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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 1, v. 20: "Va'yi'h'yu vnei Reuvein b'chor Yisroel" - And the children of Reuvein the firstborn of Yisroel were - What need is there to mention that Reuvein was the firstborn since we are discussing the encampment and its travels, with the tribe of Yehudoh being the leader? We can answer this with a second question. Why does the Torah indeed enumerate the tribe of Reuvein ahead of Yehudoh, since, as just mentioned, Yehudoh took the lead? This is why the Torah reiterates that Reuvein is the firstborn, and even though in the encampment and travels he does not take the lead, nevertheless his tribe is mentioned first because Reuvein is the firstborn. (Rabbi Yoseif B'chor Shor)

Ch. 1, v. 52: "V'ish al diglo" - And a man to his standard - Do not think that until now the bnei Yisroel were encamped in a disarray, anyone pitching his tent wherever he took a fancy. The M.R. at the beginning of parshas B'shalach relates that Paroh saw the bnei Yisroel encamped in an orderly manner, and that the tribes had banners. Perhaps the command here was for them to take specific positions, and/or that there be three tribes for each encampment. (Nirreh li)

Ch. 2, v. 7: "Ma'tei Z'vulun" - The tribe of Z'vulun - This is the third tribe of the Yehudoh encampment. By the three other times that the third tribe is mentioned, verses 14,22, and 29, there is a conjunctive letter Vov as a prefix. This is logical as the third tribe joins with the first two, hence the prefix "and." However, here by the tribe of Z'vulun there is no prefix letter Vov. The Baal Haturim explains that since Z'vulun is mentioned as the third tribe and comes right after Yisochor, the Torah did not want to use the prefix Vov. If it had done so there would be a connotation of AND, meaning that the tribe of Z'vulun is an add-on to the tribe of Yisochor, and is secondary. We would think so because Yisochor was the tribe totally immersed in Torah study, while Z'vulun is in the main involved in commerce, albeit that Z'vulun supports Yisochor. The Torah therefore leaves out the letter Vov so that we realize that Z'vulun is not relegated to a secondary rank. Quite to the contrary, our Rabbis teach us that "godol ham'a'seh min ho'o'seh" (gemara B.B. 9a), greater is the enabler than the actual doer.

Ch. 2, v. 9: "Rishonoh yiso'u" - They should travel first - Why did the tribes of Yehudoh, Yisochor, and Z'vulun merit to be at the head of the nation? This is because the tribe of Yehudoh embodies readiness for self-sacrifice as displayed by Nach'shon at Yam Suf, Yisochor embodies total involvement in Torah study, and Zevulun embodies support of Torah study. (Chidushei HoRi"m)

Ch. 2, v. 20: "V'olov ma'teh Menasheh" - And next to him the tribe of Menasheh - Literally, these words are to be translated as, "And upon it/him the tribe of Menasheh." We can say that the antecedent of the pronoun suffix in the word "v'olov" is the flag mentioned in the beginning of verse 18. Each flag had an insignia corresponding to its tribe. The M.R. says that Efrayim and Menasheh did not have two separate flags, but rather as representatives of the tribe of Yoseif they shared a flag that had insignias corresponding to both Efrayim and Menasheh. We can thus say, "and upon the flag was also the insignia of the tribe of Menasheh. (Da'mesek Eliezer)

Ch. 3, v. 1: "V'ei'leh toldos Aharon u'Moshe" - And these are the offspring of Aharon and Moshe - The M.R. explains why Aharon is mentioned here ahead of Moshe. When Moshe and Aharon were involved with the census they also asked for the family lineage. People chided Aharon, "Before you ask for our lineage look at the lineage of the offspring of your son Elozor, who married the daughter of Puti'eil." Standing up for Aharon's honour, Hashem mentioned him ahead of Moshe in our chapter of the Levites offspring.

Why didn't the people likewise chide Moshe, who did the exact same thing as Elozor, taking Tziporoh the daughter of Puti'eil as his wife? Actually, Moshe was even more open to criticism, as he himself took a daughter of Puti'eil, while it was only Aharon's son who did so.

Yalkut Yehudoh answers that Elozor had the opportunity to marry a woman who was born to the Jewish nation, while Moshe was in Midyon for many years and had no such luxury. See Sefer Chasidim #504, who writes that since Moshe could not return to Mitzrayim, as there was a bounty on his head, he had no choice but to marry a local woman.

Ch. 3, v. 3: "Ei'leh shmos bnei Aharon hamshuchim" - These are the names of the sons of Aharon who are anointed - Anointing the sons of Aharon is a procedure that is part of their initiation into the holy service of Hashem. They retained their same names even after being appointed to their exalted positions. How totally different this is from the appointment of gentile clergy to a leading position. They are not allowed to keep their previous name and must pick a name from a roster of their "holy names." This is done to give an impression that they are now totally new infallible people, beyond human foibles. History bears out that for many, the appointment to their new powerful positions was the exact opposite, the beginning of a career of unspeakable miscarriage of justice. (Rabbi Yonoson Eibeschitz)

Ch. 3, v. 9: "N'sunim n'sunim heimoh lo" - They are fully given to him - Rashi explains that the Levites are to be a HELP to the Kohein. In Bmidbar 8:16, again discussing the responsibilities of the Levites, the verse somewhat similarly says "n'sunim n'sunim heimoh li." There Rashi says that it refers to carry items and to sing. In our verse, which tells us that the Levites are given over to HIM, "lo," to the Kohein, it is for general help. In 8:16, where the verse says to ME, "li," referring to Hashem, it means for carrying and singing. (Avnei Shoham)

Ch. 3, v. 9: "N'sunim heimoh lo mei'eis bnei Yisroel" - They are given to him from the bnei Yisroel - Hashem appointed the Levites to serve the Kohanim. If so, if which way are they given by the bnei Yisroel? The Levites would not be free to service the Kohanim if they had no income. The bnei Yisroel free up the Levites to serve the Kohanim by supporting them with their "maa'seir rishon" tithes. (Rabbi Yoseif B'chor Shor and Sforno)

Ch. 3, v. 26: "V'es mosach pesach hechotzeir .. l'chole avodoso" - And the curtain for the opening of the courtyard .. to all its service - Since our verse is discussing the responsibility of the disassembled Mishkon when traveling, what Mikdosh service is there? If there was a sacrifice whose servicing or consumption was not complete and it was required to disassemble the Mishkon, the Levites would stand next to each other and create a barrier of sorts. They would be a human halachic wall, and all holy objects that were required to remain within the confines of the Mishkon courtyard would still be considered within this area (see Rashi on the gemara M'nochos 95). This is a basis for the concept of humans being an halachically acceptable barrier, which also has consequences in the laws of Shabbos. (Rabbi Yisroel Yehoshua Trank)



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha, Chasidic Insights and Chamisha Mi Yodei'a

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