Parshat Bamidbar 5778: The Census — By Half-Shekel or By Their Names?

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshiyot HaShevua, Bamidbar is being co-sponsored by Pesach and Ann Chapler and family and Reuven and Leah Goldman and family, both of Ramat Beit Shemesh, and dedicated for a full and complete Refuah Shleima for Shir li Malka bat Aliza who was injured critically in an auto collision in January, 2018 at the entrance to Yishuv Shavei Shomron. To the Chapler and Goldman families, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.

Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Bamidbar 5778: The Census — By Half-Shekel or By Their Names?

by Moshe Burt

Our Parshat opens with Hashem speaking to Moshe as the Jews camped in Bamidbar:

“And Hashem spoke to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai… on the first of the second month, in the second year after Yetziyot Mitzrayim, saying: ‘Take a census of the entire assembly of the B’nei Yisrael according to their families, according to their fathers’ household, by number of the names, every male according to their head count; from twenty years and up…'” Sefer Bamidbar, Perek 1, posukim 1-3 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash)

Torah Gems, Volume III, by Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, on our Parshat brings varying citings regarding the census in Bamidbar. Torah Gems cites Birkat David (page 7):

Torah specifies the exact day, because this is after the giving of the Torah (“in the desert of Sinai”),and from then on time had special significance. Once Torah had been given, each instant became precious and offered the opportunity for every person to perfect himself, to learn more Torah, to perform other Mitzvot, to perform another good deed.

Torah Gems, Volume III also cites a comment from Kli Yakar as well as additional commentary (page 8):

“According to Rashi the count here was by means of shekalim” (i.e. that each person had to bring half a shekel). Many commentators disagree…, and state that this was an actual count, rather than one involving shekalim, and they bring proof from the fact that Torah specifies “according to their head count.”

Additionally, Torah Gems, Volume III cites (pages 7-8) as follows:

Why didn’t Hashem command that each give half a shekel as in Shemos, Perek 30, posuk 12, “When you take a census of the B’nei Yisrael…, every man shall give Hashem an atonement for his soul [the half-shekel]… so that there will not be a plague among them”? After all, wouldn’t counting the people bring about a plague? Rather, Torah stresses, “by number of the names,” namely that they did not count the people but the names of the people, and there was no problem with that. (citing Ralbag)

The Torah uses the word “rosh” here, …translated as “number” [or census as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash]. The word “rosh” literally “head,” teaches… the importance of the Jewish people, that each is a head, each is important in himself. Each Jew must accordingly feel the great responsibility he has for all his actions, for every action of his can improve the condition of the world, or Heaven forbid, make it deteriorate. (citing Shaloh)

The Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash cites both Ramban and Sforno regarding the significance of “Names” (Sheimot) as stated in posuk 2 of our Parshat (page 727):

It was a great honor for each person that he gave his name, as an individual, to Moshe and Aaron (Ramban). At that point in history, a person’s name was Divinely inspired to indicate his personal virtues. In the census before the nation crossed the Jordan, thirty-nine years later, this was no longer the case, and there was no mention of names. (Sforno)

This author recently spoke of the importance of one’s name. We learn that Adam HaRishon named each animal for its characteristics and attributes, and that Adam and Chava, post-Eitz Hadas, named one of their sons “Hevel”, which has been translated as “vanity” [in the context of “Aleinu”: “It is Our Duty”], the name was given apparently with the hope and desire that this son be able to distinguish Tov” from “Rah”, good from evil. So, too, we attach importance to naming our offspring for those of our family who came before us, or for great Rabbanim or Talmidei Chachamim in the hope and desire that the offspring will strive to emulate the ways and attributes of their namesake.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the twice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; all due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of three and 3/4 years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.