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Tuesday, Iyar 25, 5780 / May 19, 2020 (40th day of the Omer)


Parshat Bamidbar, which will be read on Shabbat, gives a detailed account of the amount of men from the ages of twenty and up in each of the twelve tribes.  Then the Torah gives the total sum, which was 603,550. The tribe of Levi was counted separately and that count included infants from one month and up.


When we look at the numbers, we find something very interesting.  The largest of the twelve tribes was Yehuda, (Judah), who totaled 74,600 people. The least populated of the twelve tribes was Menashe, who had 32,200.  Yet, the tribe of Levi, which was not one of the twelve tribes, and was counted from one month and up, had only 22,000.


Q.   Why was the tribe of Levi so small in comparison to even the smallest of the twelve tribes?     


A.   The Ramban, one of the early commentaries on the Torah, gives the following explanation: All twelve tribes were enslaved in Egypt, but the tribe of Levi was not. They were free in Egypt and didn’t endure the harsh suffering and punishment that other Jews had to endure.


In Exodus (1,12) the Torah tells us that the more the Egyptians oppressed the Jewish people, “the more they multiplied.” Being that the tribe of Levi didn’t endure the suffering in Egypt, they also were not included in this special blessing and were the least of all the tribes.


Hardship may at times be the basis for blessings in the long run. Let’s hope and pray that the global hardship we are all going through now will bring special global blessings in the long run.


Q.   Parshat Bamidbar is read on the Shabbat before to Shavuot – the holiday of the Giving of the Torah.  What is the connection between this Parsha and the holiday of Shavuot?


A.   Our sages tell us that every Jewish soul is connected to and rooted in the Torah.  Although there are levels among the Jewish people, some are more knowledgeable than others. Some are on a higher spiritual level than others.  Yet, as we approach the holiday of Shavuot, this Parsha teaches us that every Jew at any level, has an equal share in the Torah. Every Jew has a Neshama which is connected to G-d and is a spark of G-dliness. At our core every Jew is the same.


This point is emphasized by the importance of the census in the Parsha in which every person, no matter their level of knowledge in Torah; no matter their degree of piety, was counted equally.


Another interesting point: The Torah specifies that this counting took place "Bamidbar Sinai" ("in the wilderness of Sinai").  In the two words "Bamidbar Sinai" is hinted the purpose and special quality of the Torah, which was given on Mount Sinai. Torah transforms “Midbar” (wilderness) into "Sinai" (purpose and holiness).