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ונתנו עליו כסוי עור תחש ופרשו בגד כליל תכלת מלמעלה

They shall place upon it a tachash – hide covering, and spread a cloth entirely of turquoise wool over it. (4:6)

The Ramban observes that in the case of the other klei haMishkan, vessels of the Mishkan, they were first covered with wool and then covered over with the tachash – hide. The Aron HaKodesh was singular in that it was first covered with the tachash – hide and then was covered with the techeiles, turquoise wool.  Chazal describe techeiles as having a color similar to that of the sea, similar to the sky which symbolizes the purity of Heaven. Thus, (according to Ramban) it was placed above the tachash – to call attention to the purity and sanctity of the…

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ואלה תולדות אהרן ומשה ואלה שמות בני אהרן

These are the offspring of Aharon and Moshe. These are the names of the sons of Aharon. (3:1,2)

Rashi observes that while the pasuk states that the following are the offspring of Aharon HaKohen and Moshe Rabbeinu, it only lists the names of Aharon’s sons. This, says Rashi, teaches that whoever teaches his friend’s son Torah, it is considered by the Torah as if he caused his birth. Thus, Aharon’s sons, who were Moshe’s students, are also considered to be Moshe’s sons. Horav Meir Chodosh, zl (Or Chadash), quotes the Sifri’s comments to the pasuk, V’shinantem l’vanecha, “You shall teach them diligently to your sons” (Devarim (6:7), eilu talmidecha; “These [sons] are your students.”). The Mashgiach quotes the…

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איש על דגלו באתת לבית אבתם

Every man shall encamp by his banner with the sign of his father’s house. (2:2)

Chazal teach that the arrangement of the Jews’ encampment in the Wilderness paralleled the configuration of the Heavenly entourage that accompanied the Shechinah when it descended upon Har Sinai prior to the Giving of the Torah. Myriads of Heavenly Angels descended with Hashem, all grouped in composition under Degalim, banners. When Klal Yisrael saw this pattern, they, too, sought a sequence of Degalim for their encampment. It did not stop there. Chazal (Bamidbar Rabbah 2:4) state that when umos ha’olam, the nations of the world, saw Klal Yisrael encamped under the Degalim, they approached the Jewish People and attempted to…

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ויתילדו על משפחתם

And they established their genealogy according to their families. (1:18)

Each tribe carried out its own census.  In this manner, one had to clearly establish from which tribe he hailed. Family purity was a strict requirement, so that the merit of their forefathers could stand in their stead during times of crisis. Chazal (Pesachim 49a) teach that one should seek the daughter of a talmid chacham, Torah scholar, as a wife. This serves to ensure the bloodlines, applying the analogy of Invei ha’gefen, b’invei ha’gefen, davar na’eh u’miskabeil; “A combination of the grapes of a vine with the grapes of another vine; which is something fine and acceptable.” [Since both…

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כל פקודי הלוים ... כל זכר מבן חדש ומעלה שנים ועשרים אלף

All the countings of the Leviim… every male from one month of age and up, were twenty-two thousand. (3:39)

The Ramban asks why Shevet Levi, the tribe most dedicated to serving Hashem in the Mishkan and later in the Bais HaMikdash, the tribe synonymous with Torah study and consummate devotion to the spiritual realm of Judaism, numbered far fewer in the census than any of the other tribes. Why should not Hashem’s devotees be as equally blessed as the rest of the nation? Ramban explains that Shevet Levi had not been enslaved. In Egypt, they were permitted to study Torah unabated. During this time, while Shevet Levi was sitting in the bais hamedrash, their brothers were out in the…

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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. (3:1,2)

Rashi notes that the pasuk begins by informing us who the offspring of Moshe Rabbeinu and Aharon HaKohen were, but, in the end, only states the names of Aharon’s sons. What happened to Moshe’s sons? Rashi quotes the Talmud Sanhedrin 19a, asserting that the Torah is teaching us that Aharon’s sons were considered Moshe’s sons, because Moshe was their Rebbe: “Whoever teaches his friend’s son Torah, it is considered as if he caused his birth.” In other words, the individual who catalyzes a person’s spiritual development is likewise a partner in his physical life. Simply, we might say that a…

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כל יצאי צבא בישראל תפקדו אתם לצבאתם

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

The men appeared to have been counted as soldiers. The minimum age to serve as a soldier in the army (Jewish) – the legion – was twenty years old, since people achieve their physical maturity by then. Men older than sixty were no longer counted; they were past the age of military service. The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh teaches that (miraculously) every Jew between the ages of twenty to sixty was physically able to serve as a soldier. The Kli Yakar says that each Jew was not only physically fit for Army service, but he was also spiritually fit to serve…

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וידבר ד' אל משה במדבר סיני

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

The Midrash teaches, “The Torah was given through three media: fire, water and wilderness.” The defining characteristic of Klal Yisrael throughout the ages has been their extraordinary ability to be moser nefesh, to self-sacrifice, for the Torah and their faith. Our People went to the executioner’s scaffold, the fires of the auto de fe, and the gas chambers with their faith and commitment intact. Whenever the tyrants gave them the choice of their religion or their life, the decision was always their religion. This unique power of commitment was highlighted during these – and other – challenging incidents in the…

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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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