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G-d instructed Moses to take a census of the Jewish people in the desert. In all, G-d told Moses to count the Jews three times in a forty-year period. Rashi, the famed eleventh century biblical commentator, explained that G-d counts the Jews because He loves them.[1]
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Home » B'Midbar Parshah, Featured

B’midbar: Food for Thought for Your Dinner Table

Submitted by on May 25, 2008 – 3:19 amNo Comment | 853 views

 Sunday: Exalted Names

In the first census of the Jewish nation each family was identified by name, “By the count of their names.” In the second census the tribes were identified, but the families were not. The first census occurred shortly after the Exodus and the generation that left Egypt was endowed with exalted souls. They were given names that reflected the exalted nature of their souls. The following generation was not as righteous as their forbears and their names obscured rather than revealed the nature of their souls. They were not identified by name because their names did not reflect their true nature. Reb Ovadiah Seforno

Monday: Miraculous Strength

“Every male from the age of twenty and further, all who go out to war.” Rather than implying that only able bodied men were counted, this verse assures us that every Jewish male of that generation was not only able bodied, but also a powerful warrior. This extraordinary strength was one of the many miracles experienced by the generation that was redeemed from Egypt. Ohr Hachayim

Tuesday: In the Center

In their journey across the desert our ancestors were arrayed in orderly format. The Tabernacle and Holy Ark in the center were surrounded by the tribe of Levi. The Levitic tribe was in turn surrounded by twelve tribes; three to the north, three to the south, three to the east and three to the west. In effect, the tribes were arrayed so that each would be equidistant to the Ark and the Torah contained therein. This demonstrates that Torah is the common heritage of every Jew; regardless of scholarship, observance or background we all share it in equal measure.

The Torah is the heart of the nation. Just as the heart is positioned at the center from where it is able to distribute blood to the entire body so is the Torah positioned in a manner that enables it to influence the entire nation. Accordingly, the Bimah (Torah reading table) is placed in the center of the Synagogue, rather than at the front or back. Chafetz Chayim

Wednesday: The World to Come

The Torah describes Aaron’s children as the sons of their uncle Moses. Our sages explained that Moses was given parental status when he taught his nephews Torah. From here we learn that our Torah teachers are our spiritual parents. Parents usher their children into the world. Physical parents usher their children into this world, spiritual parents usher their children into the world to come. It follows that parents who teach their children Torah receive both titles. They usher their children into both worlds and are thus physical and spiritual parents.

This explains why immediately after ascribing parental status to Moses the Torah presents Aaron as the father of his sons. Moses taught them Torah, but Aaron was their spiritual mentor. It was from Aaron that the sons inherited the privilege of the priesthood. Though Moses was entitled to parental status for the Torah he taught them, Aaron too was entitled to parental status. Not only for ushering them into this world, but also for mentoring them in the ways of the spirit and thus helping to usher them into the world to come. He was their father both in physical as well as spiritual terms. Tiferes Yonason

Thursday: Education Never Ends

The tribe of Levi was counted twice. First the children age thirty days and older were counted then adults age thirty years and older were counted. The adults were counted because they were eligible to work in the Temple, but why were the infants counted?

The infants were counted to teach us that education begins at the earliest opportunity. At thirty days a child can neither talk nor understand, but they are already influenced by sight, smell and sound. Even at this young age, parents should ensure the purity and holiness of the baby’s environment and provide them with sights and sounds that will reinforce the message they hope to impart when the baby matures. Just the same, the Torah was not satisfied with the first census and requested a second census of the older, mature Levites. This is because education never ends. As we grow and mature we continue to change and must therefore continue the process of education. Derash Moshe

Friday: Ulterior Motive

The first born sons of an Israelite are redeemed from the priest for five silver coins. The Torah tells us that Moses conducted the ritual of redemption for all the first born males of his generation and delivered the silver coins to Aaron and his nephews, “According to the word of G-d as G-d had commanded him.” The last stitch of this verse seems redundant.

It must have given Moses at least a little satisfaction to have delivered three-hundred-and-fifty-six silver coins to his brother and nephews. Yet the Torah testifies that Moses fulfilled his duty purely for the sake of fulfilling G-d’s commandment and allowed himself no ulterior motive. At times we too derive particular joy from a Mitzvah that we perform, yet this verse encourages us to retain the purity of our devotion and not inject a note of personal satisfaction into our Divine worship. Ohr Hachayim

Shabbat: Divine Love

The Torah refers to the Levitic family, Kehat, by name Hakehati, merging the Hebrew letters of G-d’s name with the letters of the family name. This is curious when we consider that Kehat is the only family accorded this distinction despite G-d’s foreknowledge of Korach, the rebel, who would emerge from this family.

This demonstrates G-d’s unconditional love for his children. This is akin to a prince who committed a crime and was imprisoned. The royal advisers counselled the king to disassociate himself from his son, but the king would not hear of it. Despite the indignity to the crown, the king appeared in court and posted bail for his son. Similarly, G-d pronounced His name upon the family of Kehat despite the sins that He knew would later emerge from this family. Rabbeinu Bachye

Edited by Rabbi Yeruchem Eilfort, Director of Chabad at La Costa.

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