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Weekly Parsha

BAMIDBAR

This Parasha (Torah Portion) discusses various events that occurred during the 40 year sojourn of the Israelites in the desert, beginning in the second year as the Israelites where still camped at the foot of Mount Sinai. This was prior to the "sin of the spies" after which the Israelites were punished with 39 additional years of wandering in the desert. The Parasha opens with a list of the names of the leader of each of the Tribes of Israel.The number of males in the 20 to 60 year old age group is listed, with the exception of the Tribe of Levi.The Torah then gives a detailed description of the layout of the Israelite camp during the travels in the desert. The Mishkan (Tabernacle) was located in the center of the camp, with the Tribe of Levi encamped around the Mishkan, and the remaining tribes organized in groups of three surrounding the sides of the encampment (north, south, east, and west). Next, the Torah enumerates the male members of the Tribe of Levi, this time including those from one month of age and upward.The Tribe of Levi is assigned the responsibility of transporting the Mishkan during the journeys from one stop to another in the desert, and for erecting it anew when the Israelite camp reached a stop. Moshe and the Levite family of Kehat were responsible for the transport of the parts of the Mishkan including the holy Tablets and the Menorah. They are warned to take special care in the loading, carrying, and unloading of these precious objects. They were only allowed to touch the covers of these holy things, as touching the actual object was punishable by death. Only the Kohanim ( Priests) were allowed to handle the actual objects and to put them in the appropriate place in the Mishkan. "They gathered together the entire assembly on the first of the second month, and they established their genealogy according to their families..." This has been explained to mean that even though the Israelites had been enslaved for so many years in Egypt, they nevertheless were very careful to maintain healthy family relationships and did not sink into immoral practices. (Maharal Tsountz)