Monday, May 22, 2006

Bamidbar - ch.1-2

It's interesting how, after HaShem commands Moshe to conduct a census and tells him which men to bring along to observe the census (calling them "rosh l'veis avosav", kru'ei eidah, n'si'ei matos avosam, and roshei alfei yisro'el), and after the Torah tells us that Moshe conducted the census and provides us with the final numbers (all in chapter 1), HaShem then, when commanding Moshe regarding the arrangement of the camps in the desert, proceeds to mention the nesi'im again by name and proceeds to repeat the same census numbers that Moshe obtained through natural means. I suppose that, in the absence of anything deeper, one can say that it's an expression of HaShem's love to repeat the already-known, and that HaShem wanted to confirm that Moshe produced exactly the correct numbers.

It's interesting how Gad is the only tribe to not have a population evenly divisible by 100. Gad is also the only tribe whose nasi's name is changed between HaShem's census command and His camp formation command, from Elyasaf ben De'eul to Elyasaf ben Re'uel. I recall that my 9th grade chumash rebbe explained that both names have a connotation of perception and knowledge - the former is a lashon of da'as, while the latter is a lashon of ra'ayon.

Bamidbar is also one of the parshiyos whose name is never pronounced the way that it appears at the beginning of the parsha, as the initial phrase is B'midbar Sinai, where the initial patach that would usually be in the word is converted into a shva due to s'michus. Others include P'kudei, which appears in the parsha as Eileh F'kudei, and Tazria, which Ashkenazim would read as Ishah ki Sazria. No complaint - just a nitpicky note.

Update, 5/26: In a post on Hirhurim today, R' Gil Student linked back to a post that he made last year in which he linked to an article by Prof. Eli Merzbach at Bar-Ilan from 1999 that discusses this question, and provides several logical answers based on the rounding of odd numbers.

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