Dvar Torah Parshat Bamidbar 5776 2016

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.


Dvar Torah Parshat Matot 5774 2014

The tribes of Reuven and Gad came to Moshe concerning:  הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר הִכָּה יְקֹוָק לִפְנֵי עֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, “the land that Hashem smote before the assembly of Israel”. (Num. 32,4) They asked permission to settle on the eastern side of the Jordan and not on the western side. Moshe’s reply to them was: הַאַחֵיכֶם יָבֹאוּ לַמִּלְחָמָה וְאַתֶּם תֵּשְׁבוּ פֹה, “…Shall your brothers go out to battle while you settle here?” (v. 6)

Did they not know that Moshe would use that argument to deny their request? The Commentary Or Hachayim on the Torah implies a very unique answer. Their point was that Hashem would fight the battle of the Israelites. That is why the Torah mentions in the beginning of this episodeהָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר  הִכָּה יְקֹוָק, “the land that Hashem smote”. Their thinking was that since Hashem will be fighting their battles there is no need for them to crossover the Jordon to assist in the fighting.

Moshe answered them that it is true that Hashem will assist them and guarantee victory. However, it is only after they themselves will fight. You must come with them to fight alongside your brethren.

After this argument of Moshe these tribes promised that they will arm themselves and go with their brethren until they too can settle in the land promised to the Jewish people.
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Dvar Torah Parshat Bamidbar 5774 2014

Hashem instructs Moshe to take a census of the people in the wilderness to see how big an army he can muster. He is not to count everyone. Anyone who was ready to enlist in the army had to bring proof of his heritage. He had to bring evidence of לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם, “…according to their families of their paternal household…”. (Num. 1,2)

The Midrash Rabbah emphasizes that this points out to them that they must remember they are descendants of the Patriarchs. The idea is that when a Jew goes into battle he must not go just to kill. He must be ever mindful of his responsibility to live up to the moral standards of our Patriarchs.

It is interesting that every time Israel has been forced to go to war to defend our country the world keeps harping on atrocities that our soldiers commit. The truth is that no other army in the world fights with the high moral standards of the Israel Defense Forces. You never hear a word of criticism when other countries commit the worst cruelties and brutalities in fighting. In World War II civilians were bombed and no one thought it was wrong. Only Israel, who warns the people before bombing civilian areas where arms have been amassed, is singled out although its soldiers are trained in upholding moral standards in battle.

When Moshe was to enlist the men into the army he was to make sure that the men were moral and would uphold the ideals they were handed down by their families from generation to generation.

Dvar Torah Parshat Bamidbar 5773 2013

Moshe was told to take a census of the Bnei Israel. He was to do so in a strange manner. שְׂאוּ אֶת רֹאשׁ כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם, “Take a census of the entire assembly of Bnei Israel according to the families of their paternal household…”. (Num. 1,2) If the purpose of the census was to know how many men were available to constitute an army that would be able to fight and protect the people in their journeys towards the Promised Land, why was it necessary to identify them according to their families?

The answer may be very significant. True, the reason for counting the people was to know how big a force there was able to counter any and every conflict that may face them in the future. That does not mean, however, that the individuals constituting the army are just numbers.

Each individual must be identified according to his family. Each person is not just another peg in the army. Each individual is a person with family, with friends, with ambitions, with a past and hopefully with a bright future. The army is not only a fighting machine but consists of individuals with hopes and dreams and a determined ambition for the future.
That is why Moshe had to be involved and had to be made aware of the person’s family connection. It was to be a personal army where each individual was a personality, not merely a cog in the wheel.

Dvar Torah on the Parsha – Bamidbar 5772 2012

The first instruction given to Moshe in Sefer BaMidbar is to count Bnei Yisrael. This is not the first time they were counted. In the Portion of Ki Tisa Moshe was also told to count the people. There is one major difference in how the counting was to be carried in this Portion and the previous one. This new counting was to take place in the presence of representatives of the tribes.

Hashem tells Moshe that among those taking the census there should be: אִישׁ אִישׁ לַמַּטֶּה, “…one man from each tribe…”. (Num. 1,4) Why was it necessary this particular time to have representatives of each tribe present? The famous commentary of the Malbim deals with this question. He claims the answer lies in the purpose of this census. This time the exact number of members of each tribe had to be known.

When the Jews were to enter into the Promised Land the division of the country among the different tribes was to be made. The land was to be divided according to the size of the tribes. Each tribe was to get a portion in accordance with its population. This count of the people was to determine how large a portion of the land was to be given to each tribe. Hence it was necessary that there be delegates representing the tribes so that there be no grievances or grumbling later that the figures used were inaccurate.

For people and countries to live peacefully, there must be complete understanding and accurate information so that no suspicions can be had.

Dvar Torah Parshat Bamidbar 5771 2011

When Hashem instructs Moshe to take a census of the Children of Israel in the Wilderness, he charges him to appoint a representative from every tribe to serve as part of the census takers. This individual had to be: ISH ROSH LEVET AVOTAV HU, “…a man who is a leader of his father’s household.” (Num. 1,4)

The word used to designate a leader of the household is ROSH which in Hebrew means head. Implied in this choice of word is a considerably noteworthy meaningful message. The leader should be the head of his family, that is, he is to be the guide and the one who sets the direction for his tribe.

This implies that he should not be chosen on the merits of his father or his inherited status. He must be a leader in his own merit. Too often we find people attain positions of leadership, not because they are capable or worthy of the position but because of who their family is or who they know. This can be disastrous if they really have no inherent ability.

Dvar Torah Parshat BaMidbar 5770 2010

Moshe is instructed by Hashem to take a census of Bnei Israel. Everyone was to be counted LEMISHPECHOTAM, “…according to their families…”.(Num. 1,2) Rashi explains that this means everyone was to identify himself according to his tribe. In Hebrew we call this YICHUS or genealogy. The intention here is that we should know whence we stem.

The Jewish people recognize that we are descendants of our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. Lest we forget, other nations of the world also descend from these Patriarchs. The descendants of Ishmael also came from Avraham and the descendants of Esav also came from Yitzchak. What then is the difference between them and us?

The difference stems from how one looks at his Yichus. They look at their forefathers with pride in that they come from great people and hence are themselves worthy by reason of birth. We look at our Patriarchs with awe and responsibility in that we have to imitate their wonderful traits and have to earn our own merit.
This explains the Midrash which tells us that the nations of the world complained about why the Jews deserve the Torah more than they. They have the same worthy ancestors. The answer is that they look at their ancestors as a source of pride. The Jews look at them as a source of responsibility to follow their life style and continue in their footsteps.