This portion contains one of several mentions of “seventy elders,” (Numbers/Bamidbar 11:16) sharing the burden of leadership with Moses, and some interesting bits about who gets to prophesy, when and how:
This portion includes words that are found in the service, when the Torah is removed from the ark, “Vayahi binso’a ha-aron…“:
When the Ark was to out, Moses would say: Continue Reading
Part 1: Prayer Books and Women
Is offering a single feminine verb-form an innovation in Jewish prayer?
For a frighteningly realistic and thought-provoking contemporary midrash [to Bamidbar/Numbers 5:11-31], check out the story, “Bitter Waters,” by Rochelle Krich in Criminal Kabbalah: An Intriguing Anthology of Jewish Mystery & Detective Fiction (Jewish Lights, 2001; Lawrence W. Raphael, editor).
“Speak to the Israelites: When men or women individually commit any wrong toward a fellow human being [chato’t ha’adam], thus breaking faith with YHVH [lim’ol ma’al], and they realize their guilt…” Continue Reading
“All you have to do is open up the book.” In a recent study-planning discussion for the Temple Micah (Washington, DC) group Kol Isha, I went off on a bit of a rant with this as my theme, insisting that anyone with the desire to do so can prepare to lead Torah-focused learning without leaning on an “expert.”
Males are counted “from the age of one month up” (Numbers 3:15).
“But Nadab and Abihu died by the will of YHVH in the wilderness of Sinai; and they left no sons. So it was Eleazar and Ithamar who served as priests in the lifetime of their father Aaron.” — Numbers 3:4
As the weekly cycle begins the Book of Numbers — Bamidbar [“wilderness” or “desert”] — this is a good time to pick up The Biography of Ancient Israel: National Narratives in the Bible, by Ilana Pardes.
This portion contains a word unique in the Bible: va-yityaledu. [root letters: yod-lamed-dalet]. Numbers 1:18
Everett Fox’s translation,* which uses inventive compounds to convey Hebrew meanings into English, renders this” declared-their-lineage” (The Five Books of Moses, Schocken).
The Stone (Artscroll) Chumash* says, “established their genealogies.”
Robert Alter* notes: “The unusual Hebrew verb, a reflexive form of the root that means ‘to give birth,’ is interpreted by Rashi, and confirmed by modern scholarship to have the sense of sorting out birth lines or pedigrees.” (page 685)
The Torah: A Women’s Commentary* says, “The self-reflexive nature of the verb here almost suggests that this army gave birth to itself.” (page 793)
When the census is taken, Israelites are told to count “le-gulgelotam” — by their skulls. My concordance* lists 12 citations for “gulgulet” [gimmel-lamed-gimmel-tav], four of which are in the book of Numbers, three in Chronicles I, two in Exodus and one in Kings I. Several of the usages refer to the body part that would ordinarily be rendered “skull” in English; most, however, have this census-related meaning of counting persons.