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Bamidbar 5770

Rabbi Pesach Siegel

Parshat Bamidbar

May 16, 2010

Raising Heads ... Counting Names ...

"Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting, on the first of the second month, in the second year after their exodus from the land of Egypt, saying, Take census of the entireassembly of the Children of Israel according to their families, according to their fathers' house, by number of the names, every male according to their head count; from twenty years of age and up-- everyone who goes out to the army in Israel--you shall count them according to their armies, you and Aharon. And with you shall be one man from each tribe; a man who is a prince of his father's house.

We find through the course of their travels throughout the desert, Bnei Yisroel were counted a total of three times. Once after they were redeemed from Egypt, once after the sin of the Golden Calf, and once in this parsha in preparation for entering the land of Israel. Rashi explains that the reason Hashem commanded Moshe and Aharon to count Bnei Yisroel was to demonstrate the endearment that He holds for the People of Israel.


What is meant by counting them by "the number of their names". Is it the names that are being counted or the people? In addition, If Hashem is counting Bnei Yisroel out of his infinite love for us, why aren't all of Bnei Yisroel counted? Only those eligible to fight in war, men from ages of twenty to sixty, were counted! Furthermore, when the Torah mentions the aid of the Nessi'im (princes) in counting Bnei Yisroel, the Torah refers to them as, "Nikvu B'shaimos" (perek 1 pasuk 17) meaning "one's with distinct/outstanding names." Why doesn't the Torah simply refer to them as their more commonly known title as Nessi'im (princes)? Moreover, what is the need for the Nessi'im's names to be mentioned at all? The Torah could have merely stated that Moshe and Aharon facilitated the counting of Bnei Yisroel together with the Nessi'im
In the following posuk, the Torah refers again to the counting of Bnei Yisroel. Rashi explains that this counting was different in that everyone brought their documents of lineage and witnesses to trace and prove their ancestry to their particular tribe and their father's  house. Why was this extra effort of credibility necessary and how is this truly a manifestation of Hashem's love for Klal Yisroel

Background/Deeper Understanding

In order to understand the necessity for the Torah's mentioning of the counting and writing of the names in Bnei Yisroel, we must first understand the meaning behind the concept of a name. In Parshas Ki Sisa after the sin of the Golden Calf, we fine Moshe asking Hashem to reveal Himself (obviously not in the physical sense because Hashem has no physical attributes). In other words, Moshe was asking Hashem to reveal the deep reasons behind the Ratzon Hashem (the will of G-d). Hashem's response to Moshe is Va' Eyd'acha Ba'shem meaning, "I will know you by name" (Perek 34 pasuk 18). What is meant by this?

Before Avraham was about to sacrifice his own son Yitchak in parshas Vayeira, a Mal'ach (angel) appeared and shouted "Avraham! Avraham!" (Perek 22 Pasuk 11) Why did the Angel scream Avraham's name twice? A simple "Stop!" would have sufficed.

In Parshas Vayigash, Yaakov is finally notified of the existence of his son Yosef, so he journeyed down to Egypt to reunite with his son. On the way, the Pasuk says that Hashem called out to Yaakov and said, "Yaakov! Yaakov!" (Perek 46 Pasuk 2) Again, what is the significance of the repetition of the name?

In Parshat Shemos, the pasukim mention the tending of Yisro's sheep by Moshe when in the distance, Moshe notices a burning bush. At that point, Hashem calls out to Moshe saying, "Moshe! Moshe!" Once again, we find the repetition of the name being called out


R' Chaim of Volozhin (a talmid of the Vilna Gaon) brings light to the above questions with such profundity. All Jewish names are comprised of letters from the Aleph Bais and all letters from the Aleph Bais are rooted in the Torah. In essence, the Torah is the Aleph Bais repeated over and over, just in different order. The particular combination and order of the letters that form a person's name are his true essence., his uniqueness, and purpose in creation. The letters of one's name are the "divrei Torah" that one is to reveal during his life span.

Every person exhibits the combination of body and soul whereby every soul is unique in its responsibility in the world. Consequently, every person truly has two names: one name is representative of the  oul and one name is representative of the body. Our goal in life is to gear our bodies to be in tune with the needs of our soul thus linking the name of our body with the name of our soul

Hashem called out to Moshe and Yaakov using both the names of their soul and the name of their body resulting in the repetition of their names in the pasukim. This could only be done, however, when Moshe, Yaakov, and Avraham achieved the level in which the needs of their bodies were in sync with the needs of their souls

The act of sacrificing one's son, in accordance to the will of the Creator is the ultimate subjection of the physical acts of the body to the yearnings of the soul. Avrohom Avenu achieved this solely by binding his son upon the altar and raising up the knife. The Angel called out "Avrohom ... Avrohom". Thus saying to Avrohom that he has already achieved his goal of uniting the two halves of himself and there is no need to actually slaughter Yitzchok

Yaakov Avenu was on the verge of descending into the darkness of Egyptian exile. He has two names - Yaakov and Yisroel. The psouk states that Hashem addressed Yisroel and said to him "Yaakov ... Yaakov". Yisroel is the name of royalty. It's root is the word "Sar" (nobility). This is Yaakov's name when living in the light of Eretz Yisroel. Yaakov feared that he would lose the unique relationship his body enjoys with his soul upon descending to Egypt. There, in the darkness, his body might no longer follow his soul. Hashem told him, there is no concern. You are "Yakov ... Yaakov". Even the name Yaakov (which means "heel", the part of the body always covered in darkness) has attained the perfect union with your soul.

The relationship of Moshe Rabeinu's body with his soul is self-evident. He was able to survive on Har Sinai with his body intact, being nourished only by the life granting words of the Torah. He entered shamayim (the heavens) together with his physical soul-like body. And so he is called "Moshe ... Moshe".

Rav Ovadia Seforno explains that the census in this week's parsha is different in comparison to the two censuses taken previously. All of Bnei Yisroel died from the overwhelming power of G-d by Har Sinai. They were then reborn, rejoining their bodies with their souls. Unfortunately, Bnei Yisroel severed their connection with the sin of the Golden Calf. Bnei Yisroel were granted the opportunity to reconnect once again. They built the Mishkan and brought sacrifices as atonement for their sin. Thus, they returned to their former glory. For the first time in history, answers Seforno, every body and soul of the members of Klal Yisroel matched completely instilling within every member of Klal Yisroel the ability to return to this spiritual status even if the Yetzer Hara prevails

The Nessi'im were the paragons of perfecting the body. The word "Nasi" means "uplifted"; they were chosen to help Moshe and Aharon to be the role models of Bnei Yisroel with regards to lifting the body toward the level of the soul. This is why the Torah depicts the Nessi'im as having "names [which] are distinct;" the name of their bodies were distinct in that they matched the name their souls.

The counting is described as "the counting of the names". Hashem was displaying his love and endearment for the Bnei Yisroel due to the fact that they live up to their individual names. Their bodies and souls are in harmony with one another.

One only "enters into his own", upon attaining the age of twenty years. Until then, one is not his own "man", he is null and void to the world of his parents. Similarly, one who has reached the age of sixty, has much to accomplish, but the world is the world of his children.

The army of Bnei Yisroel is much more than a force to be used to conquer territory. It's sacred task is to spread the Divrei Torah of Hashem that lies within each and every member of the army.

In order to do so, one must be in touch with his individuality, his unique "Divrei Torah". So testimony is brought that "he is who he is", and from whence he came. Our origins and our actions are what make us what we are.

Good Shabbos

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