• Daily Aliya for Bamidbar, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: G‑d then tells Moshe to count all the firstborn Israelites — because the holiness of each Israelite firstborn was now to be “transferred” to a Levite. The census revealed that there were 273 more firstborn than Levites. Each of these “extra” firstborns (as determined by a lottery) gave five shekel to the priests, and was thus “redeemed.”

    It’s a true shame that the holiness was taken away from the firstborns. Until then, every family had a chance to have at least one member serve G-d in the Mishkan, but that was now being taken away. And at what price? The same price that the brother received for selling Yosef into slavery (Yosef was Rachel’s firstborn). Talk about rubbing it in… But one day this Avoda will be restored.

  • Daily Aliya for Bamidbar, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    From chabad.org: Moshe is now commanded to separately count all Levite males from the age of one month and older. The three Levite families are counted, and a leader is appointed for each of the families. The total of all (non-firstborn) Levites eligible for this census: 22,000. The family of Gershon camped due west of the Tabernacle, and was put in charge of transporting the tapestries and curtains of the Tabernacle and their accessories. The Kehot family camped directly south of the Tabernacle, and was in charge of transporting all the holy vessels. The Merari family camped to the north of the Tabernacle, and they were in charge of carrying the Tabernacle beams, panels, and sockets. Moses, Aaron, and their immediate families camped to the east of the Tabernacle.

    This sounds like a much tougher count, and one much less “useful”. while the first counted included all males between 20 and 60, this included all Levites, starting at one month old. While you could theoretically ask all males to stand in a line to be counted, you can’t do that with one month old babies and families. So Moshe had to walk by each tent, G-d told him how many people were inside each, and that’s how it was done. And all this had no useful purpose, other than to show the Jews how precious G-d thought they were.

  • Daily Aliya for Bamidbar, Revi’i (4th Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: The Levites are appointed to serve in the Tabernacle, guard its vessels and assist the priests with their Tabernacle duties. This honor originally belonged to the Israelite firstborns, who were “acquired” by G‑d when He spared them during the Plague of the Firstborn. This privilege was taken away from them when they participated in the sin of the Golden Calf — and given to the Levites.

    This Aliya starts by saying that it will now list Aaron and Moshe’s descendants, and then goes on to list only Aaron’s children. If only listing Aaron’s children, why say you will list Moshe’s descendants? From this a famous lesson is learned that because Moshe taught Aaron’s children Torah, they were considered Moshe’s children as well. The idea that teaching a child is as important as having one is a profound concept that does not getting enough attention.

  • Daily Aliya for Bamidbar, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: The Jews are instructed regarding their camping formation. The Tabernacle was at the center of the encampment, surrounded by the “Flag of Judah” — which included the Tribes of Judah, Issachar and Zevulun — to the east; the “Flag of Reuven” — Reuven, Shimon, Gad — to the south; the “Flag of Ephraim” — Ephraim, Manasheh, Binyamin — to the west; and the “Flag of Dan” — Dan, Asher, Naftali — to the north.

    It’s tough to find anything practical when discussing the division and placement of camps when the Jews traveled in the desert, but there is one interesting lesson: Rashi says that the way they were camped is the way they traveled. The Levites staying in the middle had two advantages: 1) In case of attack they were protected on all sides by those more able to fight, and 2) At any point anyone at any tribe had direct access to the Levites and therefore a closer connection to G-d.

  • Daily Aliya for Bamidbar, Sheni (2nd Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: And now the census results. After giving us the numbers for each tribe, the Torah gives us the grand total: 603,550. This number, however, does not include the Levites. Moshe was commanded by G‑d not to include the holy tribe in the general census. Instead, the Levites are assigned the following holy tasks: dismantling, carrying, and re-erecting the Tabernacle whenever the Jews traveled, and camping around the Sanctuary, keeping guard over it and its vessels.

    The Torah spends so much time detailing the count of each tribe, and then adding it all up for the final count. And for what purpose? The point of the census was to prepare for battles, but if we are to have faith in G-d, why are numbers important? Many explain that counting something shows how precious you think it is, but if that’s why we counted, then why are the Levites left out? Are they less precious? If anything, they’re more precious because of the work they do. As Rashi explains, they Levites were counted separately, and not delineated here. Still, if every letter of every word in the Torah is to teach us something, there must be more to the detailed counting of the tribes.

  • Daily Aliya for Bamidbar , Rishon (1st Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: This week’s reading, Bamidbar, begins the Book of Numbers, the fourth of the Five Books of Moshe. This book of the Torah opens on the first of Iyar, one month after the inauguration of the Tabernacle, and several weeks before the Jews will depart from Mount Sinai and begin their journey to the Holy Land. In this week’s portion the Israelites and the Tribe of Levi are counted separately. G‑d instructs the Israelites on how to camp in the desert, surrounding the Tabernacle. The Levites are informed the procedure for dismantling the Tabernacle before traveling.

    In the first Aliya G‑d commands Moshe to count all Jewish men of military age. G‑d names one member of each tribe as the nasi, leader, of the tribe. Each nasi will assist Moshe and Aaron in taking a census of his tribe. An additional objective of this census was to establish the tribal lineage of every Jew.

  • Daily Aliya for Behar-Bechukotai, Shishi (6th Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: This section discusses various endowments pledged to the Temple coffers. A person can pledge the worth of an individual, in which case the Torah prescribes how much the person must pay — depending on the gender and age of the individual who is being “assessed.” An animal which is pledged to the Temple must be offered on the altar if it is fit for sacrifice — otherwise it must be “redeemed” for its value. If the owner chooses to redeem it, he must add one fifth of its value to the redemption price. The same rule applies to a house which is pledged to the Temple.

    The most intriguing Passuk is in the beginning of this Aliya (3),  saying that “Erkecha”, “your value” for pledging a man shall be… and so on. If the Torah is setting generic levels of value, it would make more sense to leave out the word “your” from the value, since it’s now everyone else’s value as well. Rashi is perplexed by this. The truth is that once you make a pledge of a certain value, the responsibility of paying that amount is now yours. Essentially, you’ve taken the value of this person, and made it yours, or your responsibility. Even if the value of the object or person now diminishes, you are still responsible for the amount originally pledged. It’s interesting that with one word, the Torah empowers the transfer of responsibility from the object to the person pledging the object. Maybe this is where the phrase “it’s all you” got started.

  • Daily Aliya for Behar-Bechukotai, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: More blessings: An overabundance of crops and G‑d’s presence will be revealed in our midst. This section then describes the severe, terrifying punishments which will be the Jews’ lot if they reject G‑d’s Mitzvot. The punishments include disease, famine, enemy occupation of the land, exile, and desolation of the land. The non-observance of the Sabbatical year is singled out as the reason for the desolation of the land. The Aliya concludes with G‑d’s promise never to utterly forsake us even when we are exiled in the lands of our enemies.

    Rashi explains that these curses will only apply if we actively reject and rebel against the commandments and the study of Torah, and despise those that do perform them. In essence, it would be denying the very first commandment that G-dis the Omnipresent creator. It seems obvious that should all these horrible things happen, it would be pretty clear that G-d really is the Omnipresent creator (we were warned, and the threats came true), which would lead us to affirm the first commandment again. Simple cause and effect, really. It turns out that these horrible things are threats, just proofs that G-d exists and can exert his presence if we forced him to.

  • Daily Aliya for Behar-Bechukotai, Revi’i (4th Aliya)

    From Chabad.org: We are commanded to treat Jewish slaves respectfully, never subjecting them to demeaning labor. The Torah prescribes the redemption process for a Jew sold into slavery to a non-Jewish master. Either the slave himself or one of his relatives refunds to the master the amount of money for the years remaining until the Jubilee — when the slave will go free even if he were not to be “redeemed.” Brief mention is made of the prohibition against idolatry, and the requirement that we observe the Shabbat and revere the Holy Sanctuary. We are promised incredible blessing if we diligently study Torah and observe the mitzvot. The blessings include plentiful food, timely rain, security, peace in the land, the elimination of wild animals from the land, and incredible military success.

    Although the definition of slave isn’t what we conjure up in our minds today, the concept of working for someone full-time (as in in-house) does offer some relevant lessons for us. For one, the mandate to not work him too hard is followed by the phrase “you shall fear your G-d”, while it doesn’t include that anywhere else in this section. Rashi explains that because “too hard” is subjective, and only you know when you’re working someone needlessly or excessively, accompanying the commandment with a “watch it” statement helps focus our attention on caring for others, even those that you feel you “own” rights to.

  • Daily Aliya for Behar-Bechukotai, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

     From Chabad.org: The laws mentioned yesterday apply to fields and homes in unwalled cities. Homes in walled cities, on the other hand, may only be redeemed up to one year after the sale; otherwise they become the permanent property of the buyer. Another exception to these rules is the property allotted to the Levites, which are always redeemable. We are commanded to assist our brethren by coming to their aid before they become financially ruined and dependent on the help of others. We are also forbidden from charging interest on a loan to a fellow Jew.

    When describing the rule not to charge a fellow Jew interest the Torah uses two words to describe the interest, which the Rabbis infer to make it a double Aveira (sin) to do so. This law comes on the heels of letting the Levi’im (Levites) buy back their fields, helping another person (Jew or non-Jew) as they falter but before they fall, and now this. This progression seems to be the blueprint to build a community that cares and helps each other. And the bottom line is to make sure that you don’t do it for your own benefit. Hence the double-underline when discussing the interest prohibition.

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