Parshat Bamidbar

Chodesh Tov! This week we are entering the book of Bamidbar, as we continue the story of what happened after the assembling of the Tabernacle in the wilderness.

At the start of this weeks reading we see the fourth census count taking place in the Torah. In Parshat Vayigash, the Torah recorded that the members of Yaakov's family that went to Egypt were seventy (Bereishit 46:26-27). The Torah then stated that 600,000 men left Egypt. Now, yet again, they were counted. In the general census, all the Tribes were counted except for the tribe of Levi. This tribe, was counted individually as related towards the end of the Parshah.

Each tribe was counted and the leaders of each tribe were listed. One of the reasons for the count was that when the Jews were going to the land of Israel, they were to divide the land between themselves and each tribe needed their plot of land a certain size, so they needed to know how many were in each tribe, so that they will have enough space in Israel.

The leader of Yehudah was named, Nachshon Ben Aminidav (Bamidbar 1:7), who became the leader of the tribe in the merit of him being the first to dive in the sea and split it when the Egyptians were chasing after the Jews (Shemot Rabba 21:10 & Sota 37b).

The Parshah then relates how each of the tribes was placed in the wilderness. There were four camps situated in different positions, each camp consisting of three tribes.

The first Camp was headed by Yehudah, also featuring the tribes Yissacher and Zevulan (Bamidbar 2:3). They were situated in the east direction. In fact, mixing Yissacher and Zevulan was a perfect mixture, as they have formed a partnership throughout history, Yissacher being the famous Torah scholar and Zevulan, the businessman, aiding Yissacher in learning (Devarim 33:18/ Bereshit Rabbah 99:9).

In the south, the tribes of Reuven, Gad and Shimon were situated, headed by Reuven (Bamidbar 2:10). The west consisted of the tribes; Ephraim, Menashe and Binyamin (all were descendents of Rachel) (Bamidbar 2:18). The North consisted of the tribes; Dan, Asher and Naftali (Bamidbar 2:25). These camps were scattered around the Tabernacle. However the three Levites sons descendants, were more towards the Tabernacle; Kehath, Merari and Gershon.

Kehath’s camp was situated near Reuven. Later on a descendant of Kehath, Korach, instigated a mass rebellion where many people from the tribe of Reuven got involved in as they were living next to them (Nedarim 39b). From this we learn that one should always try and choose good company and friends, otherwise, people who may be a bad influence on others could damage them in many ways, as what happened with Korach and Reuven (Bamidbar 3:29 Rashi)!!

The Medresh describes the different flags of each tribe as artistic parellels of Yaakov's final blessings to his twelve sons, or Moshe's brachot at the end of the Torah. Each of the tribes were given there own divine flag in the wilderness. Reuven had a flag that was colored red and consisted of flowers, to symbolise how he brought flowers for his mother (Sanhedrin 99b/ Bereishit 30:14). Shimon had a green flag with a picture of Shechem. Gad had a black and white flag with a picture of army warriors; we learn in the book of Joshua that the people from the tribe of Gad headed the war against the Canaanite nations! Yehuda’s flag was of a blue colour symbolising Hashem's throne of glory and had a picture of a Lion, as the Lion is the head of all animals, Yehudah is the head of all tribes (Sota 10). Yissacher had a black colored flag, with a picture of the sun and moon. Many of the tribe of Yissacher became part of the Sanhedrin during First Beit Hamikdash era (Chronicles I 12:33) . The flag for Zevulen was white and featured a ship, symbolising how they went into business as merchants.

Ephraim and Menashe had separate flags that were both black, featuring a bullock and R’aim respectively, the flag of Menashe referred to Gideon who descended from Menashe (Devarim 33:17). Dan had a sapphire colored flag, with a picture of a serpent, alluding to how a descendant of Dan, Shimshon behaved in vengeance against the Pelishtim as related in the book of Shoftim (Sota 9-10). Naftali had a purple colored flag, featuring a Hind. Naftali was a fleet footed person. The tribe of Asher had a pearl color flag, featuring an olive tree. The tribe of Levi had a mixed color flag of white, black and red, featuring the breast plate of the Kohen Gadol. Finally the flag of Binyamin was multicoloured, featuring a wolf, alluding to the verse, "Binyamin is a vicious wolf" (Bereishit 49:27) .

In fact in the head count of Benyamin, they had 35,400 people in their tribe aged between 20 – 60 Males. King David instituted a rule to the nation before the First Temple era that one should recite 100 blessings a day (Devarim 10:12 Rambam). We know that there are 354 days in the Hebrew Calendar, so if we multiply the 100 blessings by the 354 days of the year, we arrive at the number of 35,400 blessings in a year, exactly the same as the number of Benyaminites at this time era, furthermore, we learn in Parshat Vayechi, that the Temple, which provides blessing to the nations, was built in the portion of Binyamin (Megillah 16). This teaches us that the tribe of Binyamin brought a lot of blessing to the world!! The Camps encamped in the way that Yaakov described the tribes would have to positions themselves when burying him, as mentioned in Parshat Vayechi.

The three sons of Levi each had different roles in the wilderness, Kehath's descendants carried the holiest vessels, including the ark and menorah; Gershon’s descendants, carried the curtains and screens whereas Merari’s descendants carried the boards and sockets of the Tabernacle (Bamidbar 3:25-39)!!

The Haftorah for this weeks Torah reading is from Chapter 2 of the book of Hosea. It realtes how the prophet, Hosea, admonished the Jewish nation, in turn, he was forced to marry a harlot, begetting three children and growing attached to them straight away. Hashem then told him off for bad mouthing the Jews and Hashem stated that the Jews are his nation!! Hosea realised he did bad in what he said and repented and blessed the Jews (Hosea 2:1-22).

This Dvar Torah is dedicated to ‘Reut Rachel Bat Margalit’ who is due to give birth soon, please pray she will have an easy and safe birth and please everyone say Tehillim (psalms) or do acts of kindness in her merit for this.