Parashat Bemidbar: Numbers 1:1 to 4:20

For Week of May 19, 2023

The name of our opening sedrah is the same as the name for the entire book of Numbers. “In the wilderness” contains many narrative threads, and details the exploits of the Israelites in their final years in the Sinai wilderness. “Bemidbar” opens with God’s command to Moses one year and two weeks after having left Egypt, to take a census of all adult, eligible males for military conscription. The rest of the Torah portion describes the statistical results of that mandate. 

The purpose of this census soon becomes evident. By verse 1:47 the statistics become centered in the tribe of Levi and the Levitical clans. This text was probably written under the influence of the priestly editors, who wanted to highlight the total importance of the Levitical personalities. This focus on the Levite families continues through our Torah portion and into the next parashah. 

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