Torah Study Notes 7-12-14

July 12, 2014
p. 1074
25:10 This parsha must be read in the context of the previous nine parshas and the story of Phinecas. Phinecas took desperate action to stop the plague. “…he took impassioned action for his God…” Discussion of the ultra right wing actions in Israel which focuses on some of these passages. This rationale for violence is rebutted in the Talmud by the rabbis. In essence we are all idolaters in that we all thirst for an image of God. Maimonides argued that we cannot talk positively about God because to do so was to turn God into an idol. We need to be sensitive about crossing the line into something that is truly destructive. We have a natural tendency to categorize and identify small differences. This is part of creating order in the world. The worst breaking of order is the acceptance of a breach between the material and the divine. Consider John Badham’s 1983 cold war film “War Games” wherein they conclude that the only way to win is not to play. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WarGames
25:16 “Assail the Midianites and defeat them –“ Madness arises and abates but did we learn anything? The plague is over and thus the rationale for any more violence is gone.
26: 1 “Take a census of the whole Israelite company of fighters…” This is a second census. See the first one on page 900. Note the drop in population of the Reubanites.
26:8 A recap of the story of Korah which suggests that the drop of population in that tribe may have been associated with that conflict. Here the transgressions of Korah are not visited upon his progeny. They are not sanctioned but they are stuck with the infamy. Are the children of evil people evil? Nature vs nurture.AF: Why is the age of twenty set for the count of a fighter?
26:12 A sharp drop in the population of the Simeonites. Likely associated with the plague but see below..
26:15 et sec through 48. The tribe of Gad and Judah have increases as do some of the others. One clan had only daughters. Note that the Levites are not listed since they are not fighters. The total enrollment is 601,710. The first census was done at Sinai so this is about 40 years later as they are poised on the banks of the Jordan to enter the land. This is a whole new generation. Here the clans are named as sub-sets of the tribes. The first census was to make sure that everyone and the Mishkan was properly protected. The purpose here is a mustering for the invasion of the land and a determination as to how the spoils would be distributed – the land apportioned in shares. It is to be apportioned by clan and family. The big loser of men is Simeon – a tribe that ultimately disappears or is absorbed into the other tribes. The numbers for Ephraim are likely in error since they were a dominant tribe in the north. Ultimately there are only Judah (Jews) and Levites. In Deuteronomy it is said that there were no losses in battle and no miscarriages!! See the documentary of the Canadian-Israeli filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici on the lost tribes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Jr_9EEjHk0
Both of the census counts are considered by scholars to be part of the same priestly document.

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2 Comments

  1. ibritter

     /  July 15, 2014

    I realize this question is beyond the scope of the portion, but the talk of census triggered it. Do you know if the Torah tells us the change in overall population size during the Exodus?

    Reply
  2. llewis1124

     /  July 17, 2014

    Bob – We can see a slight increase in population by examining the numbers that appear on page 900 – in Exodus at Mt. Sinai – as recited in the first census. Of course these numbers, which seem very large, may be more symbolic than actual counts.

    Reply

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