by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS BMIDBAR 5763 BS"D
Ch. 1, v. 2: "B'mispar sheimos" - With a count of names - Besides a population count there was an accounting of each individual's name. This indicates the importance of each individual, as we find "v'eido'acho b'shem" (Shmos 33:17). However, by the count of the new generation that would enter Eretz Yisroel there is no mention of names, save the names of the tribal heads. (Sforno) Perhaps this theme can be expanded upon. One of the merits in which the bnei Yisroel merited to be redeemed was that they did not change their names, even though they were in Egypt over 200 years. Because of retaining their names they deserved to be counted by their names, and this was not the case with the next generation.
Ch. 1, v. 8,9: "L'Yisochor, Lizvulun" - To the tribe of Yisochor, To the tribe of Z'vulun - By the blessings of Yaakov (Breishis 49:13,14) and by the blessings of Moshe (Dvorim 33:18) the Torah gives precedence to Z'vulun. Rashi (Dvorim 33:18) comments that Z'vulun is mentioned first because he was the enabler of Yisochor's pursuit of Torah, supplying his physical needs. Why then in our parsha does the Torah mention Yisochor ahead of Z'vulun three times (here, 1:28, and 2:5)?
Although Z'vulun has the merit of supporting Torah study, nevertheless, his
activities are not greater than that of the bnei Yisochor, as the support is
for the end-purpose of Torah study. Our parsha deals with the names, the count,
and the location in the encampment of the tribes. These matters are dictated
by the intrinsic greatness of the tribes, hence Yisochor is mentioned earlier.
By the blessings it is proper to mention Z'vulun first because it is only
through the success of Z'vulun in his sea-faring endeavours that Yisochor is able
to be supported.
Ch. 1, v. 20: "Vnei Reuvein ... b'mispar sheimos" - The children of Reuvein ... with a count of names - The word "sheimos" here, by the tribe of Reuvein, as well as by Shimon (1:21), Gad (1:24), and Menasheh (1:34) is spelled complete with a letter Vov, while by all the other tribes it is spelled lacking a Vov. This can be explained as follows: The gemara Brochos 8a says that the blessing of long life mentioned in Dvorim 11:21, "l'maan yirbu y'meichem," applies only in Eretz Yisroel, "al ho'adomoh." As well, the gemara N'dorim 22a says that other blessings that the Torah offers the bnei Yisroel apply only in Eretz Yisroel. Therefore the Torah writes the word "sheimos" in full to expand their blessing capacity, in particular by the population count, to infuse a blessing of increased population.
Although the tribe of Shimon had its inheritance in Eretz Yisroel, its number was greatly diminished through the retribution for the sin of p'ore. Another reason for their need of this blessing is because some of their people resided in the Trans-Jordan, as per the words "vaa'fitzeim b'Yisroel" (Breishis 49:7). They were teachers for all the tribes, necessitating some of them to be in the Trans-Jordan to teach the tribes that resided there. (Taamo Dikro)
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. According to this opinion it is quite unusual to only have the tribe of Gad being rounded off to the closest 50, as any total ending with a count of 26 to 74 would be rounded off to 50.
We can posit that the numbers were rounded off to the closest 100, thus no tribe was recorded as having --,-50 people. Gad was the exception because they had exactly 45,650 people, so their number was not rounded off. (Taamo Dikro) I don't fully fathom this, as there is no dead-centre number from 1 to 100. Fifty is closer to zero than to 100, and 51 is closer to 100 than to zero, so rounding off to the closest 100 is still in place.
Ch. 1, v. 47: "V'haLviim .. lo hospokdu" - And the Levites were not counted - Although a new parsha begins with the following verse, we may assume that verses 48 and 49 are in chronological order after our verse as per the gemara P'sochim 6b. The gemara states that not all matters stated in the Torah appear in chronological order. Nevertheless, when verses discuss one subject, "chad inyona," then they appear in chronological order.
If so, why indeed didn't Moshe and Aharon have the Levites counted, as there was not yet a command to leave them out of the counting, as this was only mentioned in the following verse?
The M.R. 1:9 says that Hashem did not originally tell Moshe to specifically include the tribe of Levi in the count. When Hashem told Moshe to appoint tribal heads, he was told to not appoint one for the tribe of Levi. Moshe therefore presumed that a tribe without a leader is not to be counted. This is why he did not have them counted, as related in our verse. However, Moshe was not sure that he was correct in his thinking. Hashem then clearly informed him that it was indeed His will that they not be counted (verse 49). Our question is obviously alleviated by the words of this medrash.
Rabbi M.D. haLevi Brisker says that from the words of this medrash we clearly see that neither Moshe nor Aharon had the status of tribal head for the Levites.
Ch. 1, v. 50: "Heimoh yisu es haMishkon v'es kol keilov v'heim y'shorsuhu v'soviv laMishkon yachanu" - They shall carry the Mishkon and its vessels and they shall do its service and surrounding the Mishkon they shall reside - It seems that the last piece of information in this verse, that the Levites shall reside around the Mishkon, is repeated in verse 53, "V'haLviim yachanu soviv l'Mishkan ho'eidus."
We can answer that our verse tells us that the Levites should be located around the Mishkon to do the service of guarding it. This is indicated by the words "v'soviv laMishkon yachanu" appearing right after the mention of carrying the Mishkon building components and the vessels. Just as carrying these items is one of their services, so is the guarding of the Mishkon.
Verse 53 tells us where they should reside, just as all other tribes that had specific locations within the camp for their residence. This is indicated by the previous verse ending with "ish al macha'neihu v'ish al diglo." (Gri"z haLevi Brisker)
Perhaps this also answers why in verse 50 we have "v'soviv laMishkon" before "yachanu," while in verse 53 we have "yachanu" before "soviv l'Mishkan." Since the mention of their position in verse 50 is for the purpose of guarding the Mishkon, the Mishkon is mentioned first. In verse 53, where the topic is where they should reside, the word "yachanu" is mentioned first.
I have some difficulty in understanding the words of the Gri"z. Verse 53 clearly states that the Levites should reside around the Mishkon so that they should guard it (against entry by inappropriate people - Rashi). The Gri"z says that this is the point of verse 50, so why is it mentioned here where the thrust of the verse is the location of their residence? It should have been mentioned in verse 50 instead.
Ch. 2, v. 3: "Keidmoh mizrochoh" - To the east - Rashi says that eastward is called facing forward, while west is called "ochor," - to the back. Rashi says the same earlier in Shmos 27:13 d.h. "lif'as." Why is it necessary to repeat this here?
Ch. 2, v. 3: "Keidmoh mizrochoh" - To the east - Rashi deals with the double expression of east, saying that facing "keidmoh," forward, means facing eastward (as per the explanation of Rabbi Eliyohu Mizrochi). However, Taamo Dikro explains this double expression differently. Verse 9 tells us that the tribe of Yehudoh lead the camp when traveling, "rishonoh yiso'u" (verse 9). Tosfos on the gemara Arochin 15a d.h. "k'sheim" says that when the camp traveled in a northward direction, for example, the position of the whole encampment changed (even according to the opinion that they retained the same relative position one tribe to another, "k'teivoh"). Yehudoh had to lead so its tribe was northernmost and all others orientated themselves accordingly. This is why our verse says "keidmoh mizrochoh." When was Yehudoh in the eastern position while traveling? This was only when the camp itself was going eastward. I don't fully grasp this answer, as the verse begins with the word "v'hachonim," indicating that we are discussing their position while at rest.
Ch. 2, v. 18: "Degel macha'neh Efrayim l'tzivosom yomoh" - The banner of the camp of Efrayim to their to their legions westward - This is the only one of the four group heads where it mentions their position after saying "to their legions" (see verse 3,10, and 25). Perhaps we can explain this with an insight offered on parshas Trumoh 5763.
<< Ch. 26, v. 18: "Negboh teimonoh" - To the south - Sometimes the word used for "south" is "dorome," as in "Holeich el dorome " (Koheles 1:6). The word "dorome" is really a composite of "dor rom," with the letter Reish serving a double duty, as the end of the first word and as the beginning of the second. This means that the sun "resides up high" on this side. The east is called "mizrach," because that is the location of the first shining (rays) of the sun when the day begins. A person naturally turns to that direction first at the beginning of the day, hence the word "kedem" also being used for "east." Once facing that way and having the sun advance somewhat in the sky, it is to one's southeast. Because of the southern factor in the sun's position while the observer is facing east, we have the word "teimon," as the sun is to his right side, "y'min." Sometimes "ochor" is used for "west" (T'hilim 139:5) because when one is facing east, the first direction one turns to see light at the beginning of the day, the west is behind him. "Maarov" is also used for "west" because when the sun is in the west it is beginning its descent towards evening, "erev." The north is called "tzofone" because the sun is never in the north, hence it is "hidden" from that direction. (Ramban)>>
Although the choice of the word "yomoh" for "west" rather than another word is not being explained, once the word "yomoh" is used, perhaps we can say that the words used for the other 3 directions mentioned are based on celestial matters, the position is mentioned earlier. Since "yomoh" is used for "west" simply because the "yam hatichon," the Mediterranean Sea, is the western border of Eretz Yisroel, a position that is based on an earthly matter is mentioned later. (Nirreh li)
Ch. 3, v. 49: "Va'yikach Moshe es kesef hapidyome" - And Moshe took the money of redemption - Commentators note that it is with Divine guidance that the Shulchan Oruch was written. It is not happenstance that brought to the laws of shofar being in O.Ch. # 586, the numerical value of shofar. Likewise, we find that the laws of redemption of a firstborn are in Y.D. #305, the numerical value of "kesef hapidyome." (Rabbi Yitzchok Weiss - Verbauer Rov in Siach Yitzchok)
Ch. 4, v. 9: "M'noras hamo'ore" - Candelabrum of illumination - Why does the Torah describe the menorah in relation to its function? We find this nowhere else. The Rashb"o in his responsa #309 and the Ramban on the gemara 22b write that although there is no mitzvoh to have the menorah burning by day, nevertheless, it is prohibited to extinguish the flames even by day. They source this ruling from a Sifri.
We are discussing packaging the Mishkon vessels for travel. This is why our verse stresses that the menorah serves the purpose of illumination. Even though it is being wrapped for travel, it still must be allowed to continue burning, "lamo'ore." (Taamo Dikro)
A GUTTEN SHABBOS KODESH. FEEL FREE TO DISTRIBUTE BY COPY OR ELECTRONICALLY.
FEEDBACK IS APPRECIATED. TO SUBSCRIBE, KINDLY SEND REQUEST TO: SHOLOM613@AOL.COM
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 email@example.com