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Raise your head as a Jew

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This week, we read the parsha of Bamidbar in which we learn about G-d commanding Moshe to take a census of the Jewish people in the desert. G-d uses the phrase “raising heads”, an interesting way of telling Moshe to count the Jewish people. It presents an intriguing perspective.

The census conducted at that time counted only men between the age of 20 and 60, as they were eligible for conscription into the Jewish army. However, the purpose of this census extended beyond military needs. It aimed to mobilise the Jewish people for spiritual battle against the desolation of the desert, the very place where the Torah was revealed.

By instructing Moses to “raise heads”, G-d implied that to triumph over this adversary, they needed to elevate themselves consistently above it. This principle goes beyond mere advice; it’s embedded in halacha. The Shulchan Aruch, the code of Jewish law, directs us not to be ashamed in matters of Jewish observance, whether in the face of external scoffers or our internal inclination towards evil.

Where do we find the strength to confront these battles? Chassidus teaches that the soul consists of five distinct levels. At birth, only a radiance of the soul enters the body, while its essence, known as the yechida (head) remains above in the spiritual realms. The chaya level of the soul connects the yechida to the other three levels within the body.

In spite of the soul’s “head” residing “above”, it’s still affected by the actions of the rest of the soul below. By fulfilling G-d’s commandments and embracing its mission within the body, the soul beneath “raises its head”, attaining a heightened awareness of the divine in heavenly realms.

The soul’s “head” remains pure and untainted by the desires and temptations of the physical world. It’s the part of the soul that prevents a Jew from becoming detached from G-d. For generations, this strong part of the soul has empowered Jews to face persecution rather than renounce their faith. It’s the everlasting spark that can transform into a blazing flame when a Jew rediscovers their heritage.

Embracing our Jewish identity unapologetically and facing any challenges with unwavering pride is key. By raising our heads, connecting with our spiritual essence, and living in accordance with our sacred heritage, we can inspire ourselves and others to overcome adversity and embrace the beauty of our shared legacy.

The directive of the Shulchan Aruch reminds us never to be ashamed of our Jewish observance.

As we reflect on the significance of “raising heads”, let’s remember that our strength lies in our connection to the divine and our commitment to the timeless values of Judaism. By embodying our heritage, we can navigate the complexities of the world with confidence, resilience, and an unwavering sense of pride. Let’s rise above the challenges, and inspire a renewed Jewish spirit within ourselves and our communities.

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