This week we read the Torah portion of "BaMidbar," the opening chapters of the Book of Numbers, which describe how the Children of Israel were commanded to pitch their camp in the same configuration during the 40 years of wandering in the desert between Egypt and the Land of Canaan. The configuration of the encampment is the mirror image of the twelve constellations of the Zodiac and their associated tribes. As the constellations of the zodiac surround the earth, the twelve tribes encamped surrounding the tabernacle.
The repetition of this sacred and specific pattern – which may have
been the collective embodiment of the Israelite’s mandala, was reenacted
forty-two times as detailed in the Book of Numbers by the generation in
the desert. This repetition may have served to embed this cosmic
pattern into a symbolic primal identity point during the process of
developing tribal consciousness during the forty years of wandering.
The 42 times the Israelites encamped in mirror-image of the order of
the zodiac may have been a primitive version of what the medievalists
would later call the drawing down of rūhaniyyāt, spiritual energy which
manifests as powerful energetic emanations above attracted by a
“sympathetic” image below. The graphics here illustrates the order of
the encampment and how it corresponded to the order of the zodiac.