1. Raise their heads. It has a double meaning as mentioned before with Joseph’s dreams. But it also reveals what we’re doing here. Why are all these names and numbers recorded? What does it have to do with us? Perhaps nothing. Perhaps the merit of being in this ‘census’ is that these people’s names and their count are recorded forever. We can think of it as a count, but we can also think of it as sanctifying and immortalizing those who left Egypt. Vayikra is from the priestly perspective, this is from the perspective of the Jewish people and those specific people are being immortalized.
  2. Why the numbers are all rounded. Are the people rounded or is there some sort of weird rounding going on. There are answers either way. But with each mention of counting, military service is mentioned. So let’s think of it in military terms. When we look at the organization of judges we see judges of 10, of 100 of 1000 etc…  We don’t know the organization of the army, but it is possible army organization is why we round. We often translate galgal as ‘polls’ or ‘individual,’ but perhaps the literal ‘circles’ is the right translation. A circle can describe an army unit. Perhaps one with 100 men. So why does Gad have 50? When we see Jacob’s blessing, we see they are called a troop. They gather for attack and slash and penetrate. The word Eikev is used. For heel or treachery. Perhaps Gad was the commandos. Perhaps, their circles needed only 50 men.
  3. The front of the camp is always East, it always journeys first. And it is always Judah. Why? I think the answer may be in the second reading. The Torah says the Leviim should surround the Mishkan so the wrath of Hashem doesn’t spill out into the camp. I’m reminded of a Prince Rupert’s Drop. It is what molten glass forms when you pour it into water. It looks like a snake with a big head and tiny tail. The glass on the outside cools fast, but the glass on the inside cools slower. So the inside glass is permanently pushing against the outside and visa versa. You can hit the ball of a Prince Rupert’s drop with a hammer and it won’t break. It is protected by the contradictory pressures. But if you tweak the thin part of it with a wrench it will literally explode as those pressures are released. Judah is the leadership, the ball of the drop. Judah is leadership, they pull the Jewish people together and inwards. The mishkan burns outwards. The contradictory pressure strengthen the Jewish people. But the other tribes are weaker. The pressures of being Hashem’s people can break them and cause everything to explode. So, no matter what direction you’re going, Judah must lead.
  4. Why mention Nadav and Avihu? They are dead. We are exploring who is counted and when. Nadav and Avihu are explicitly excluded because they didn’t fulfill what makes a Kohen count – perfect adherence to timeless edicts of Hashem.
  5. The Leviim are counted, but they are counted by job. And they are counted from one month of age. Mental or physical development are irrelevant to their core mission. They must simply be viable and not damaged. Why? The Kohanim are enablers of the conversion of physical creation into spiritual creation. And they don’t need to be developed for that. Because their lives are dedicated to Hashem, it is part of the fabric of their being.
  6. Very odd. We find 273 more firstborns than Leviim (note, no circle counting). Two very strange things. First, the Leviim aren’t organized into circles. But they have an even number of people. Second, this implies roughly one out of every 40 people is a firstborn male (22,273 out of probably 1 million males of all ages). It would suggest an average of twenty kids per family. This appears to be miraculous growth. What can address this? Perhaps the excuse of Shifrah and Puah is the answer. They say they can’t kill the boys because the women are experts (literally chayot or like animals) and give birth too fast. Perhaps the excuse was believable because the Jewish women were experts. They gave birth to girls first, the vast majority of the time. This made them experts when they had boys and gave Shifrah and Puah and a good excuse. It also meant the only first borne males were either old or very young.
  7. Note the Leviim begin to work at 30 years of age. They are vessels of holiness from one month. But they can’t do even as vessels. To serve their function, they must be very mature. Even more so than the army. As younger men, they might be as Nadav and Avihu, too innovative. And innovation is not part of timelessness. So they must age to carry out their jobs – not as Nadav and Avihu but as functionaries of Hashem.

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