Shabbat Kodesh Parashat Bamidbar

Counting differently

We will read on Shabbat:

„וַיְדַבֵּ֨ר יְהֹוָ֧ה אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֛ה בְּמִדְבַּ֥ר סִינַ֖י בְּאֹ֣הֶל מוֹעֵ֑ד בְּאֶחָד֩ לַחֹ֨דֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִ֜י בַּשָּׁנָ֣ה הַשֵּׁנִ֗ית לְצֵאתָ֛ם מֵאֶ֥רֶץ מִצְרַ֖יִם לֵאמֹֽר׃ 

On the first day of the second month, in the second year following the exodus from theland of Egypt, יהוה spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting, saying: 

שְׂא֗וּ אֶת־רֹאשׁ֙ כׇּל־עֲדַ֣ת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָ֖ם לְבֵ֣ית אֲבֹתָ֑ם בְּמִסְפַּ֣ר שֵׁמ֔וֹת כׇּל־זָכָ֖ר לְגֻלְגְּלֹתָֽם׃ 

Take a census of the whole Israelite company [of fighters] by the clans of its ancestral houses, listing the names, every male, head by head. 

מִבֶּ֨ן עֶשְׂרִ֤ים שָׁנָה֙ וָמַ֔עְלָה כׇּל־יֹצֵ֥א צָבָ֖א בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל תִּפְקְד֥וּ אֹתָ֛ם לְצִבְאֹתָ֖ם אַתָּ֥ה וְאַהֲרֹֽן׃ 

You and Aaron shall record them by their groups, from the age of twenty years up, all those in Israel who are able to bear arms.”

All, except members of the Leviim. Moshe Rabeinu was instructed: 

„אַ֣ךְ אֶת־מַטֵּ֤ה לֵוִי֙ לֹ֣א תִפְקֹ֔ד וְאֶת־רֹאשָׁ֖ם לֹ֣א תִשָּׂ֑א בְּת֖וֹךְ בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ 

Do not on any account enroll the tribe of Levi or take a census of them with the Israelites.”

However shortly thereafter, Moshe Rabeinu is told:

„פְּקֹד֙ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י לֵוִ֔י לְבֵ֥ית אֲבֹתָ֖ם לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָ֑ם כׇּל־זָכָ֛ר מִבֶּן־חֹ֥דֶשׁ וָמַ֖עְלָה תִּפְקְדֵֽם׃ 

Record the descendants of Levi by ancestral house and by clan; record every male among them from the age of one month up.”

So, if after all they are to be counted, why was Moshe first instructed not to count them. Why not do it all at once? Perhaps because the census of Leviim was to include all “From the age of one month”. The rest were counted only from the age of twenty years. For whatever reason. 

Counting them at the same time would have created a feeling of being “less important” to the rest of the nation. Doing it as a separate census, removed this possibility of feeling “offended”…

If we have to give different prizes to children (or adults…), it is probably better not to do it at the same time…

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Shavuot Sameach

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld