Parshat ha Shavuah Verses – Bamidbar/בְּמִדְבַּר

This week we count.

א  וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה בְּמִדְבַּר סִינַי, בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד:  בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִי בַּשָּׁנָה הַשֵּׁנִית, לְצֵאתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם–לֵאמֹר.

1 And the LORD spoke unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying:

ב  שְׂאוּ, אֶת-רֹאשׁ כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם, לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם–בְּמִסְפַּר שֵׁמוֹת, כָּל-זָכָר לְגֻלְגְּלֹתָם.

2 ‘Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, by their polls;

ג  מִבֶּן עֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה וָמַעְלָה, כָּל-יֹצֵא צָבָא בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל–תִּפְקְדוּ אֹתָם לְצִבְאֹתָם, אַתָּה וְאַהֲרֹן.

3 from twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: ye shall number them by their hosts, even thou and Aaron.

This is the first census, possibly even in the world history – men are counted for war. Only those who are young enough and mature enough at the same time, hence are able to go to war.

Interestingly here, and everywhere else, the people are counted by their families. We are all together, but we are deeply rooted in our own family traditions and memories. Sounds like a very modern “Western” thought, doesn’t it?

ד  וְאִתְּכֶם יִהְיוּ, אִישׁ אִישׁ לַמַּטֶּה–אִישׁ רֹאשׁ לְבֵית-אֲבֹתָיו, הוּא.

4 And with you there shall be a man of every tribe, every one head of his fathers’ house.

Everyone is represented and accounted for. Except for one tribe:

מז  וְהַלְוִיִּם, לְמַטֵּה אֲבֹתָם–לֹא הָתְפָּקְדוּ, בְּתוֹכָם.  {פ}

47 But the Levites after the tribe of their fathers were not numbered among them.

לב  אֵלֶּה פְּקוּדֵי בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם:  כָּל-פְּקוּדֵי הַמַּחֲנֹת, לְצִבְאֹתָם–שֵׁשׁ-מֵאוֹת אֶלֶף וּשְׁלֹשֶׁת אֲלָפִים, וַחֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת וַחֲמִשִּׁים.

32 These are they that were numbered of the children of Israel by their fathers’ houses; all that were numbered of the camps according to their hosts were six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty.

The second count is for everyone (men only, of course, not even going to go there now).

לג  וְהַלְוִיִּם–לֹא הָתְפָּקְדוּ, בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל:  כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוָה, אֶת-מֹשֶׁה.

33 But the Levites were not numbered among the children of Israel; as the LORD commanded Moses.

So, what’s up with Levites? Apparently, they have their own task, sometimes even more dangerous than war – taking care of the Tabernacle – מִשְׁכָּן Mishkan. It’s not for nothing that “lest they die” is repeated here. The danger is real, the rules are precise, the Judge is very strict.

יז  וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה וְאֶל-אַהֲרֹן לֵאמֹר.

17 And the LORD spoke unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying:

יח  אַל-תַּכְרִיתוּ, אֶת-שֵׁבֶט מִשְׁפְּחֹת הַקְּהָתִי, מִתּוֹךְ, הַלְוִיִּם.

18 ‘Cut ye not off the tribe of the families of the Kohathites from among the Levites;

יט  וְזֹאת עֲשׂוּ לָהֶם, וְחָיוּ וְלֹא יָמֻתוּ, בְּגִשְׁתָּם, אֶת-קֹדֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁים:  אַהֲרֹן וּבָנָיו, יָבֹאוּ, וְשָׂמוּ אוֹתָם אִישׁ אִישׁ עַל-עֲבֹדָתוֹ, וְאֶל-מַשָּׂאוֹ.

19 but thus do unto them, that they may live, and not die, when they approach unto the most holy things: Aaron and his sons shall go in, and appoint them every one to his service and to his burden;

כ  וְלֹא-יָבֹאוּ לִרְאוֹת כְּבַלַּע אֶת-הַקֹּדֶשׁ, וָמֵתוּ.

20 but they shall not go in to see the holy things as they are being covered, lest they die.

With all the rules and all the details, many times I ask myself – do we really have Behira – בְּהִירָה – free choice? From point A to point B in our lives, is it Him guiding us, or is it us making our own choices, and inevitably, mistakes?

The children? The partners? The lab rabbits?
How do you see us from up There, Gd?
Sometimes I think I am just a puppet, and then I cry of sorrow
Other times – I am Your partner in making the world better, and then I cry of joy
So, are we “the children of the living Gd”?


We read in the Haftarah of the week:

Hosea: 2:1

א  וְהָיָה מִסְפַּר בְּנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, כְּחוֹל הַיָּם, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יִמַּד, וְלֹא יִסָּפֵר; וְהָיָה בִּמְקוֹם אֲשֶׁר-יֵאָמֵר לָהֶם, לֹא-עַמִּי אַתֶּם, יֵאָמֵר לָהֶם, בְּנֵי אֵל-חָי.

1 Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass that, instead of that which was said unto them: ‘Ye are not My people’, it shall be said unto them: ‘Ye are the children of the living God.’

We are again numbered, but this time we see a promise that is being fulfilled in our days, before own very own eyes.

כא  וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי, לְעוֹלָם; וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי בְּצֶדֶק וּבְמִשְׁפָּט, וּבְחֶסֶד וּבְרַחֲמִים.

21 And I will betroth thee unto Me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in justice, and in lovingkindness, and in compassion.

כב  וְאֵרַשְׂתִּיךְ לִי, בֶּאֱמוּנָה; וְיָדַעַתְּ, אֶת-יְהוָה.  {פ}

22 And I will betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the LORD.

Today, on Yom Yerushalaim, I think this parshah reading is very appropriate. We need to prepare for war, always. Thus we count the men of war. We also need to remember to “be holy”, which is the task of everyone. Thus everyone is counted. And we need to cling to Gd with guidance given by Leviim. These are the people who are not going to war, not possessing their own land, not working in an everyday sense, but who are working on behalf of the whole nation. We should just hope that every one of them is keenly aware of this sacred task they are given to perform.

If all of us live according to these guidelines, then He “will betroth” us in “faithfulness”.

May we live to see this promise fulfilled.

Shabbat Shalom!


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Jack Bennett says:

    Shalom 🙂 Great read!


    1. Thanks, Jack! And thanks for following! Shabbat Shalom!


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