Thursday, May 9, 2013

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Bamidbar

The following is a brief summary of thoughts said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce these vorts to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand. 

In this week's parsha, the Torah recites that the total number of Levi'im were 22,000. This number was derived by counting all male Lev'im who were more than thirty days old. However, the number itself is quite small when compared with the rest of the tribes. The Ramban observes that the smallest other tribe had double the number of Levi'im, despite the fact that the census taken of the other tribes only considered those people who were at least 20 years old! Why were there so few Levi'im? 

The Ramban answered his question with the observation that the small number of Levi'im was proof to the Medrash about how the oppression in Egypt caused a population explosion. In Parshas Shemos (1:12) the Torah states that as much as the Egyptians would afflict the Jews, they would grow larger in number. The Ramban stated that since the Levi'im were not among those who were enslaved, they did not benefit from the same population explosion. 

R' Frand next quoted the Ohr Hachayim Hakadosh who answered the question differently. He cited to a later pasuk in Shemos (2:1) which states "Vayelech Ish M'Beis Levi Vayikach Es Bas Levi" - a man from the house of Levi went and took the daughter of Levi. The Gemara in Sotah teaches that Amram had divorced Yocheved because of Pharaoh's decree. Amram's logic was that since the male children who would be born were going to be drowned in the river, why have children at all? However, Amram recanted his position when he was confronted by his daughter Miriam, who said to him - you are worse than Pharaoh. Pharaoh's decree was only against the male babies, but you are preventing all babies from being born. 

When the other men of Levi saw that Amram divorced Yocheved, they also divorced their wives. However, although Amram took Yocheved back, the other men of Levi did not do so and as such there were a much smaller number of Levi'im when the Jews left Egypt. 

The Ohr Hachayim Hakadosh explains that the reason that the Levi'im did not remarry their wives was because their lives were so comfortable. The Levi'im saw how horrible conditions were in Egypt and they felt that it would be better not to bring children into that environment. However, the members of the other tribes did not have it so easy and they did not have ideological problems with more children being born and subjected to Egyptian tyranny. 

R' Frand next quoted a Ba'al Haturim who stated that the words of Vayelech Ish occur only in one other place in Tanach - Megillas Ruth. The first pasuk of the Megillah states Vayelech Ish M'Beis Lechem Yehuda - that Elimelech went from Bethlehem to Moab. But what is the connection between the two pesukim? 

The Ba'al Haturim answers that Elimelech did not go to Moab to flee from the Jews. He was aware that the Moshiach would come from lineage that included a Moabite woman as his ancestor. At the time, the popular thought was that Moabite women (like Moabite men) should not be allowed to convert to Judaism. So Elimelech went to Moab to bring back Moabite women so that in the end there could be a Moshiach. 

This is the connection between the two pesukim. When Amram bucked popular thought to remarry Yocheved, the end result was Moshe - the first person to lead the Jews out of exile. When Elimelech went to bring back Moabite women, the end result was that Ruth became the ancestor of Moshiach. 

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