The fourth Sefer of the Torah is referred to as Sefer HaPekudim-The Book of Numbers. There is clearly a lot of counting in this book. Why would Hashem need Moshe to count the people? Hashem knows the numbers? Moreover we know that Hashem does not approve of counting people either, as we find when Dovid HaMelech counted people, a plague resulted. The Gemara in (Yoma22b) quotes a verse in Hoshea (2:1) that says “Benei Yisroel should not be counted or measured.” The Gemara itself asks this question, because the verse begins “And the number of Benei Yisrael shall be as the sand of the sea, which shall not be counted or measured.” The first part implies that there is a number to be given to Bnei Yisroel, whereas the second part rules otherwise?
One answer given is that Hashem may count the people, but man may not. The question then is why? The phrase used is (1:2) “Mispar Shemos Kol Zachor L’Gilgilosom-The number of names every male according to their headcount.” This is an unusual phrase? The numerical value of the phrase Mispar Shemos-The number of names is 1128 the same as “Vhayu Mispar Beni Yisroel Kichol Hayam-The number of the Children of Israel will be as the sand on the shore.” They cannot be counted.
If Hashem was ordering a count He would have used the phrase Tisperu Osam- count them! But the posuk reads (1:3) “M’Ben Esrim Shana V’Maalah...Tifkedu-From the age of twenty you shall count them.” which is a different word for counting. The word Pekidah means to consider, take note of something as in “Hashem Pokad es Sarah-Hashem took note of Sarah’s barrenness.” Thus the “Book of Numbers” is really the “Book of Considerations”! The counting of Pekidah serves to stress the value of the individual. Hashem, in considering each Jew is lifting each of them up. Now we can understand the Gemara, which says that it is only acceptable for Hashem to count the people, and not for man to do so. For it is only Hashem who is able to recognize the true value of every Jew. It is only He who gives everyone the correct consideration. The word L’Gilgilosom-Headcount has a numerical value of 536 the same as the word L’Alos-to lift up.
(1:1) “Vayidabaer Hashem el Moshe Bamidbar Sinai…B’echod L’chodesh Hasheni B’Shaneh Hashenis L’tzeisum M’eretz Mitzrayim- Hashem spoke to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai…On the first of the second month, in the second year after their exodus from the land of Egypt.” So begins the fourth Sefer of the Torah. What would logically be the verse that precedes this verse? If we look at the end of Sefer Shemos we find an event that took place just prior to this one. (Shemos 40:34) “Vayichas H’onan es-Ohel Moed u’Kovod Hashem Molei es H’mishkon-The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of Hashem filled the Tabernacle.” This took place one month before the beginning of Sefer Bamidbar. The entire book of Vayikra could have been written after Bamidbar and we would not have noticed a difference.
The Ramban writes that the book of Shemos is the book of redemption. But the redemption is not complete until the presence of Hashem is returned to this world. The closeness to Hashem that man lost after the original sin needed to be restored. Once that had been accomplished the Sefer Vayikra serves as an instruction manual of how to maintain that closeness.
Sefer Bamidbar begins with a count of the people plus the directives of how they were to travel in formation through the dessert. The first ten chapters of Bamidbar all deal with the preparations of what should have come next, the marching into Eretz Yisroel. This is why Sefer Vayikra ends with the laws of Shemita plus the Tochacha. They were preparing to enter into the land. Up until the tenth chapter in Bamidbar everything was falling into place.
Chapter eleven is when things begins to fall apart. The people begin complaining for no valid reason. They want meat, they seek Taiva (desires) they are not content with the heavenly Munn. To the point that Moshe becomes so distraught that he tells Hashem (Bamidbar 11:15) “V’Im Kocha At-Oseh Li Horgaini Nah-And if this is how you deal with me-Kill me now!”
What was to have been the climactic ending turned into a series of missed opportunities and wrong turns. Instead of marching into the Promised Land the people were destined to wander for 40 years until every member of that generation died out. The question however is that if the Torah was given at Har Sinai in its entirety how can we say that the people changed course? How could the Torah intend them to march straight through when the outcome was already known? The answer is that the Torah like man has a body and a soul, a physical and spiritual side. On Har Sinai what Moshe received was the soul of the Torah the exact way the lessons were to be given over was not written down until the last day of Moshe’s life. Much of Torah is learned from the narration of the events that transpired. But if those events did not occur the lesson would have been taught in a different manner. If the sin of the Golden Calf did not happen we still would have had a Yom Kippur but from another source. Would Moshe have hit the rock if he already knew what was written in the Torah?
Through all of this the will of Hashem ultimately is done. We can either take the direct route to the Promised Land or the longer detour through the various exiles Israel has endured. This is the price of Bechira, having free choice.
(1:1) “Vayidabaer Hashem el Moshe Bamidbar Sinai-Hashem spoke to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai.” The word Bamidbar has the same letters as the word Midabaer - to speak. This could be the reason why this parsha is always read before Shevous. Because the Chasam Sofer writes that Shevous is to Pesach what Shemini Atzeres is to Succos. Pesach was the freeing of speech and Shevous is the establishment of speech. We learn it from the first posuk in chapter 3. It says “these are the offspring of Aharon and Moshe.” But only Aharon’s children are mentioned. Rashi writes that we see from here that someone who teaches others is as if he bore them. The power of speech is the tool with which Hashem created the world. It’s what separates man from the animals. By using speech a person can affect the course of another person’s life. What he hears can cause a profound effect forever. It can influence the way a person acts in the future and can cause a ripple effect to others as well. The extension of this is the idea behind the mourner’s kadesh, which is said in memory of a deceased person. Even after a person has passed on to the next world, his child’s merits can continue to earn him reward in the World to come, even though his own earning power has ceased. This week’s parsha hints at how powerful sharing Torah can be.
(1:2) “Kol Zachor L’Gilgolosom- Every male according to their head count.” The word “L’Gilgolosom” has the same root as the word Gilgul which means a reincarnation of a soul. Moshe was able to look at every single male member of the nation, and determine how many reincarnations that soul would need to correct the failures of a previous life in order to attain perfection. He blessed each of them accordingly. The Gematria of the word “L’Gilgolosom” equals 536 the same as the words L’Mechilas Chet-the pardoning of sin.
(1:3) “M’ben Esrim Shana V’maloh Kol Yotze Tzvah-From twenty years and up all who are able to go to war.” This phrase is repeated in the counting of each tribe. Would it not have been enough to mention it once? The Ksav V’kabalah asks this question and explains that this was a testimony to the purity of Klal Yisroel. Only those who are pure of heart, free of sin were permitted to go to war. This is why that phrase is repeated by each tribe, to attest to the purity of all of them.
(1:4) “V’Itchem Yiyu IshIsh L’mateh-And with you will be one man from each tribe.” The Minchas Ani interprets the verse homiletically. A man who considers himself “L’mateh” on the “Bottom” below others, who does not draw attention to himself, is truly a leader, a Rosh among men.
(1:18) “ Vayisyaldu al-Mishpechosom-And they established their genealogy.”They brought their birth certificates as the Egyptians kept meticulous records. We have a tendency to discount where we came from. Our generation tries to be independent, to break away from the past. We don’t become as great as we can because we don’t realize who we come from. The concept is not that I don’t need to work on myself because of where I come from, the concept is that because of my Yichus I have much to live up to. This is why the Pobove Rebbe would explain the words Vayisyaldu al-Mishpechosom as they gave birth to themselves based on their ancestry.
(1:22). “L’Benei Shimeon- Pekudav B’mispar Shemos-To the sons of Shimon ... their counted ones to the numbers of names” The word "their counted ones" ('pekudav') does not appear by any of the other tribes. Why does the Torah then use it specifically with regard to Shimon, asks the Birkas Avraham? Perhaps, he suggests, it is because the tribe was destined to be decimated in the fortieth year, after the episode with Zimri ben Salu. The Torah is therefore hinting here that although this was the number of souls that there were now (rendering Shimon one of the largest tribes), this would change drastically later (to render them one of the smallest tribes). We might add that the word "Pekudav" has connotations of missing (or being reduced), and that the Torah is therefore hinting that their numbers would later be reduced ( Ba'al ha'Turim Bereishis 50:24).
(1:30) “Lemate Zevulon” All of the tribes counted are accompanied by the prefix “vav” (umateh Naftali). Why is it omitted in the case of Mateh Zevulon? Zevulon engaged in commerce supporting the Shevet Yissascher. The Torah writes Zevulon without this prefix to show that shevet Zevulon is in no way inferior or secondary to Yessascher. He stands alone. This teaches us that he who supports Torah is just as great as he who studies himself.
Due to Zevulon's great merit why weren't they worthy to have an easier occupation than to be sailors and require them to venture so far from home?
The Gemara in Keddushin (82.) says that sailors, because of their perilous work are continually reminded that their lives are totally in Hashem's hands and they pray constantly to keep safe. As a result sailors have a strong appreciation of the value of Torah. This is one reason why Zevulon supported Yessascher. So Zevulon's difficult livelihood added to the great schar they had in supporting the Torah of Yissascher.
(1:44) “Vayihu Kol Hapikudin Shesh Meyous Eleph...All the countings totaled Six Hundred and three thousand, five hundred fifty.” We know that the acronym of the word Yisroel stands for Yesh Shishim Ribuy Osious L'Torah-There are six hundred thousand letters in the Torah. There were six hundred thousand core neshamos at the time of the birth of the nation. Therefore each Jew has a corresponding letter in the Torah. But this count did not include Shevet Levi? How can the most honored tribe be excluded from having a portion of the Torah? Rabbi Zev Leff suggests the following. A Sefer Torah must be written with specific guidelines. Every column, every space, every line is calculated. There are on average 27 letters per line in a Sefer Torah. If you calculate the number of souls 603,550 by the average amount of letters per line, you arrive at the number for the Tribe of Levi. 22,273. This means that Shevet Levi's role is to keep Yisroel in line. This could also be the explanation of the words that refer to the tribe of Levi (1:49) “B'toch Benei Yisroel-In the midst of Benei Yisroel.”
Ramban (3:39) The Leviim numbered only 22,000. Why was shevet Levi smaller in numbers than the other Shfatim? The Sefer Sharei Ahron contains eight answers to this question. Here are two of them.
The Ramaban writes - When the Klal Yisroel was in Mitzraim, Shevet Levi didn't have to do hard labor like the rest of the Jews. In Shemos it says “The more they afflicted them the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad.” Hashem caused all the other Shvatim who were working to increase and multiply in a supernatural manner. Since the Leviim were not so afflicted they multiplied only by natural means. On the other hand Shevet Yehudah was the most populous of the Shevatim. This could perhaps be attributed to the fact that they suffered the most in Mitzraim. The Shevet Yehudah was the tribe of Malchus. So for them to experience slavery was of greater suffering than the other Shevatim, with the exception of Yosef, which was also a tribe of Malchus. When the sum of the tribes Efraim and Menashe are totaled we find they are the second most populaces.
The Kli Yakar answers that following the Gadol Hador who was Amram, Shevet Levi separated themselves from their wives for an extended period of time. This resulted in the that tribe having the least amount of descendants.
(1:49) “Ach es-Mateh Levi Lo Tifkod-But the shevet Levi do not count.” Rashi says that since Hashem knew that all those who were included in the counting would die in the Midbar, he did not want Shevet Levi to be included, because they did not sin by the Chet HaEigel. This seems rather strange because we know that the reason the Torah gives is due to the Chet Hameraglim? The Divrei Dovid explains that really Shevet Levi should have been included in the decree of the spies for when the destroyer is let loose it does not discriminate. The decree was for the entire generation of the Midbar. However the merit of not partaking in the sin of the Golden Calf saved them from this decree.
The Shem Meshmuel writes that there are two parts to every Mitzvah, that which is revealed, the actual act of a Mitzvah, and that which is hidden, the intent of the heart. The revealed aspect relates to the revealed world (Olam Hazeh). The hidden aspect relates to the hidden world (Olam Habo). Just as in man there is the hidden part, the Neshama, and the revealed part, the Guf. So a Mitzvah performed physically without intent is like a body without a soul. The same is true in reverse. A soul without a body cannot perform any Mitzvos. We use the physical world to amend the spiritual spheres. The way we are able to accomplish this is through acting as Hashem’s agent. The Gemarrah says Sheluchei Adam Kimoso. The agent of a person is equated to the person himself. Therefore if we are Hashem’s agents we can affect the spiritual realms by fulfilling his commands. This can shed some light on the statement Hashem said at Matan Torah (Shemos 19:5) “V’Atoh Im Shamoa Tishm’u B’koli U’Shemartem es Brisi-If you will listen to my voice and guard my covenant.” If you will listen is the part of Mitzvos that has to do with the mind, with comprehending the Mitzvos as to the intent with which they must be performed. Guard my covenant is the part that has to do with physically performing the Mitzvos. We see that Hashem placed the Hearing before the doing. And yet when Klal Yisroel said Nasseh V’Nishma, (We will do and we will hear, placing the doing before the hearing) Hashem said “who revealed this secret to my children, this phrase that is used by the malachim?” The point is that from Hashem’s perspective Klal Yisroel comes first. That hearing and perceiving Hashem’s will on a deeper level, is what completes a man. The doing of his will is for Hashem’s sake. It affects the spiritual realms. But Klal Yisroel at that point, by Matan Torah, was on the level of the Malachim, who do Hashem’s will first then entertain the intellect.
If this is correct then we can understand the words of the Midrash that says after the Chet H’Eigel Klal Yisroel fell from this exalted level of Naaseh. They no longer look to satisfy Hashem’s will before their own. Why does the Midrash say that they only lost the Naaseh aspect of this level? Because the commentaries explain that the intent of Klal Yisroel was not to worship Idolatry. What they were seeking was a replacement for Moshe Rabeinu, whom they thought had died. The Satan had shown them a vision of Moshe being carried away on his death bed. But based upon what we said earlier regarding Mitzvos affecting the spiritual world, this is only true if Hashem commanded the Mitzvah. The act of making the Eigel, even if justified, was not an act commanded by Hashem. It was only to satisfy their need for an intermediary. With this in mind we can return to the original question. Why Rashi connects this sin with that of the Meraglim. By the Meraglim the motivation for that sin was to remain under Hashem’s care. They wished to dwell in the theory of the Torah, in the Shemiya, rather than the actual doing of the mitzvos which is what conquering Eretz Yisroel would have brought about. So it comes out that the sin of the spies was a test to see if they had overcome the mistake of the Eigel. While the sin of the Eigel caused the sin of the Meraglim.
Shevet Levi on the other hand was not involved with the Chet HaEigel. They proved their loyalty to Hashem at that time and for all times. When Moshe descended with the Luchos and saw the Eigel he proclaimed (Shemos 32:26) “Mi L’Hashem Aylie-Whoever is for Hashem come to me.” At which point the entire Shevet Levi gathered to Moshe’s side. They never wavered in their faith in Hashem. Therefore Hashem said that Shevet Levi will be mine. Their mission in this world would be the service of Hashem for they had shown themselves to be worthy. They had not fallen from the status that Klal Yisroel reached by Matan Torah which was the level of Adam before the Chet of the Eitz Hadaas, a level where the body and soul wanted the same thing. The words (3:6) “Hakrev es Mateh Levi-Bring Shevet Levi near” equals in gematria 812 (counting the words) which is the same as the word V’lasos-and to do. Their Naaseh (doing) was proven to be faithful. There was no need for them to work the land as the rest of Klal Yisroel did. This is why they were not represented in the sending of the spies. One, because they had no portion in the land, and two, because there was no need to test them after the Chet HaEigel.
(1:54) “Vayasu Benei Yisroel K’kol Asher Tziva Hashem es Moshe Kain Asu-The children of Israel did everything that Hashem comanded them, so they did.” These last words appear to be extra? Rather it comes to highlight that they immediately took their places and allowed the tribe of Levi to enter. They all wanted to be close to Hashem, but they followed his command.
(2:17) “K’asher Yachanu Kain Yisa’u-As they encamp so shall they journey.” The arrangement BeneiYisroel followed when they encamped was required also during travel. Some suggest that underlying this verse is a profound concept relevant to the observance of Shabbos, namely the impact it can have on the other six days of the week. The nature and quality of one’s “encampment” his day of rest when he pauses from the frantic pursuit of a livelihood that occupies him throughout the week, will determine the way he travels during the next six days. If a person spends his Shabbos simply indulging in food and sitting around idly, then it cannot possibly have any kind of spiritual impact upon the upcoming week. The next six days will be just like his Shabbat-mundane and without any meaning. If however one spends Shabbos as a day of spiritual growth, then this is how he will “travel” during the coming week. The rest of the week will assume a meaningful spiritual quality.
(3:4) “Vayomus Nadav V’Avihu Lifnei Hashem-Nadav and Avihu died before Hashem.” Only Hashem knew why they died. If so, the fact that they brought an alien fire was not sufficient reason for their death.
The reason is that the two young Kohanim spoke against Moshe and Aaron and said “When will these two old men die so we can take over leadership of the generation?”(Sanhedrin 52A)
In punishment Hashem killed them in a way that everyone could understand the offering of the alien fire that represents a new and unauthorized form of service. There was justice in this in that their twisted outlook was truly an “Aish Zarah” in contrast to Aish Das (fire of religion) of Moshe. The words “Vayomus Nadav V’Avihu Lifnei Hashem” equal B’Gematria 739. The same as the word L’Kitores (the incense).
(3:15-16) “Kol Zachar M’ben-Chodesh Vomaleh Tifkidaim-Every male from the age of one month and above you shall count.-Vayifkod Osom Moshe Al-Pi Hashem-And Moshe counted them according to the word of Hashem.” Rashi says that once they leave the category of a viable child, they are to be counted. Later on in the parsha when Moshe is told to count the first born he writes. “Once they have left the questionable status of a viable child.” Why are there two different terms used to describe basically the same thing? The first counting was not done by Moshe. Rashi says that Moshe said to Hashem. “How can I go into their tents to know their numbers?” This was resolved by a Bas Kol issued from each tent proclaiming how many children were in each family. This is the meaning of the words Al Pi Hashem. But by the counting of the first-born it just says, “Kasher Tzivah Hashem-As Hashem commanded.” (3:42). Since this counting was by Hashem there was no doubt as to the child’s viability. Whereas by the first born the counting was done by natural means, therefore it uses the term Sofek (doubt). If this is the reason that Rashi gives for there to be a Bas Kol, why wasn’t it necessary by the first born as well? They too were counted from one month and up? Yet there is no mention of Al Pi Hashem there?
To answer this we must look to the beginning of the parsha. (1:2) “S’ou es-Rosh Kol Adas Benei Yisroel-B’mispar Shemos-Take a census of the entire assembly of the children of Israel- by number of the names.” The term “Mispar Shemos-the number of their names.” Appears twelve more times in this section. And again in posuk 18. By the Leviim it is omitted. (3:15) But with reference to the first born (3:40) it says “Sah es Mispar Shemos-Count the number of their names.” The reasoning is that the names of all the Jews in this census was recorded so that when they reached Eretz Yisroel they would know how to apportion the land. For we find at the end of parshas Pinchas it says (26:53) “L’Ayleh Taicholek H’aretz B’nachalah B’mispar Shemos-To these shall the land be divided as an inheritance, according to the number of names.” This refers to the written names of those who were counted in our parsha forty years earlier. So the counting here was done by writing down each name. It was therefore unnecessary for Moshe to enter the tents of Klal Yisroel or the first born. But because all of those counted at this time were destined to die in the Midbar, only by having the names recorded were they able to determine how to apportion the land. And since Shevet Levi was not included in the division of the land, their names were not recorded. It therefore became necessary for a personal counting. The Leviim were brought closer to Hashem through this census, therefore the Divine Presence took part in their counting. By the first born, they were being distanced from Hashem, because they were being replaced by the Leviim. Therefore the Divine Presence did not take part in their counting.