If you’re a Jew, fix your place in the camp!

An old-fashioned bedouin tent pitched in the desert

Jews, fix your place in the camp of Israel!

Adapted and translated from a shiur Rabbi Eliezer Berland, shlita, recently gave in Jerusalem, Iyar 5779, from the Shivivei Or Newsletter #94.

The whole of Sefer Vayikra (Leviticus) was said on the first of Nissan. The whole of Vayikra was related, except for one parsha. Even Parshat Behar was said on the first of Nissan, everything was said on the first of Nissan, the curses, everything was on the first of Nissan.

All the Torah was said on one day. On the first of Nissan. All this is from the Gemara, Tractate Gittin 60[1], all Parshat Emor was related on the first of Nissan.

A person comes to the world only for the first of Nissan….

And therefore there is a conflict in Rashi[2], that in Parshat Emor it’s written that the episode of the blasphemer[3] occurred together with the episode of the person who collected the sticks on Shabbat[4]. But there’s a conflict because it says that regarding the person who collected the sticks, this happened on the second Shabbat after they left Egypt.[5] This would mean that the episode with the blasphemer also occurred on this second Shabbat.

But according to Parshat BeMidbar, the episode of the blasphemer took place on the first of Iyar in the second year, because that was the time when they were commanded about how to arrange the formation of the camp when it travelled. And then the Tribe of Dan argued once again with the blasphemer, who wanted to place his tent amongst them, because his mother was from the Tribe of Dan.

Jews always argue, always.

We see that Yaakov and Eisav even fought in the womb! There were arguing already, in the womb. Now they are arguing once again, where to camp, where the tent should go, they’re arguing the whole time. This is my place and this is your place! Leave me alone to pitch my tent in peace! No, get out of here, you have no place here. This is not your place.[6]

Why are you embarrassing him?!

So the [blasphemer] went to Moshe Rabbenu and asked him, is it true, that I’m not allowed to put my tent here? No-one really knew what the story was, even Moshe Rabbenu didn’t know. So he responded to him surprisingly, and said ‘you aren’t suitable for the Tribe of Dan, maybe the Tribe of Reuven, or Shimon, or Levi. But not Dan. Decide!”

So he went to Moshe, and Moshe told him:

Yes, you’re not suitable for the Tribe of Dan 

And so he decided to start cursing.

Beforehand, it’s written that [he didn’t actually curse initially,] he just pronounced the ineffable name of Hashem that he heard on Mount Sinai, which contained a revelation of the mercava, the holy chariot. The Zohar says that the blasphemer was at the level of the Prophet Yechezkel. In that generation, even a maidservant at the sea saw more than the Prophet Yechezkel.

He saw things which Yechezkel didn’t see, he was greater than the Prophet Yechezkel!

The blasphemer showed them the mercava, the same [vision] that was shown to Yechezkel. Therefore, it’s initially written that he pronounced the name of God, and it’s not written that he cursed.

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Afterwards, it is written that he cursed, after they disgraced him and embarrassed him. The moment that they disgrace a person, that person rises up to the greatest possible spiritual heights. He rises up to the 50th Gate, he merits this. They open his mind for him, and all of the masks over the mind fall away.

When a person is embarrassed, then all of the masks fall.

But he shouldn’t run away from this [disgrace], and to flee, and to go and sit outside the camp of Israel.

You’re a Jew?! So go fight for your rights! Fix your place in the camp!

Maybe you won’t be in the camp of Dan, but then go to the camp of Reuven! So what, if you’re on the border of Dan? You’re happier there! But just don’t run away. There is no need to flee.

But they kicked him out of the camp of Israel. They kicked him out of the camp.

A person needs to know that this is the test. He needs to know that every time they disgrace him, a new spiritual gate is opened up for him. There are 50 gates, and each fresh embarrassment reveals a new gate, a completely new gate is opened up for him.

This is what the Rebbe (Rabbi Nachman of Breslov) said in lesson 48 of Likutey Moharan, and this is what we learn from the blasphemer. We need to know that:

They will kick you out of the camp. They will tell you that you’re not a Jew.

He had to go and convert another time, he had to have another brit milah, he had to convert again, he thought that maybe there’s a flaw in his Jewishness, maybe there’s a blemish and that’s why he had to go in the mikva again. He went and immersed in another seven mikvaot. He went to a stream, to a spring, to another body of water, to immerse.

“I’ll immerse another time!”

The main thing is that he wants to be a Jew – but he can’t stand up in all the humiliation.

He’s prepared to immerse in a mikva, to have a brit mila, to go through another conversion, but when it comes to experiencing some humiliation, then he’s ready to throw it all away and to leave the camp of Israel.

This is the hardest test, and a person needs to know that he will be brought closer a little bit [and then apparently rejected].

The Rebbe says[7] that the man sees the Tzaddik leave, from the window, and he says to him: “Where are you going?” He sees that the Tzaddik is going in the opposite direction. But the Tzaddik says to him: “No! I am coming to you!”

Even though you think that he’s going in the opposite direction, the Rebbe is actually only coming to you.

He’s only coming closer to you, and bringing you closer to him.

The blasphemer was meant to reach a high level, the level of Moshe Rabbenu, the highest spiritual level in the world.

And he would have done so, if he’d accepted the humiliation and remained quiet.


[1] The Gemara in Gittin 60b brings a debate about how the Torah was recorded. It continues: “R. Shimon ben Lakish says: The written Torah was handed down to Israel as a unit, for it is stated in this a verse: ‘Take this Book of the Torah.’”


[2] Rashi says (Parshat Emor 24:12): “They placed him [under guard] by himself, but they did not place him with the one who gathered wood on Shabbat, for both incidents occurred at the same time.”

[3] A reference to the son of Shlomit, the only Jew born of a union between a Jewish woman and an Egyptian man, see Parshat Emor.

[4] A reference to Zelophad, who was stoned for deliberately collecting wood on Shabbat.

[5] See Rashi’s commentary on Bemidbar, 15:32.

[6] Am Yisrael was divided up into the 12 tribes, and each tribe had their specific camping ground, and their specific place in the travelling formation. A person’s father decided which tribe he belonged to. The blasphemer’s father was an Egyptian, so he didn’t have a tribe of his own. He tried to pitch his tent with the Tribe of Dan, because that was his mother’s tribe.

[7] In Chayei Moharan, New Stories, #85

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