Parasha Inspiration – Bamidbar

וְלָֽקַחְתָּ֙ אֶת־הַֽלְוִיִּ֥ם לִי֙ אֲנִ֣י יְהוָֹ֔ה תַּ֥חַת כָּל־בְּכֹ֖ר בִּבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְאֵת֙ בֶּֽהֱמַ֣ת הַֽלְוִיִּ֔ם תַּ֣חַת כָּל־בְּכ֔וֹר בְּבֶֽהֱמַ֖ת בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל: וַיִּפְקֹ֣ד משֶׁ֔ה כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֛ר צִוָּ֥ה יְהוָֹ֖ה אֹת֑וֹ אֶת־כָּל־בְּכ֖וֹר בִּבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל: וַיְהִי֩ כָל־בְּכ֨וֹר זָכָ֜ר בְּמִסְפַּ֥ר שֵׁמֹ֛ת מִבֶּן־חֹ֥דֶשׁ וָמַ֖עְלָה לִפְקֻֽדֵיהֶ֑ם שְׁנַ֤יִם וְעֶשְׂרִים֙ אֶ֔לֶף שְׁלשָׁ֥ה וְשִׁבְעִ֖ים וּמָאתָֽיִם: וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהוָֹ֖ה אֶל־משֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר: קַ֣ח אֶת־הַֽלְוִיִּ֗ם תַּ֤חַת כָּל־בְּכוֹר֙ בִּבְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְאֶת־בֶּֽהֱמַ֥ת הַֽלְוִיִּ֖ם תַּ֣חַת בְּהֶמְתָּ֑ם וְהָֽיוּ־לִ֥י הַֽלְוִיִּ֖ם אֲנִ֥י יְהוָֹֽה: וְאֵת֙ פְּדוּיֵ֣י הַשְּׁלשָׁ֔ה וְהַשִּׁבְעִ֖ים וְהַמָּאתָ֑יִם הָעֹֽדְפִים֙ עַל־הַֽלְוִיִּ֔ם מִבְּכ֖וֹר בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל: וְלָֽקַחְתָּ֗ חֲמֵ֧שֶׁת חֲמֵ֛שֶׁת שְׁקָלִ֖ים לַגֻּלְגֹּ֑לֶת בְּשֶׁ֤קֶל הַקֹּ֨דֶשׁ֙ תִּקָּ֔ח עֶשְׂרִ֥ים גֵּרָ֖ה הַשָּֽׁקֶל:

And you shall take the Levites for Me I am the Lord instead of all firstborns among the children of Israel. And [take] the Levites’ animals instead of all the firstborn animals of the children of Israel. So Moses counted every firstborn of Israel, as the Lord had commanded him. The firstborn males aged one month and upward, according to the number of names, was twenty two thousand, two hundred and seventy three. The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take the Levites instead of all the firstborns among the children of Israel and the Levites’ animals instead of their animals, and the Levites shall be Mine I am the Lord. As for the two hundred and seventy three of the children of Israel who required redemption, who are in excess of the Levites, you shall take five shekels per head, according to the holy shekel, by which the shekel is twenty gerahs.

Numbers 3:41-47

This week’s Torah portion begins the book of Numbers, Bamidbar. The portion begins with a census of all the military age men in the nation. The exception to this account is the tribe of Levi. Levi is not counted for purposes of the army, instead, they are to serve Hashem directly.

Originally, the firstborn of every household was supposed to serve Hashem. However, the firstborn took part in the Golden calf incident. The tribe of Levi did not. Therefore, the duty of service to Hashem is given to the tribe of Levi instead of the firstborn. However, the census that was taken showed that there were 273 more firstborn than there were Levites. A commandment of Hashem is permanent. So, an accounting must be made for the extra 273 firstborn.

The additional firstborn were to be redeemed, at a cost of 5 shekels per person. This redemption causes the numbers of Levites and firstborn to be completely rectified. Because Hashem’s commandments are permanent the redemption of the firstborn must occur.

Even until today, every firstborn son of Israel must be redeemed. This is done with the ceremony of the Pidyon HaBen. Around the time of circumcision, financial compensation is given to a Kohayn to redeem the firstborn son from service to Hashem that was substituted by the Levites. Shabbat shalom.


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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.