”

Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, the very man who compiled the Mishnah, thought that these two verses were their own book of the Torah unto themselves.  He further suggested the Book of Numbers should be divided into three individual books: the first 10 chapters, these two verses, and then the remainder of the Book of Numbers.  This would bring the full number of books of the Torah from the five that we know up to seven.

His view was even supported partially from Proverbs 9:1 “Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars.”

What makes these two verses so amazingly important that the very man who put together the text we, and all other Jews, read thought it should be its own book?  I think the answer lies in those two nuns.

Often, there will be an out of place letter, a line, or something different in the text to indicate something of extreme importance or grammatical imperfection.  I would posit that these two nuns are not bookends to something misplaced, mispunctuated, or misspelled, but to something that is so profoundly important to our relationship with G-d that we need to be reminded of it constantly.  In fact, we pray about it, we sing about it, and I’ve even mentioned it before in previous d’vrei Torah.

Hashem helps us not out of obligation or fear, obviously, but love and humility.  His anger has been the cause of many plagues and calamities, but his actions stemming from humility preserve us.

If a nun bent over represents our humility to G-d, would a nun descending bent represent G-d extending his own humility and love?  I think yes.  We can look up while he looks down; whether its all the way in the heavens or from a modestly raised pillar of cloud.

We don’t need pets, children, or friends to live.  They do, however, help us realize our humanity and purpose.  They extend meaning to our existence and, when we give them our love, it furthers the connections between every involved party and often ancillary ones.  Hashem doesn’t need us, but maybe our existence to Him inspires love, and maybe that love furthers tikkun olam.

Those two nuns demonstrate that during those two verses:

“When the Ark was to set out, Moses would say
“‘Advance, O Lord!
May your Enemies be scattered,
And may Your foes flee before You!’
And when it halted he would say:
‘Return, O Lord,
You who are Israel’s myriads of thousands!’”

Hashem was protecting us and elevating us out of love.  It was that love which makes us his chosen people and, just like you’ll often hold the spouse you chose to a higher standard than the rest of the people out there, he holds us to that higher standard.

G-d loves us so much He gave us His one and only Torah.  He loves us so much that he protects us so that we may study it.  He loves us so much that He will help us gather our myriads, or, as an alternate translation, clans of thousands.

So, we have seven lights in the menorah in the beginning of the parashah.

We have four sets of seven in our two nuns dividing it.

We have 10 sets of seven in the elders that were punished afterwards.

We have seven sets of seven that just passed on Shavuot with the Omer.

And what do we do when the one that we love most is to be betrothed to us?  We circle them seven times and share in a festive meal daily, for seven days, with seven blessings at each meal.

Maybe John Lennon was right when he said “all you need is love.”  Maybe not, though, as action is required on top of it all for tzedakah, tikkun olam, and other mitzvot.  Seven days of creation, after all, started with love but blossomed with action.  Shabbat shalom.