The Wise Use of Our Strengths by Rabbi Joel Grossman


Rashi (BeMidbar 1:1 s.v. VaYedabeir BeMidbar Sinai BeEchad LaChodesh) comments on the beginning of Sefer BeMidbar, and says that God counts the Jewish people because of His great love for the nation. Therefore, He counted Bnei Yisrael when they left Egypt, and after the incident of the Golden Calf. He counted them to determine how many members of the nation remained. On the first day of Nissan the Mishkan was set up, and on the first day of Iyar Hashem counted Bnei Yisrael again. The Torah states (BeMidbar 1:49), “Ach Et Mateih Levi Lo Tifkod,” “But the tribe of Levi do not count.” Rashi (ad. loc. s.v. Ach Et Matei Levi Lo Tifkod) explains that since Sheivet Levi was the priestly class and therefore didn’t have to work as slaves in Egypt; therefore, the Leviyim were not counted with the rest of the nation.

Many understand this Rashi to mean that the title of Levi was considered special and extraordinary, and therefore Leviyim were not counted with everyone else. The Klausenburg Rav zt”l explained differently: Who can God count on to be His followers under any circumstance? Only the Jewish people, who went through the horrors of Egypt and still believed in Him. Similarly, the only Jews today whom God knows would follow Him through thick or thin are the people who survived the Holocaust, and maintained their faith in Him. In Parashat BeMidbar, it is not that Levi wasn’t supposed to be counted with the rest of the Bnei Yisrael; rather, the rest of the nation was not worthy to be counted with the title of Levi!

        Later in Parashat BeMidbar, the Torah states (BeMidbar 4:3), “MiBen Sheloshim Shanah VaMalah VeAd Ben Chamishim Shanah,” “[You should count Leviyim] from 30 years of age and up, until 50 years of age.” Why were Moshe and Aharon told to count Levi from these ages? Rav Moshe Feinstein, in his “Darash Moshe,” explained that a person reaches the peak of his strength at age 30 – the counting of Levi from that age symbolizes each person using his strength in the service of God. This teaches us that each individual should see that he must serve God with all of his strength, and not waste his energy on unnecessary activities.

        Shortly after the commandment to count Levi, Hashem commands Moshe and Aharon, “VeAl Shulchan HaPanim Yifrisu Beged Techeilet VeNatnu Alav Et HaKe’arot,” “And upon the Table of the show-bread they shall spread a cloth of turquoise wool” (BeMidbar 4:7). Rav Moshe explained that the Table of the show-bread was covered with “Tachash” hide and then not only with a turquoise-colored cloth, but also with a scarlet-colored cloth (4:8). The additional layer, according to Rav Moshe, shows that a wealthy person, symbolized by the Table, should have deep internal faith that God is the source of his wealth. If he has this faith, he will certainly do with his wealth what God wishes; for example, he should give his money to charity to help those who are less fortunate than himself.

        May we understand and heed to this important message from our Parashah, and may we stand up and be worthy to be counted as a member of the Jewish nation using our talents wisely for good causes. Currently, the State of Israel is in a very difficult time, and needs our help very much – after understanding the lessons of this Parashah, we should participate in good causes for Israel. Let us start by gathering together as a nation at the Salute to Israel Parade on June 5, and from then on continue in using our God-given talents to advocate for and protect the God-given land of Israel.

The Mishkan Team by Yosie Friedman

The Mind, the Torah, and You By Adam Haimowitz