B’midbar (בְּמִדְבַּר)— Hebrew for “in the wilderness of” [Sinai], the fifth overall and first distinctive word in the parashah), often called Bamidbar is the 34th weekly Torah portion (פָּרָשָׁה, parasha) in the annual cycle of Torah reading and the first in the Book of Numbers. The parashah tells of the census and the priests’ duties and covers Numbers 1:1–4:20. It is generally read it in May or early June
Parsha Bamidbar Summary
In the Sinai Desert, God says to conduct a census of the twelve tribes of Israel. Moses counts 603,550 men of draftable age (20 to 60 years); the tribe of Levi, numbering 22,300 males age one month and older, is counted separately. The Levites are to serve in the Sanctuary, replacing the firstborn, whose number they approximated, who were disqualified when they participated in the worshipping of the Golden Calf. The 273 firstborn who lacked a Levite to replace them had to pay a five-shekel “ransom” to redeem themselves.
When the people broke camp, the three Levite clans dismantled and transported the Sanctuary, and reassembled it at the center of the next encampment. They then erected their own tents around it: the Kohathites, who carried the Sanctuary’s vessels (the Ark, menorah, etc.) in their specially designed coverings on their shoulders, camped to its south; the Gershonites, in charge of its tapestries and roof coverings, to its west; and the families of Merari, who transported its wall panels and pillars, to its north. Before the Sanctuary’s entranceway, to its east, were the tents of Moses, Aaron, and Aaron’s sons.
Beyond the Levite circle, the twelve tribes camped in four groups of three tribes each. To the east were Judah (pop. 74,600), Issachar (54,400) and Zebulun (57,400); to the south, Reuben (46,500), Simeon(59,300) and Gad (45,650); to the west, Ephraim (40,500), Manasseh (32,200) and Benjamin (35,400); and to the north, Dan(62,700), Asher (41,500) and Naphtali(53,400). This formation was kept also while traveling. Each tribe had its own nassi(prince or leader), and its own flag with its tribal color and emblem.
This week’s haftorah begins with the words, “The number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea [shore], which can be neither measured nor counted.” An appropriate reading for the first Torahreading of the Book of Numbers.
Hosea first prophesies about the eventual reunification of the houses of Judah and Israel. During the Messianic Era, these two perennial antagonists will make peace and appoint a single leader. Hosea then rebukes the Jewish people for their infidelity, abandoning their “husband,” God, and engaging in adulterous affairs with pagan deities. He describes the punishments they will suffer because of this unfaithfulness.
Eventually, though, Hosea reassures the Jews that they will repent, and God will accept then back wholeheartedly. The haftorah concludes with the moving words: “And I will betroth you to Me forever, and I will betroth you to Me with righteousness and with justice and with loving-kindness and with mercy.”
–The Ark of the Covenant
This week’s afternoon study was followed up by an additional study by Jeff Steadman on the Ark of the Covenant.
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Torah Parashah teaching with video and audio and illustrations by Rabbi Isaac. © 2019 Assembly of Called-Out Believers. Use by Permission.