Aliya-by-Aliya Sedra Summary
Numbers in [square brackets] are the Mitzva-count of Sefer HaChinuch AND Rambamís Sefer HaMitzvot. A=ASEI (positive mitzva); L=LAV (prohibition). X:Y is the perek and pasuk from which the mitzva comes.
[P> X:Y (Z)] and [S> X:Y (Z)] indicate start of a parsha pítucha or sítuma respectively. X:Y is Perek:Pasuk of the beginning of the parsha; (Z) is the number of p'sukim in the parsha.
SDT Commentaries point out that the command to count the people was given to Moshe and Aharon (as opposed to just Moshe) because the census was done by collecting half-shekels from the people. Since money was involved, it is not proper to have only one person dealing with the matter - even if that person is Moshe Rabeinu! This became the ethical standard of dealing with public funds.
On the other hand... Another commentator suggests that this census was not done with shekels, but rather with a direct head count. Although we learn that it is improper, and even potentially dangerous, to count people directly, in this case there was a direct command to count the people. Hence, no harm would befall them during the carrying out of these Divine orders. This, in contrast to Ki Tisa, where the Torah says, "WHEN you count, then you MUST collect the half- shekel, etc. There, the language in the Torah indicates that the counting was optional or practical, but not obligatory. Therefore, the indirect method was necessary.
K'RU'EI HA'EIDA, a term for leaders of the people, is written with a YUD in place of the VAV as in the word's pronunciation. Baal HaTurim says that we can look at the YUD as a chopped VAV, to tell us that among the leaders was a "not so worthy" individual. He says that Shlumiel b. Tzurishadai, the leader of Shimon, was Zimri b. Salu, who caused G-d's anger to destroy many thousands of people, until Pinchas' act put an end to Zimri (and to the plague). Having G-d's name in his didn't help him. Note that there is a broken VAV in the Pinchas story, the VAV of BRITI SHALOM. Could be a REMEZ-level connection.
In light of all the "problems" that Reuven had,
and the fact that Yehuda, Yosef, and Levi each ended up with an element of
that which might have been Reuven's, it is interesting that Reuven retains
the designation "B'chor".
[P> 1:48 (7)] The Leviyim were not to be counted together with the rest of the Nation, but were to be counted separately. It was the Leviyim who were charged with carrying the components of the Mishkan and with dismantling and erecting the Mishkan each time the People traveled. Non-Leviyim were not to anger G-d by approaching the Mishkan in an improper manner. This applied to the encampment as well; the Leviyim were camped around the Mishkan and the Tribes kept their distance in their camps.
SDT LiVnei Yehuda... for all the tribes the term LiVnei is used, except for Bnei Naftali. Baal HaTurim says that they had more women than men. In the later census, "Bnei" is used for all the tribes since the men died out - all had more women.
SDT Commentaries point out that the low population figures recorded for Levi were closer to what would be expected according to natural demographics. The figures for the rest of the people were unnaturally high. This is a result of the Torah's telling us, "and as they were tortured, so they multiplied". Among the many miracles that occurred in Egypt, was the fact the the people proliferated so greatly under very adverse conditions. Since the tribe of Levi was not subjected to the harsh conditions of slavery, its growth was "normal".
The camp of Yehuda was to the east and was to be
the first to travel. Under the leadership of Nachshon ben Aminadav, the
group included Yissachar and Zevulun, in addition to Yehuda. Totals for
each tribe are repeated when the four flag-groups are described. Total for
Machane Yehuda was 186,400.
[P> 3:5 (6)] The Tribe of Levi is to be assigned the tasks of assisting the kohanim in their work and in safeguarding the Mishkan and its vessels.
[P> 3:11 (3)] In essence, the Levi is to replace the B'chor who was sanctified from the day of the Exodus (and even before that). The b'chor was originally supposed to perform the sacred tasks of the Leviyim (and kohanim), but lost the privilege as a result of the Golden Calf.
SDT "These are the names of the sons of Aharon, the B'chor (firstborn) Nadav..." The regular reading of the pasuk, based on the Taamei HaMikra (the Torah notes) indicates that Nadav is being identified as Aharon's B'chor. But there is a vertical line which separates between B'chor and Nadav, suggesting that it is Aharon the B'chor; Nadav, having died without children is not really a B'chor at this point. (Since the children of a deceased B'chor get their father's double portion, had Nadav had children he would retain the title of B'chor.)
Gershon's count is 7500. They camp on the west of the Mishkan. Their leader is Elyasaf b. La'eil. They are to be in charge of the curtain material of the Mishkan, including the coverings and the courtyard enclosure.
[S> 3:27 (13)] K'hat's total is 8600. They will
camp to the south of the Mishkan. Elitzafan b. Uziel is their leader. (One
of the things that angered Korach.) They are in charge of the main holy
furnishings of the Mishkan, including the Aron, Shulchan, Menora, and
Altars. Elazar b. Aharon HaKohen is in charge of all the Leviyim.
Moshe, Aharon and sons camp to the east of the Mishkan.
In all, 22,000 Leviyim are counted.
Clarification... If one adds up the numbers of the three families of Levi, the total is 22,300, not 22,000, the number used in the exchange with the firstborns. Rashi explains that the 300 "missing" Leviyim were them- selves B'chorim, and were not part of the official exchange - see further.
SDT Choose your neighbors well. Rashi points out that the proximity of the Yehuda camp to the encampment of Moshe and Aharon and family, had a positive influence on the three tribes of Yehuda, Yissachar, and Zevulun - the three tribes famed for their Torah scholarship. On the other hand, Reuven's closeness to Korach and his to Datan and Aviram, produces disaster.
[P> 3:44 (8)] A mass "redemption of the firstborns" is conducted by an exchange of 22,000 Leviyim (non- b'chorim) for 22,000 b'chorim and a payment of five silver sheqels each for the remaining 273 firstborns to Aharon and his sons.
Imagine gathering 22,273 people and asking each to choose a card from a batch of 22,273 cards, 22,000 of which have the words BEN LEVI on them and 273 have the words 5 shekel on them. This, says Rashi, is how they deter- mined who would pay the 5 shekels for the exchange.
Rashi points out that the 5 sh'kalim of the B'chor were each worth 20 GEIRA. 20 pieces of silver is the amount the brothers received for the sale of Yosef. Rashi considers there to be a connection between the sale of Yosef and the requirement of redemption of the firstborn. Remember that Yosef was Rachel's firstborn.
The exchange of firstborn animals mentioned in 3:45 refers to firstborn donkeys and NOT kosher domesticated animals, which may not be redeemed. Rashi further says that one sheep of a Levi can exchange more than one donkey-b'chor (since there is no mention of a surplus).
[P> 4:17 (4)] The Torah warns the kohanim not to endanger the people of K'hat by not properly preparing for their handling of the most sacred vessels. This parsha of four p'sukim is reread for the Maftir.
The main connection between sedra and haftara, Rabbi Jacobs points out in A Haftara Companion, is the contrast between the counted, numbered people in the sedra, and the innumerable people of Israel referred to by Hoshei'a. Midbar is a theme that occurs in both sedra and haftara.
Rabbi Jacobs reminds us that Judaism got its start in the Midbar, with G-d's prophecy to Moshe at the Bush and, of course, Matan Torah at Har Sinai.
It is interesting to note that as many times as we "angered" G-d in the Wilderness, 10 times according to G-d's own statement in the Torah, He still had a special appreciation for the People of Israel for having "followed Him into the Midbar". He viewed our wandering at His command, without really knowing where we were going, as an act of kindness on our part in our early years as a nation. We view the Midbar experience with great ambivalence.