Bnei Israel are ready to enter into the Promised Land and Hashem instructs Moshe to take another census of the people. Moshe is told, when the counting was to take place: וְאִתְּכֶם יִהְיוּ אִישׁ אִישׁ לַמַּטֶּה, “And with you shall be one man from each tribe…”. (Num. 1,4) There had to be a representative for every tribe present when his tribe was being counted. In the Book of Exodus a census was also taken as we read in the Portion of כִּי תִשָּׂא. There we find no mention of a tribal representative. Why the difference?
The first counting mentioned in the Book of Exodus in כִּי תִשָּׂא took place soon after the Exodus from Egypt. It did not matter what the population of every individual tribe was. The purpose was to know the total number of the People of Israel. There was no need for tribal representation.
The census in this week’s Portion had a different purpose. Here the reason for counting the tribes was to know its size and how much land was to be allocated for each tribe when the land was to be divided up amongst them. For this reason a representative of the tribe had to be present so that there be no dispute about its size.
In our daily dealings we must also be very mindful and careful to act in such a manner so as not to leave any doubt in someone’s mind about what we are discussing and what the appropriate facts are. This prevents later troubles and arguments.