Aliya-by-Aliya Parashat Bamidbar 5760

Numbers in [square brackets] are the mitzva-count of the Sefer HaChinuch.

[SDT] The sedra (and book) of BaMidbar opens in the Sinai wilderness in the second year out of Egypt, on Rosh Chodesh Iyar. The Mishkan having been erected one month earlier, the People are now to be counted. This, in preparation of the first traveling since arriving at Sinai eleven months earlier. (There had been two previous censuses: when the People left Egypt and in the aftermath of the Sin of the Golden Calf.) 21/2 from now (ch.9), the Torah tells us of events that occurred during Nissan, the previous month. Rashi there teaches us two things: one, that the Torah is not necessarily in chronological order; two, in this particular instance, G-d chose not to open the Book of BaMidbar on a negative note. Negative, because the People of Israel brought the Korban Pesach only that one time (ch.9) in all the years of wandering. (They were not allowed to bring K.P. the following years, because they had uncircumcised children among them. That was due to the danger in moving a newly circumcised baby. Since the People had to be prepared to travel at a moment's notice, they postponed circumcisions. Although this is an excusable reason for not bringing KP, it still is considered a mark of disgrace for the People, and G-d chose not to begin the Book of BaMidbar on that note.

Bamidbar's 1288 p'sukim is second to B'reishit. It is also second in words and letters per sedra. However, 128.8 p'sukim per sedra, just beats B'reishit out for the top spot. It has 78 more p'sukim than Sh'mot, but 305 fewer words.

Kohen - first Aliya - 19 p'sukim - 1:1-19

The command from G-d is to count the people, specifically the males from 20 years and up. 20 is the Torah's age for military service. Assisting in the census are Aharon and a representative of each tribe.

The census was carried out as commanded.

[SDT] Commentaries point out that the command to count the people was given to Moshe and Aharon (as opposed to just Moshe) because the census was done by collecting half-shekels from the people. Since money was involved, it is not proper to have only one person dealing with the matter. This became the ethical standard of dealing with public funds.

On the other hand... Another commentator suggests that this census was not done with shekels, but rather with a direct head count. Although we learn that it is improper, and even potentially dangerous, to count people directly, in this case there was a direct command to count the people. Hence, no harm would befall them during the carrying out of these Divine orders. This, in contrast to Ki Tisa, where the Torah says, "WHEN you count, then you MUST collect the half-shekel, etc. There the language in the Torah indicates that the counting was optional or practical, but not obligatory. Therefore, the indirect method was necessary.

K'RU'EI HA'EIDA, a term for leaders of the people, is written with a YUD in place of the VAV as in the word's pronunciation. Baal HaTurim says that we can look at the YUD as a chopped VAV, to tell us that among the leaders was a "not so worthy" individual. He says that Shlumiel b. Tzurishadai, the leader of Shimon, was Zimri b. Salu, who caused G-d's anger to destroy many thousands of people, until Pinchas' act put an end to Zimri (and to the plague). Having G-d's name in his didn't help him. Note that there is a broken VAV in the Pinchas story, the VAV of BRITI SHALOM. Could there be a REMEZ connection.

Levi - second Aliya - 35 p'sukim - 1:20-54

The Torah lovingly records the census results for each Tribe, beginning with Reuven and identifying him as Israel's firstborn.

In light of all the "problems" that Reuven had, and the fact that Yehuda, Yosef, and Levi each ended up with an element of that which might have been Reuven's, it is interesting that Reuven retains the designation "B'chor".

After the count of each Tribe, the Torah gives the grand total as 603,550. (The figure that is generally used to describe the multitude that left Egypt is 600,000. It is obviously rounded from the actual total.) With women and children, the number of people who left Egypt is probably between 2 and 3 million.

The Levi'im were not to be counted together with the rest of the Nation, but were to be counted separately. It was the Levi'im who were charged with carrying the components of the Mishkan and with dismantling and erecting the Mishkan each time the People traveled. Non-Levi'im were not to anger G-d by approaching the Mishkan in an improper manner. This applied to the encampment as well; the Levi'im were camped around the Mishkan and the Tribes kept their distance in their camps.

LiVnei Yehuda... for all the tribes the term LiVnei is used, except for Bnei Naftali. Baal HaTurim says that they had more women than men. In the later census, "Bnei" is used for all the tribes since the men died out - all had more women.

Commentaries point out that the low population figures recorded for Levi were closer to what would be expected according to natural demographics. The figures for the rest of the people were unnaturally high. This is a result of the Torah's telling us, "and as they were tortured, so they multiplied". Among the many miracles that occurred in Egypt, was the fact the the people proliferated so greatly under very adverse conditions. Since the tribe of Levi was not subjected to the harsh conditions of slavery, its growth was "normal".

If counting people has a negative side to it, why did G-d command Moshe to count the people? The Chidushei HaRi"M says that by counting us, we become a DAVAR SHE'B'MINYAN. This gives us each an importance that will not allow us to be nullified in a mixture with others. (explanation elsewhere)

SH'LISHI - third Aliya - 34 p'sukim - 2:1-34

The next command deals with the position of the Tribes during encampment and the traveling order of the units. Three Tribes each formed a "camp" under one banner at one of the compass-points around the Levite camp. The leader of each "banner camp" is the leader of the "main" Tribe of the three, as indicated by the name of the camp. The camp of Yehuda was to the east and was to be the first to travel. Reuven Camp on the south followed them. Then the Levi'im with the Mishkan were to follow, so that they and it would be within the people, not at its periphery. Then follow Ephraim Camp from the west, and the last to travel were those of Dan Camp, from the north. The Torah reiterates that Levi was not counted among the Tribes, and that the People did as they were commanded.

SDT - The lead tribe of each camp was based on OTOT, signs, transmitted by Yaakov Avinu. The Baal HaTurim points out a correspondence between Yaakov's blessings to his sons and these camp-heads. Each son that Yaakov addressed in second person was to be a leader of a camp. "Revuen, YOU are my firstborn", "Yehuda, YOU your brothers will acknowledge", "Dan... YOUR salvation", "Yosef... the G-d of YOUR father... blesses YOU".

R'VI'I - fourth Aliya - 13 p'sukim - 3:1-13

The Torah proceeds to name the sons of Aharon and Moshe. (Actually, Moshe's biological sons are not mentioned. The commentaries point out that Aharon's sons are considered to be Moshe's as well, because he (Moshe) taught them Torah.)

The Tribe of Levi is to be assigned the tasks of assisting the kohanim in their work and in safeguarding the Mishkan and its vessels. In essence, the Levi is to replace the B'chor who was sanctified from the day of the Exodus (and even before that). The b'chor was originally supposed to perform the sacred tasks of the Levi'im (and kohanim), but lost the privilege as a result of the Golden Calf.

SDT - "These are the names of the sons of Aharon, the B'chor (firstborn) Nadav..." The regular reading of the pasuk, based on the Taamei HaMikra (the Torah notes) indicates that Nadav is being identified as Aharon's B'chor. But there is a vertical line which separates between B'chor and Nadav, suggesting that it is Aharon the B'chor; Nadav, having died without children is not really a B'chor at this point. (Since the children of a deceased B'chor get their father's double portion, had Nadav had children he would retain the title of B'chor.)

Chamishi- fifth Aliya - 26 p'sukim - 3:14-39

Moshe is commanded to count the Levi'im - males from the age of one month. The Gershon branch is to be in charge of the curtain material of the Mishkan, including the coverings and the courtyard enclosure. K'hat is in charge of the main holy furnishings of the Mishkan, including the Aron, Shulchan, Menora, and the Altars. Merari is in charge of the structural materials: the boards, support rods, foundation sockets, pillars. In all, 22,000 Levi'im are counted.

Clarification... If one adds up the counts of the three families of Levi - Gershon, 7500; Kehat, 8600; Merari, 6200 - the total is 22,300, not 22,000, the number used in the exchange with the firstborns. Rashi explains that the 300 "missing" Levi'im were themselves B'chorim, and were not part of the official exchange - see coming Aliya.

Choose your neighbors well. Rashi points out that the proximity of Degel Machane Yehuda to the encampment of Moshe and Aharon and family, had a positive influence on the three tribes of Yehuda, Yissachar, and Zevulun - the three tribes famed for their Torah scholarship. On the other hand, Reuven's closeness to Korach and his to Datan and Aviram, produces disaster.

Shishi- sixth Aliya - 12 p'sukim - 3:40-51

G-d next tells Moshe to count the firstborns of the Tribes, from one month and older, so that there can be an official exchange ceremony of Levi'im for B'chorim. Moshe counts and finds that there are 22,273 b'chorim. A mass "redemption of the firstborns" is conducted by an exchange of 22,000 Levi'im (non-b'chorim) for 22,000 b'chorim and a payment of five silver sheqels for the remaining 273 firstborns to Aharon and his sons.

Imagine gathering 22,273 people and asking each to choose a card from a batch of 22,273 cards, 22,000 of which have the words BEN LEVI on them and 273 have 5 shekel on them. This, says Rashi, is how they determined who would pay the 5 redemption shekels.

Rashi points out that the 5 sh'kalim of the B'chor, each worth 20 GEIRA. 20 pieces of silver is the amount the brothers received for the sale of Yosef. Apparently, Rashi considers there to be a connection between the sale of Yosef and the requirement of redemption of the firstborn. Remember that Yosef was Rachel's firstborn.

Sh'vi'i - 7th Aliya - 20 p'sukim - 4:1-20

A second census of Levi'im is begun with the counting of the family branch of K'hat - males between the ages of 30 and 50. This was the work-force in the Mishkan. The people of K'hat first were to wait for Aharon to enter the Mishkan, remove the Parochet and cover the vessels with special cloths. Only then could vessels be handled by the Levi'im. Elazar, the son of Aharon, was personally responsible for the special oils and incense of the Mishkan. The Torah warns the kohanim not to endanger the people of K'hat by not properly preparing for their handling of the most sacred vessels. Last 4 p'sukim are Maftir.

Haftara - 25 p'sukim - Shmuel Alef - 20:18-42

When Rosh Chodesh is Sunday, the special Haftara for Erev Rosh Chodesh preempts the regular Haftara. The opening words are: And Yonaton said to him, tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh... Perfect choice. By why an Erev R.Ch. haftara? Perhaps to emphasize its sanctity when we tend to treat it like any other day.

Explanation for SDT in box on page 5. Halacha distinguishes between produce that is sold by weight or volume, and items that are sold by the piece. The rules of BITUL, voiding in majority or 60 to 1, etc. apply to the former. The latter are "things that are counted", with individual identities that cannot Z