In our current Parsha, Bamidbar, which translates to “in the wilderness”, the Torah delves into the details of how the twelve tribes of Israel were summoned by Moshe and Aharon to the Tabernacle. It is noteworthy that at the time of this occurrence, some of the Israelites were beginning to reconsider whether they should continue to advance towards Israel or return to slavery. Despite having grievously suffered at the hands of Egyptians for hundreds of years, they began to wonder if it might be better to return to the comfort of familiarity and that maybe slavery was the better choice over the fear of the unknown. They relished the daily meals and sense of security provided in Egypt despite the harsh conditions of slavery. Much like a young adult reluctant to leave home and become independent, many Israelites went to Moshe complaining about their situation and asking to return to slavery in order to avoid worrying about the burden of independence.
It is explained that on the first day of Iyar, two years following the exodus from Egypt, Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Tabernacle, telling him to take a census of all males aged 20 years and older. The son of the leader of each tribe was assigned the job of taking the census of their own tribes. Each family in every tribe, aside from the Levites whose job it was to transport the Tabernacle, was counted. The counting started with the number of families and they did so by counting the number of heads of each household. From there on, all able-bodied men over the age of 20 in each household were taken into account. Once the entire population had been accounted for, the number of men able to bear arms came to 603,550.
The process of sanctification through traveling 40 years in the desert was a necessary process for the Israelites to undergo since they were still enslaved in their hearts and not yet prepared to enter the land of Israel. The taking of the census was a critical part of the sanctification process that strengthened their unity as a people. By taking a count and strengthening their dominion, their trust in Hashem had begun to solidify. Children don’t always know what’s best for them, but it is the parent’s role to guide them, just as Hashem has always guides the Jewish people.
By: Akiva Pearl