Community Rabbi Corner, May 22, 2020

Rabbi Mendel Bogomilsky
Chai Center Chabad
Short Hills, NJ
Parashat Bamidbar

This week we begin a new book of the Torah, the book of Bamidbar.  In English, this book is called the Book of Numbers, and in fact the name Numbers, Chumash Hapekudim, is the name that many of our earliest sages used also (e.g. Rabbi Chanina ben Gamliel in Talmud Sotah 36b). Why is this fourth book of the Torah called Numbers, Pekudim?
In the first parsha, this week’s Torah reading, we read about three different censuses that Hashem commanded Moshe to undertake.  The first census was to count all the males of draft age, over the age of 20, in all the tribes besides the tribe of Levi. 

Next, Moshe had to count the tribe of Levi by itself, this time not for an army draft, but for the purpose of appointing the tribe of Levi with the privilege to do the Temple service.  This count was of all males in the tribe of Levi from the age of 30 days and up. 

The third count that Moshe did was of all the males in the tribe of Levi who were eligible to work in the Mishkan at that time, and this census was of all males from the age of 30 to 50. 

The word our sages use for Numbers here is Pekudim, which can also mean an appointment for a task. These three censuses teach us that we are each given three levels of empowerment.  First, as Jews, we are each capable of battling any negativity there may be, through the mitzvot of our Torah.  Second, we each make a beneficial impact even from the earliest age of just 30 days old, bringing joy and light into the world.  And third, while our mere existence is also a blessing, we need to affirmatively create holiness, to actually be an adult Levi, studying Torah and fulfilling the mitzvot.

Today is also Yom Yerushalayim, the day that we were miraculously able to once again visit the site of our holy Beit Hamikdash, and no doubt, this day itself gives us yet more energy.

Shabbat Shalom!