Bamidbar – Chamishi

Okay, Levi. Your Turn.

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

G-d had Moshe take a separate census of the Levites. Levi had three sons: Gershon, Kehat and Merari. They had fathered three families that bore their names. While the males of the rest of the nation had been counted from the age of 20 and up, the Levites were counted from a month old and up.

The family of Gershon numbered 7,500. They were given the job of assembling, disassembling and maintenance of the Mishkan’s various drapes, roofs, hangings, curtains and the courtyard enclosure. They camped on the west side of the Mishkan.

The family of Kehat totaled 8,600. They were responsible for the Aron, the Table, the Menorah and the two altars, plus all the utensils and the partition (the Paroches). These Levites camped on the south side of the Mishkan; they reported to Aharon’s son Elazar.

The family of Merari were 6,200 all told. They were placed in charge of the beams, pillars and bases of the Mishkan and the courtyard enclosure, along with the related utensils. They camped on the north side of the Tabernacle.

Moshe and Aharon made their camp on the east side of the Tabernacle. Only designated kohanim were allowed to set up camp there. (Moshe was the functional equivalent of a kohein.)

There were 22,000 Levite males above the age of one month. (Really, there were 22,300, but 300 of them were first-borns themselves, so they were not actually “exchanged” for the first-born males of the other Tribes, as we will see in the next aliyah. See Talmud Bechoros 5a.)

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