by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS B'MIDBAR 5769 BS"D
Ch. 1, v. 2: "S'u es rosh kol adas bnei Yisroel l'mish'p'chosom" - Tally the head of all the congregation of the bnei Yisroel to their families - When the Torah gives us the tribal totals of the tribes there is no breakdown within each tribe of families (save the Lviim). So why is there a mention of "l'mish'p'chosom?" There are two versions of Rashi's comment on the word "l'mish'p'chosom." One is "Da minyan kol sheivet v'sheivet," and the other is "Leida minyan kol sheivet v'sheivet." Some commentators attribute two opinions as to how the tribes were counted to these two versions. The text "da" means that the intention of the verse is that there is no specific count of families within the tribes, and the term "mishpochoh" is interchangeable with "sheivet." Count and you will know the tribal totals. The text of "leida" indeed means that the count would be done through family calculation. Count through family groupings TO KNOW the tribal totals. The reason for this is that everyone was familiar with his close family connection, but not everyone was so clear about his exact tribal source. (This is hard to fathom considering that the M.R. parshas B'shalach says that the bnei Yisroel immediately upon leaving Egypt grouped themselves by their tribes voluntarily - our parsha commands that this be done and it is no longer just by their own choice. As well, Rashi cites a medrash that the "m'voreich Hashem" attempted to camp himself within the tribe of his mother, so we clearly see that the bnei Yisroel where totally ensconced within tribal groups.) By counting through family groupings, Moshe was able to clearly know the tribal totals, as he knew which family belonged to which tribe. I don't find this explanation very convincing. The Mahari"k has the wording in Rashi "leida" and nevertheless says that there was no counting by family grouping, and says that "mishpochoh" is interchangeable with "sheivet," exactly the opposite of the explanation cited earlier. Ch. 3, v. 10: "V'hazor hako'reiv yumos" - And the foreigner who comes close shall be put to death - We find these exact words again in verse 38. Why is this repeated? The gemara Arochin11b answers that our verse only tells us that a foreigner is one who has no involvement at all with the service, i.e. a Yisroel or Levi doing the Kohanic service, is put to death (see Ibn Ezra). The latter verse tells us that even if one could have theoretically had the appointment, but in fact did not, he is also put to death. This is the source for the ruling "M'shoreir sheshi'eir b'shel chaveiro chayov misoh," a Levite who was appointed to sing who did the gate service (opening and closing) is liable to the death penalty, even though they are both Levites and each one could have been appointed to the other's job.
Ch. 3, v. 22: "P'kudeihem …… p'kudeihem" - Their count …… their count - The reason this word is repeated is that the first time, which also adds "b'mispar," teaches us that they were tallied through Hashem, and the second time is simply telling us that their count was 7,500 people.
The Meshech Chochmoh says that the count was that of the families of Shimi and Gershon and that they totaled 7,500. We don't know how many to each family. The repetition of "p'kudeihem" teaches us that they were equal, each family having 3,750 males.
Ch. 3, v. 24: "Elyosof ben Lo'eil" - Elyosof the son of Lo'eil - The Rambam writes that the word Lo'eil is not the Holy Name of Hashem. He adds that he finds it necessary to point his out because we have this exact word in the verse that says, "lo'Keil hanir'eh ei'lecho." Even after this explanation one is left wondering why indeed is it necessary to point this out, as it is extremely obvious that Lo'eil of our verse is a name. Perhaps the Rambam wrote this because there was a move in some religions to deify people. One could, based on the verse in Breishis, ch"v say that Elyosof was "G-d's son," so the Rambam extended himself.
Ch. 3, v. 30: "Unsi veis ov l'mish'p'chos haK'hosi Elitzofon" - And the minister for the familial head of the families of K'hos was Elitzofon - In Vayikra 10 where two cousins of Nodov and Avihu were called to remove their bodies, Misho'eil is mentioned ahead of Eltzofon. Because he was self- effacing he merited having this prestigious appointment. (His name contains the word "tzofun," hidden.) The letter Yud was added to his name after being appointed minister. (Rokei'ach)
Ch. 4, v. 13: "V'dishnu es hamizbei'ach uforsu olov beged" - And they shall cleanse the altar of ash and they shall spread a garment over it - Rashi explains that the heavenly fire remained lit, and yet it would not burn the cloth covering because a copper bowl was placed over the fire. This seems problematic, as they sometimes traveled a few days and surely the heat of the fire would burn the cover unless the copper cover totally enveloped the fire, which in turn would smother it. In any case, we are forced to say that a miracle took place, as a fire with no fuel extinguishes itself quickly. If so, what need is there for a copper cover? It would seem that this is an exercise in limiting the miracle. Before placing the cloth cover over the altar a copper cover was placed over the fire and thus it is normal for the cloth cover to not ignite immediately. Once it is out of sight the miracle is not visible, and this is a limitation of sorts, avoiding seeing an overt miracle. Any further clarification would be greatly appreciated.
Ch. 4, v. 16: "Ufkudas Elozor ben Aharon" - And the post of Elozor the son of Aharon - Rashi says that he was the "m'muneh a'lei'hem." Some commentators say that Rashi is forewarning a difficulty, and that is that if we take literally that Elozor had to carry all these items, it beyond normal human ability to carry such vast and heavy amounts. "M'muneh a'leihem" means that he was responsible to see that these items were properly transported.
However, as cited by the Ramban, the gemara Yerushalmi Shabbos 10:3 says that Elozor himself carried them, and Rashi himself on the gemara Shabbos 92 d.h. "she'kein" also says that Elozor himself carried them.
Ch. 4, v. 19: "Ish ish al avodoso v'el maso'o" - Each man on his service and to his load - Yalkut Ho'eizovi takes note of the change from "al" to "el." He explains that there is an allusion here to the statement of our Rabbis that the prophet Shmuel is equal to Moshe. "Ish ish" refers to Moshe and Shmuel, and "el" means that they are on the same level, while had the verse said "al" it would mean one above the other.
We might add that if we take the last letter of the word "al" and the next word "maso'o" and transpose the letters, we have the nameShmuel.
Ch. 4, v. 20: "V'lo yovo'u liros k'vala es hakodesh" - And they shall not come to see as the holy object is swallowed/covered - Rabbeinu Avigdor specifically translate "k'vala" as "when it is covered." He cites a proof for this from Paroh's dream of the stacks of grain "Vativlanoh hashibolim," which he says conclusively means "and they covered" and not "and they swallowed." It cannot mean "and they swallowed" because a stalk of grain cannot swallow anything. (Albeit cows don't swallow cows, but at least they do consume food, so in the dream there was only an extension beyond reality. Even in a dream Hashem does not send a message of something that is totally absurd.) However, Rashi translates "k'vala" as "when it is swallowed," simply explaining that the holy objects were placed into sacks, as if they were swallowed into something.
It seems that Targum Onkelos sides with Rabbeinu Avigdor, and Targum Yonoson ben Uziel and Yerushalmi side with Rashi.
Ch. 4, v. 20: "K'vala" - As it is swallowed/covered - The three Targumim offer three different comments. Targum Onkelos does not mention who places the vessels into their cover. Targum Yonoson ben Uziel says that "Kahanaya" do it. Targum Yerushalmi says that "Kahanoh Raboh" do it. This deserves some explanation.
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