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תפקדו אתם לצבאתם אתה ואהרן

You shall count them according to their legions – you and Aharon. (1:3)

Hashem commanded Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen, working together with the tribal leaders, to take a census of all males over the age of twenty. Rashi and Ramban offer reasons for making the census at this point. One of the reasons offered by Ramban is particularly striking. Each member of the nation had an inherent right to benefit from the personal attention of Moshe and Aharon. What is a better opportunity for such interaction than a census in which each Jew would come before these two leaders and, after telling them his name, be counted as an individual of personal…

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כל יצא צבא בישראל תפקדו אתם לצבאתם אתה ואהרן

Everyone who goes out to the legion in Yisrael – you shall count them according to their legions, you and Aharon. (1:3)

Tifkedu osam, count them. The root of tifkedu is pakod, which means to appoint. While it does have other connotations, its root (as explained by Ramban) usually has the implication of concern for something or taking cognizance of the individual under discussion. It can be used as “remember,” as in “Hashem remembered Sarah” (Bereishis 21:1) or U’b’yom pakdi u’pokaditi aleihem, “And on the day that I make My account, I shall bring their sin to account against them” (Shemos 32:34), following the sin of the Golden Calf. Ramban feels that in the context of the census, pakod implies that the…

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ואתה הפקד את הלוים על משכן העדת ועל כל כליו ועל כל אשר לו

You shall appoint the Leviim over the Mishkan of the Testimony, over all of its utensils and everything that belongs to it. (1:50)

The Leviim were first appointed to their service in the Mishkan, and later they were counted. Why were they not counted immediately, like the rest of Klal Yisrael? The Shach explains that had they been counted prior to receiving their positions, they might have become disheartened by their census in proportion to the rest of the nation. There were only twenty-two thousand Leviim from the age of thirty days, in comparison with much larger numbers for each tribe – who were counted from the age of twenty years old. Once they were given their lofty positions serving in the Mishkan,…

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וידבר ד' אל משה במדבר סיני

Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Wilderness of Sinai. (1:1)

The Torah was given to us in the Midbar, Wilderness – by design: Mah midbar hefker, af divrei Torah miskaymim b’mi she’mafkir atzmo, “Just as the Wilderness is ownerless, likewise, the words of Torah endure only in he who is mafkir, renders himself ownerless (abrogates himself, divests himself of himself; I am nothing!).” When a person feels himself to be insignificant, then that with which he comes in contact has greater value than himself. Thus, he values and respects it. Unless one values Torah, it will do nothing for him. One can own the most expensive piece of jewelry, but,…

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ואלה תולדות אהרן ומשה... נדב ואביהו אלעזר ואיתמר

These are the offspring of Aharon and Moshe… Nadav and Avihu, Elazar and Isamar. (3:2)

Interestingly, the pasuk indicates that it will detail the offspring of Aharon and Moshe, but only mentions the sons of Aharon HaKohen. Chazal (Sanhedrin 19b) infer from this pasuk (which mentions the offspring of Aharon) that one who teaches Torah to someone else’s children is considered as if he had fathered him. Moshe Rabbeinu taught Torah to his brother Aharon’s sons and, as a result, he was regarded to be their spiritual father. Moshe guided Aharon’s sons by example and by deed. His mentoring gave life to them in a manner similar to that of their biological father. Teaching Torah…

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הקרב את מטה לוי והעמדת אתו לפני אהרן הכהן ושרתו אתו

Bring near the tribe of Levi and have it stand before Aharon HaKohen, and they shall serve him. (3:6)

Shevet Levi was consecrated to a life of service, avodas ha’kodesh, holy service, both in the Sanctuary and as Torah teachers. The Levi set the standard for Jews to acknowledge and put to action: one does not live solely for himself. We are here to live a life of service – to Hashem and to the Jewish community. Concerning this pasuk (Hakreiv es mateh Levi), the Midrash quotes the pasuk in Sefer Tehillim (92:13): Tzaddik katamar yifrach k’erez ba’levanon yisgeh, “A righteous man will flourish like a date palm, like a cedar in the Lebanon he will grow tall.” The…

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ביום הכותי כל בכור בארץ מצרים הקדשתי לי כל בכור בישראל

On the day I struck down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified every firstborn in Yisrael for Myself. (3:13)

The Torah teaches that, on that fateful Pesach night when the Egyptian firstborn were slain by Hashem, the Jewish firstborn were consecrated to Hashem, to serve Him in the Temple. Should Jewish firstborns be singled out for a life of consecrated service just because their Egyptian counterparts were designated for death? The Alter, zl, m’Slabodka, Horav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, explains that the night of makkas bechoros – when the Egyptian firstborn died during the tenth plague to strike Egypt – it was a night of severe anxiety and tension for the Jewish firstborn. Wherever they went, they saw the bodies…

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ואלה תולדות אהרן ומשה

These are the offspring of Aharon and Moshe. (3:1)

Interestingly, the Torah begins the pasuk stating that the following are the sons of Aharon and Moshe, but mentions only the sons of Aharon HaKohen. Rashi explains that whoever teaches the son of his friend Torah, it is considered as if he gave birth to him. A rebbe is a child’s spiritual mentor — and much more. As his spiritual mentor, he has the opportunity to mold his student’s life, inspire his goals and aspirations, essentially to change him. He becomes the child’s spiritual progenitor, granting him spiritual life, which is of infinitely greater value than his physical life. Playing…

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והיו לי הלוים

And the Leviim shall be Mine. (3:12)

Chazal (Midrash Rabbah 1:10) refer to Shevet Levi as neemanei aretz, trusted ones of the land. Their stalwartness in not flinching when they had to take a position that was far from favorable earned them the approval and trust of Hashem. Klal Yisrael, however, did not make the correct choice             when Moshe Rabbeinu called out Mi l’Hashem elai, “Who is for Hashem – to me!” This occurred during the chet ha’eigel, sin of the Golden Calf, when the erev rav, members of the mixed multitude, rebelled against Hashem. Moshe quelled the mutiny, and it became time to take decisive…

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ולא יבואו לראות כבלע את הקדש ומתו

But they shall not come and look as the holy is inserted, lest they die. (4:20)

Bnei Kehas were blessed to be participants in a very auspicious service: transporting the holy vessels which include the Aron Hakodesh, Holy Ark. One who works with nitroglycerine cannot take any chance. His every movement must be precise and organized. Thus, great care was exerted to see to it that Bnei Kehas approached their service in the Mishkan in the most orderly manner. It is forbidden for anyone other than a Kohen to gaze upon the holiest vessels in their uncovered state. Thus, the Kohanim were given the sole responsibility of inserting these items into their wrapping prior to their…

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