INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholars’ Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, and Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin.
וידבר ה’ אל משה במדבר סיני באהל מועד באחד לחדש השני בשנה השנית…שאו את ראש
“Hashem spoke to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai, in the Ohel Moed, on the first day of the second month in the second year…Take a census…” (1:1-2)
At the beginning of the second year following the exodus from Egypt, Hashem instructed Moshe to count the Jews. What was the purpose of the census? They had already been counted as recently as seven months earlier. Rashi suggests that because the Jews were dear to Him, Hashem would count them upon unique occasions. Since Hashem intended for His Divine Presence to manifest itself, He counted them first.
Rashi, previously (Vayikra 9:23), explains that the Divine Presence appeared on the first day of Nissan, the day the Mishkan was erected. Why did Hashem wait one month before counting the Jews, and not count them the day the Divine Presence appeared?
The Gemara (Bava Basra 8a) states that one is not legally considered a resident of a city until he has dwelled there for at least thirty days. This concept can be applied here. Until one month had elapsed, the appearance of Hashem’s Presence there was not considered permanent and it had not been considered a special occasion to warrant counting the Jews. It was only after Hashem’s Presence had resided in the Mishkan for thirty days that Moshe was told to count the Jews. (Biurei Maharia)
ואת כל העדה הקהילו באחד לחדש השני ויתילדו על משפחתם לבית אבתם
“They gathered together the entire assembly on the first day of the second month, and they established their genealogy according to their families, according to their father’s household.” (1:18)
The verse is letting us know the secret to the continuity of Klal Yisrael. Although Bnei Yisrael had become a great nation, they kept strong family ties to the generations before them. They saw themselves as links in an illustrious chain. They tried, on their own level, to emulate the deeds of their forefathers. By following in the footsteps of the previous generations, they perpetuate their legacy of greatness until their ultimate geulah. (Sfas Emes)
איש על דגלו לבית אבתם יחנו בני ישראל מנגד סביב לאהל מועד יחנו
“The Jewish people shall encamp, each man by his banner according to the insignias of their father’s household, at a distance surrounding the Ohel Moed, shall they encamp.” (2:2)
Chazal tell us that on the flags of the degalim were the letters of the names of the Avos Hakedoshim. On Yehudah’s flag there was aleph, yud, yud; aleph is the first letter of Avraham and the yuds are the first letters of Yitzchak’s and Yaakov’s names. Reuven’s flag had the letters bet, tzadi, and ayin, which are the second letters of the names of the Avos. What did this signify? There is a total of thirteen letters in the names of the Avos, which is the gematria of the word echad. The message is clear that the Avos represent achdut. While each shevet had its own flag, it was imperative for everyone in Klal Yisrael to remember that they are each part of one whole. (Aderet Eliyahu)
כן חנו לדגליהם וכן נסעו איש למשפחתיו על בית אבתיו
“So they encamped according to their banners and so they journeyed: every man according to his families by his father’s household.” (2:34)
QUESTION: What was the common denominator in the four banners?
ANSWER: Each group of three tribes had its own banner. In each group, the nasi of the middle tribe had a name which included Hashem’s name “Keil”. Yehudah’s banner on the east side included Yissachar in the middle, whose nasi was נתנא-ל. Reuven’s banner traveled on the south side with the tribe of Shimon in the middle, whose nasi wasשלמיא-ל. Ephraim’s banner was on the west side with the tribe of Menashe in the middle, whose nasi was גמליא-ל, and Dan was on the north with פגיא-ל, the nasi of Asher in the middle. This indicates that Hashem rested in the midst of the Jewish community, as stated, “Their camps among which I dwell” (5:3).
Later on in Parshat Naso we learn of the princes’ offerings for the dedication of the altar. Netanel, prince of the tribe of Yissachar, brought his offering on the second day. Shelumiel, prince of Shimon, was on the fifth day. Gamliel, prince of Menashe, was on the eighth day and Pagiel, prince of Asher, was on the eleventh day. The numbers 2, 5, 8, and 11 total 26, which is the equivalent of the four-letter holy name of Hashem. (Otzar Chaim)
פקד את בני לוי…מבן חדש ומעלה תפקדם
“Count the sons of Levi…from one month of age and up you shall count them…” (3:15)
As is apparent from the text, the Levites were counted twice: once when they were a month old, when they were considered the “keepers of the watch” of the Sanctuary, and again, when they reached the age of thirty, when they would begin to perform the service in the Mishkan. From this we can learn the necessary preparation to become a Torah scholar, a calling which is comparable to that of the Levites, as portrayed by the Rambam (Hilchot Shemittah). The lesson here is that chinuch must commence at birth, as we find that the mother of R’ Yehoshua ben Chananiah wheeled his cradle into the Beis Medrash so that he could absorb the sounds of Torah study. Nonetheless, one may not rely on this early training, but must make sure that when the child matures, he is constantly observed to make sure that he continues in the ways of the Torah. It is for this reason that the thirty-year-old Levites are counted again. (R’ Moshe Feinstein)
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