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Parashat Bamidbar / פרשת במדבר

Crop of The Taking of Jericho by James Joseph Jacques Tissot


Parashat Bamidbar is the 34th weekly reading in the annual Torah reading cycle, and the 1st reading of Bamidbar (“Numbers”). Bamidbar (בְּמִדְבַּר) is the fifth Hebrew word of the parashah, which actually means In the Wilderness, whereas the common title “Numbers” comes from the name given to this book in the Septuagint (LXX), the ancient Jewish-Greek translation of the Torah, made before the days of the Lord Yeshua’s flesh.

In this parashah, HaShem provides Moshe (Moses) with particular instructions for taking a census of all of the men of the congregation of Yisrael (Israel) who are of the age to go to war, including the specific men from each tribe who are designated by HaShem to assist Moshe. Moshe and his assistants complete the census, the Levi’im (Levites) being exempted from the census of the greater body of Yisrael at HaShem’s instruction, and the numbers are recorded.

The parashah then records HaShem’s instructions for the Levi’im pertaining to the performance of special services relating to the care of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The remaining tribes of Yisrael are grouped into four camps by HaShem, to encamp around the Mishkan according to their tribes in the precise order prescribed by HaShem through Moshe. When the congregation moves, each camp is to set out in the order specified.

The second half of the parashah begins with the names of the Kohanim (Priests), the sons of Aharon (Aaron), who served at the Mishkan in the days of Aharon, the Kohen Gadol (High Priest). The parashah continues with additional duties of the Levi’im pertaining to the Kohen Gadol and the Kohanim. HaShem then provides Moshe with specific instructions for taking a census of the Levi’im, which Moshe then carries out. The parashah records the number of Levi’im, and HaShem instructs Moshe regarding their specific responsibilities in Yisrael, as well as where precisely they are to camp.

The special status of the Levi’im as set apart to HaShem to serve in the place of the firstborn of Yisrael is also specified at this time, together with the reason for the special status. Furthermore, a redemption price is paid to Aharon and his sons, the Kohanim, for the difference in the numbers of these two demographics.

HaShem then instructs Moshe regarding the most holy things in the Mishkan; how they are to be covered and carried when the camp is to set out, and by whom. A grave warning is also given for those responsible for carrying the articles, lest they die. Parashat Bamidbar concludes with the assignment of who was put in charge of the Mishkan, the Holy Place, and everything in it.

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Torah Portion: Numbers 1:1 – 4:20

1st Aliyah: Numbers 1:1-19 (19 verses)
2nd Aliyah: Numbers 1:20-54 (35 verses)
3rd Aliyah: Numbers 2:1-34 (34 verses)
4th Aliyah: Numbers 3:1-13 (13 verses)
5th Aliyah: Numbers 3:14-39 (26 verses)
6th Aliyah: Numbers 3:40-51 (12 verses)
7th Aliyah: Numbers 4:1-20 (20 verses)
Maftir: Numbers 4:17-20 (4 verses)

Reading from the Nevi’im (Prophets):
Hosea 2:1 – 2:22

When Parashat Badmibar coincides with a special Shabbat, a different Haftarah is traditionally read:

Shabbat Machar Chodesh: I Samuel 20:18 – 20:42

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