Parashat Bamidbar / פרשת בְּמִדְבַּר
Read on 15 May 2021 (4 Sivan 5781).
Parashat Bamidbar is the 34th weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading.
Torah Portion: Numbers 1:1-4:20
This portion, the beginning of the book of Numbers, starts out with Hashem commanding Moses and Aaron to take a census on the first day of the second month (Iyyar). The leaders of each of the twelve tribes are to stand with them. They are told to count the "legions", which the sages interpret as those men who are able to go to war if necessary, those over the age of twenty, and some say until the age of sixty.
They are not, however, to count the Levites in this count. They will be tending to the Mishkan and its furniture and will not be going out to fight. They do get counted separately later according to their three clans: Gershom, Kohath and Merrari.
The tribes are also told how to form around the Mishkan. Judah takes the lead at the East with Issachar and Zebulun. Reuben leads to the South with Simeon and Gad. Ephraim leads to the West with Manasseh and Benjamin. Finally, Dan leads to the North with Asher and Naftali.
The tribe of Levi is consecrated as the replacement of the first born. A census is taken and they are given their places around the Mishkan and their assignments based on their clans.
Gershon would camp on the West. They would take care of the Tent, Cover and Screen of the Tabernacle. Kohath would camp on the South and take charge of the Ark, Table, Menorah, Altars and sacred utensils. Merrari would camp to the North and take charge of the planks, bars, pillars, sockets and pegs and ropes.
The Kohathites are then given instructions on how to take care of their charge.