Thursday, May 17, 2018

Bamidbar “in the desert" Bamidbar (Numbers) 1:1-4:20

Bamidbar “in the desert"

Bamidbar (Numbers) 1:1-4:20

This weeks Parashah comes the day before Shavuot (weeks or Pentecost), which is the day in which HaShem gave the Torah to Moshe on Mount Sinai, also the day according to Acts 2:1-4 when the Holy Spirit manifested mightily amongst Yeshua’s disciples. According to the sages, the festival of Shavuot marks the culmination of the experience of redemption, sometimes called Atzeret Pesach, or the ‘conclusion’ of Passover. Since the Exodus from Egypt was intended to lead to the revelation given at Sinai, the goal of Passover was the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people.

The Book of Numbers begins precisely where the Book of Exodus left off, with HaSham’s glory hovering over the Mishkan as Yishrael camped at Sinai. On the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt – exactly thirty days after the Mishkan was first consecrated – HaShem commanded Moshe to take a census of all Yishrael males over 20 years of age who would bear arms. Moshe and the heads of each tribe recorded the results, with 603,550 men in all. This number did not include the Levites, however, since they were designated to take care of the Mishkan and its furnishings during the journeys.

HaShem then gave instructions about how Yishrael’s camp was to be arranged. The Mishkan would occupy the central location, with three clans of the Levites surrounding it on the north, south, and west (Moses and Aaron’s tents were placed before the entrance on the east). The twelve other tribes were divided into four groups of three, each of which had its own flag and tribal leader’s tent. All of the tents of Yishrael were to face the Mishkan on every side. This camp formation was to be strictly maintained while traveling throughout the desert.

A general census of the Levites was then performed. Originally all firstborn sons of Yishrael were to serve as their family’s priest, but because of the sin of the Golden Calf, this privilege was revoked, and the Levites (who did not participate in that sin) were chosen instead. HaShem instructed Moshe to count all male Levites over the age of one month, with a result of 22,000. He then counted all the firstborn sons of Yishrael and discovered there were 22,273. Since there were 273 more firstborn in Yishrael than male Levites to represent them, those who lacked a corresponding Levite (as determined by lot) had to pay a five-shekel “ransom” to redeem themselves.

Within the tribe of Levi three separate family clans were counted, based on the lineage of Levi’s three sons, Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. Each of these clans was assigned special duties to help Aaron and his sons do the work of the Mishkan. The clan of Gershon was responsible for the woven materials of the Mishkan, the clan of Merari handled the wooden framework as well as the courtyard and its sockets, and the clan of Kohath was responsible for carrying the sacred furnishings themselves. Note that Aaron and his two sons (i.e., Eleazar and Ithamar) were part of the Kohathite clan, though they alone were separated for special service. The Kohathites were warned not to directly touch any of the sacred objects, however, and only Aaron and his sons were permitted to insert the carrying poles and cover the objects before they could be moved.


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