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Dvar for Bemidbar (Numbers 1:1-4:20)

G-d tells Moshe to count every firstborn male and have each one replaced by a Levi (Levite) in service to G-d (3:40-41). After instructing Moshe to count the firstborn, Moshe is instructed to “take the number of their names.” Was Moshe instructed to count people or names of people?

Rav Hirsch explains that by counting each individual name, they (and we) are reminded of their personal loss by not speaking out at the sin of the Golden Calf. This reference is even more poignant when we realize that “names” back then included their parents’ names: “x ben y.” They and we have responsibilities based on who we are and from whom we come, but this also affords us opportunities to affect our future. If we embrace our past and accept the responsibilities entrusted to us in the present, we can use both to guide our future.