subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:SHOLOM613@AOL.COM


Ch. 1, v. 2: "B'mispar sheimos" - With a counting of names -

1) This teaches us that we arrived at a census count not through each family advising how many members it had, but rather by counting each person separately. (GR"A)

2) Rather than counting person after person by number, one, two, three, etc., they were counted by their names, Reuvein, Shimon, Levi, etc. This was done because the names of the bnei Yisroel are dear to Hashem. (Sha"ch)

3) Rather than counting the people themselves, their names were written upon notes and these were counted. (Ralba"g)

4) They were counted by names because they had unique positions and responsibilities. This was not the case with the counting of those who were to enter Eretz Yisroel; hence the words "b'mispar sheimos" does not appear there (Bmidbar 26:2). (Sforno)

5) Since the bnei Yisroel who left Egypt had the attribute that they did not change their names to Egyptian names, even though they were the third generation that was born there, counting by name is stressed here. (Baal Haturim)

6) "B'mispar" should not be translated as "with a count," but rather coming from the word form "l'sa'peir," meaning "with relating." Each person told his name to the census takers. (Haksav V'hakaboloh)

7) Each person wrote his name into a census book, "b'sefer," and the names were tallied. (Malbim)

Ch. 1, v. 2: "L'gul'g'losom" - To their heads - Rashi says that they were not physically counted, but rather by the half-shekels that they gave. The Abarbenel quotes a medrash that says that they were physically counted. By Divine edict Moshe and Aharon were commanded to count in this manner this time.

Ch. 1, v. 3: "Kol yotzei tzovo" - All who go out to army duty - This is the translation according to Rashi and the first offering of the Ramban. Alternatively, the Ramban offers that "tzovo" means assemblage. If we say that it means for army duty, "yotzei" is understood, as people "go out" to war against their opponent. If it means assemblage, why is the word "yotzei" used? We find the term "yotzei" when people assemble, "kol yotzei shaar iro" (Breishis 34:24).

Ch. 1, v. 3: "B'Yisroel" - In Yisroel - This excludes the "eirev rav," the mixed multitudes, who were not included in the count. (Ibn Ezra)

Ch. 1, v. 3: "Tif'k'du osom" - You shall count them - Since the previous verse said "b'mispar" should not our verse have likewise carried through with "tis'p'ru osom"? According to numerous commentaries brought in the first offering on verse 2 that the bnei Yisroel were not directly counted, but rather through a medium, "tif'k'du" is used to denote that their count is to be derived through "observing" the medium and coming to a census count. Alternatively, according to the Ramban on 1:45 that the bnei Yisroel appeared in front of Moshe and Aharon so that they should see the bnei Yisroel in a positive manner and pray to Hashem to have mercy upon them, and multiply them, "tif'k'du" is easily understood as remembering them, overseeing them, and caring for their welfare, as in "vaShem pokad es Soroh" (Breishis 21:1).

Ch. 1, v. 3: "L'tzivosom" - Had the bnei Yisroel not sinned in the desert, they would have shortly afterwards arrived in Eretz Yisroel and begun their conquest of the land. This is why they were to be counted to their army groups, "l'tzivosom." (Malbim)

Ch. 1, v. 3: "Atoh v'Aharon" - You and Aharon -Aharon was not involved in the census taking in parshas Ki Siso (Shmos 30:11) because the counting there was to tally those who survived the punishment for the sin of the golden calf, in whose creation Aharon was heavily involved. (Medrash Tanchuma Ki Siso #9 and Baal Haturim on our verse)

Ch. 1, v. 5: "LiReuvein Elitzur ben Shdei'ur" - For the tribe of Reuvein the tribal head is Elitzur the son of Sh'dei'ur - The names of each of the tribal heads allude to the nature and/or history of each tribe. This is explained in detail in the Paa'nei'ach Rozo.

Ch. 1, v. 18: "V'eis KOL ho'eidoh" - And ALL the assemblage - This is to be understood as "and all the REST OF the assemblage," besides the leaders who were mentioned in the previous verse. (Rabbeinu Saadyoh Gaon)

Ch. 1, v. 23: "L'ma'teh Shimon tishoh vachamishim elef u'shlosh mei'os" - For the tribe of Shimon the count was 59,300 - The letter which has the numerical value of 300 is Shin, of 9 is Tes, and of 50 is Nun. These three letters form the word "SoToN," Satan. This alludes to the fact that later the population of the tribe of Shimon would be greatly diminished, as Satan publicized their guilt when they would sin with the daughters of Midyon. (Rabbeinu Yoel and Rabbeinu Bachyei)

Ch. 1, v. 25: "L'ma'tei Gad chamishoh v'arbo'im elef v'sheish mei'os vachamishim" - To the tribe of Gad the count was 45,650 - Every other tribe had a count that was divisible by 100, while the tribe of Gad had the least rounded off number, ending with 50. Some commentators say that the count of each tribe as recorded in our verses was exactly as stated, while others say that they were rounded off to the closest 50 or 100.

Ch. 1, v. 27: "Yehudoh arbo'oh v'shivim elef" - The count for the tribe of Yehudoh was 74,000 - The letters Ayin and Dalet have the numerical value of 74. Ayin stands for "orchim," and Dalet stands for "dayonim." This alludes to the fact that the judges and court personnel came from the tribe of Yehudoh, as per the gemara Sanhedrin 5a. (Rabbeinu Yoel)

Ch. 1, v. 42: "Bnei Naftoli" - The sons of Naftoli - This is the only tribe where there is no prefix of the letter Lamed. The Baal Haturim (Medrash Hagodol) explains that the missing letter Lamed indicates that they had more daughters than sons. This is indicated in the blessing that Naftoli received, "Naftoli Ayoloh Shluchoh Hano'sein" (Breishis 49:21). The first letters of 'Ayoloh Shluchoh Hano'sein" spell "ishoh." A proof that "bnei" without the prefix letter Lamed indicates a majority of females can be brought from the counting in parshas Pinchos, which took place after many males were killed because of their involvement with the daughters of Midyon. In that counting the word "bnei" is always used. The Baal Haturim does not explain why a missing letter Lamed is indicative of more females.

The Medrash Lekach Tov and the P'sikta Zutra both say the opposite, that the lack of the letter Lamed by Naftoli indicates that they only had males. Alternatively, Rashi on Shmos 30:17 writes that there was no diminishing of the number of the bnei Yisroel from the time of the count that took place after Yom Kippur until this count that took place 7 months later. If so, once all the other tribes were counted, the count of the final tribe was known without actually counting them. Thus for each earlier tribe the count was "TO that tribe." The count of the final tribe of Naftoli was known by deduction, even without counting, hence "The sons of the tribe of Naftoli were .." (Ponim Yofos in the name of his father)

Another explanation: The bnei Yisroel wrote their names and from which tribe they were on notes. These were all placed in one large container. The heads of the tribes came and removed the notes, each collecting the notes of his tribal members in his own container. Once every other tribal head removed the notes of the members of his tribe, the notes of the tribe of Naftoli were left in the large container for its tribal head to remove. There was no need for sorting, so there is no need for the letter Lamed, which indicates that it belongs specifically to his tribe, as this was done automatically. (Ari z"l brought in the Haa'meik Dovor) This seems to be an extension of the opinion of the Ralba"g mentioned in the first offering, #3.

Ch. 1, v. 51: "Yo*K*imu oso haLviim" - The Levites should assemble it - The Sefer Tagin, a book devoted to telling us the unusual addition of crowns, called "tagin," placed on letters says that the letter Kuf in the word "yo*K*imu" has 3 crowns. This alludes to the fact that although the Lviim attempted to set the Mishkon upright, they were unable to do so, and it was only done by Heavenly intervention, as the Shmos M.R. 52:4 derives from "hukom haMishkon" (Shmos 40:17), "hukom mei'eilov." The crowns above the letters indicate that a Power from above assembled the Mishkon. (Rabbeinu Yoel)

Ch. 3, v. 15: "Mi'ben chodesh vomaloh tif'k'deim" - From the age of a month and over you should count them - Here we do not find the word "l'gul'g'losom," a head count, as we find by the counting of all other tribes (1:2). The Chasam Sofer explains that there is the possibility of a child being born with 2 heads, as is mentioned in the gemara M'nochos 37a-b. By the rest of the bnei Yisroel where only those above the age of twenty years were to be counted, a two-headed person would have already died, so "l'gul'g'losom," a "head count," would be accurate. However, by the tribe of Levi, which was counted from the age of a month and older, a two-headed child could still be alive, so the Torah does not say to do a "head count." Rabbi Shlomo haKohein of Vilna disagrees with the Chasam Sofer, citing a number of reasons. One is that he shows from the medrash that no children were born with fatal flaws in the desert. He explains that the reason the Torah does not mention a head count is because by the rest of the tribes, only men from the age of 20 and older were counted, and they came in front of Moshe and Aharon to be counted, hence a head count, i.e. they were counted singly. However, the tribe of Levi was counted from the age of one month and up. This obviously included babies. Moshe asked Hashem how to count babies, as he said that it would be inappropriate to enter the tents of nursing mothers to count. Hashem responded that he should stand in front of the tents of those who had babies and a Celestial voice emanated, telling him the total number of males above the age of one month in that family (see Rashi on 3:16 d.h. "Al pi Hashem"). Hence he did not count the Lviim singly, and the term "l'gul'g'losom" is not mentioned.



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel