Parshas BaMidbar BaMidbar
Numbers 1:1 - 4:20

Reviewing Why
Hashem Directed Moshe to Count Kal Yisroel ©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated by the family of Akiva G. Belk in the loving memory of Mrs. Ethel Channah Sakash Belk, may she rest in peace.

During the past several weeks we have considered the theme "Why is the land of Israel called the HOLY LAND?" Between our parsha and Gematria studies we have discussed the reasons. Now our point of exploration takes on a special meaning in Parshas BaMidbar, that of entitlement, that of ownership.

The time and date {of this granting each of them a portion of the Eretz Canaan when conquered} was "on the first {day} of the second month, in the second year after their exodus from the land of Mitzriam." Numbers 1:1 Noting this is important for several reasons.

First, this was months after the giving of the Torah to Moshe and B'nei Yisroel on Har Sinai. {See Exodus 19}

Second, this was after the incident of the molten calf where the entire people contributed gold earrings to form this image, G-d forbid! {See Exodus 32:3} The only exception was the righteous tribe of Levi where no one contributed! {See Exodus 32:26 - Rashi} And according to the Midrash certain "nessi'im {leaders} of the Tribes and individual tzaddikim" did not contribute.

This was after the Bais Din was formed to judge B'nei Yisroel regarding the sin of the molten calf. Whoever served the molten calf, after first being warned and after being witnessed by at least two Yidden, was found guilty and died from the sword at the hands of the Levium in accordance with "Whoever sacrifices to a god must be condemned {to die}. {Sacrifices may be offered} to Hashem alone." {Exodus 22:19}

This was after Hashem sent the judgment plague to kill those who were found guilty by witnesses of the heavenly Bais Din.

Now the point to this extremely serious tragedy is that even though only a VERY SMALL number of B'nei Yisroel actually participated in the worship of this sinful image, all of Yisroel were responsible for the actions of their brethren. That is what we see in this week's parsha.

Third, this census was about thirty-seven years before B'nei Yisroel would actually take physical possession of Eretz Canaan. This being the situation, since Hashem knew the actual number of B'nei Yisroel, one must consider the purpose for the detail counting given in the Torah. Why was it necessary to establish how many men were above the age of twenty in each tribe?

Fourth, this was when B'nei Yisroel stood, so to speak, at the portal of entering Eretz Canaan. This was when Hashem intended for B'nei Yisroel to actually enter Eretz Canaan as we shall see in several weeks, G-d willing! We will observe this in Parshas Shlach when the spies were sent out. However, it was at this point that B'nei Yisroel slandered Eretz Canaan and as a result were sentenced to die in BaMidbar {In Wilderness}.

So this week's parsha is after the giving of the Torah, after the sin of the molten calf and resulting judgment but before the slander of Eretz Canaan by B'nei Yisroel. This being the situation we, Kal Yisroel, are making preparations to enter the promised land in the near future. This is evidenced by Hashem commanding a census of B'nei Yisroel for the purpose of establishing a written record in the Torah of each individual above the age of twenty who is entitled to ownership of the land in Eretz Canaan.

This census was commanded in love by Hashem for the benefit of every Jew! However as we will soon learn, Hashem's desires for Kal Yisroel were interrupted by their slander of Eretz Canaan. At this point we are standing on the brink of entering the Land, but because of our sin we will be turned away.

What is the point? In last week's parsha we began the discussion of responsibility. We stated the words of Rabbi Moshe Weissman who said, "This verse {Leviticus 26:37} teaches the fundamental Torah principle of mutual responsibility. If a Jew transgresses a Torah law, another Jew who could protest and instead observes the transgression in silence, is held accountable for his fellow man's sin."

This being the situation, we who live thousands of years later will observe in several weeks how Moshe Rabbeinu, Yehoshuah, Caleb, the tribe of Levi and others would be forced to remain in the BaMidbar for thirty-eight more years because of the sin by their brethren.

In addition consider the feelings within the encampment of B'nei Yisroel as talk of war and preparation for war was in full swing as B'nei Yisroel advanced on Eretz Canaan with the intent of entering it. We understand the intention from the Torah comment, "Take a head count of the entire congregation of B'nei Yisroel according to their families to the house of their fathers counting the names of all males individually. From twenty years old and above, all those eligible for the army of Yisroel, you shall count them according to their divisions..." Numbers 1:2,3

From this we see plans to form an army. We see intention of conflict on the horizon. We also see equality. We must determine now in advance of war who is entitled to capture the land in the event, G-d forbid, that they should die in battle and their descendants not receive what they are entitled to!

Also we see the establishment of responsibility, who is expected to join the army and who is not permitted to join. The men of the tribe of Levi were given responsibilities other than those of war. They were not counted in the census. "The Levites, according to the tribe of their fathers were NOT COUNTED among them. Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying; However, the tribe of Levi you shall not count and you shall not take their head count among B'nei Yisroel. You shall appoint the levites to oversee the Mishkon of Testimony and over all its utensils and over all that belongs to it..'" Numbers 1:47 - 50

We also see another army being formed, a spiritual and a physical army from the descendants of Aharon and Moshe, "Bring the tribe of Levi near and have it stand before Aharon the kohein, and they shall serve him. They shall take care to preserve his guardianship and the guardianship of the entire congregation before the Tent of Meeting, to serve in the service of the Mishkon. They shall guard all the utensils of the Tent of Meeting and the watch of B'nei Yisroel to serve in the service of the Mishkon." Numbers 3:6 - 8 "You shall appoint Aharon and his sons and they shall guard their priesthood, and an outsider {non - kohein} who comes near shall be put to death." Numbers 3:10

So from this we observe Hashem's commands / directives for those expected to serve in the army of Yisroel and those who are required to serve in and around the Mishkon. We observe the establishment of each of our areas of responsibilities, those of the Levium being more defined. All of this was in anticipation of entering Eretz Canaan.

Now dear reader, holy reader, as Kal Yisroel began making plans to enter Eretz Canaan thousands of years ago we who live in the twenty-first century are also expected to begin making plans to enter Eretz Yisroel. This parsha is intended to raise our level of awareness, to heighten our interest, to cause us to stop and think, to begin a process that will eventually lead to each of our Aliyas and to warn us in advance of Parshas Shlach, 'Be careful NOT TO SPEAK SLANDER about the Holy Land.'

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Akiva G. Belk

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