Thirteen months after the Exodus from Egypt, God tells Moses to take a census of all the Israelite males who are over 20 years old and who can be soldiers. The total count is 603.550 people.

The tribe of Levi are not part of this number as they are assigned the specific role of being in charge of taking care of the Tabernacle – Israel’s first House of Worship. They will bear arms.  

God then tells Moses how the different tribes will camp around the Tabernacle. The people are to arrange themselves in four groups of three tribes each around the tabernacle.

Because the firstborn Israelites escaped the plague of the death of the first born Egyptians, they were originally dedicated to serve God – to be consecrated to God’s service. Now, God tells Moses to appoint the Levites as the priests instead of the first born. They are assigned to work with Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar with the work in the Tabernacle.  Instead of all the firstborn Israelites becoming priests, Moses collected 5 shekels per child and gave it to Aaron and his sons. In this way they paid a redemption price.

A separate census is taken of the Kohathite clan of the Levites. This group is given specific tasks regarding the transportation of the sacred objects in the Tabernacle while the people were moving.  

Aaron’s son, Eleazar, is given the responsibility for the Tabernacle and all its furnishings.

Torah Portion in English

1) On the first day of the second month, in the second year following the exodus from the land of Egypt, the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting, saying:   2) Take a census of the whole Israelite community by the clans of its ancestral houses, listing the names, every male, head by head. 3) You and Aaron shall record them by their groups, from the age of twenty years up, all those in Israel who are able to bear arms. 4) Associated with you shall be a man from each tribe, each one the head of his ancestral house.  5) These are the names of the men who shall assist you: From Reuben, Elizur son of Shedeur. 6) From Simeon, Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai. 7) From Judah, Nahshon son of Amminadab. 8)From Issachar, Nethanel son of Zuar. 9) From Zebulun, Eliab son of Helon. 10) From the sons of Joseph: from Ephraim, Elishama son of Ammihud; from Manasseh, Gamaliel son of Pedahzur. 11) From Benjamin, Abidan son of Gideoni. 12) From Dan, Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai.13) From Asher, Pagiel son of Ochran. 14) From Gad, Eliasaph son of Deuel.  15) From Naphtali, Ahira son of Enan. 16) Those are the elected of the assembly, the chieftains of their ancestral tribes: they are the heads of the contingents of Israel. 17) So Moses and Aaron took those men, who were designated by name, 18) and on the first day of the second month they convoked the whole community, who were registered by the clans of their ancestral houses—the names of those aged twenty years and over being listed head by head. 19) As the Lord had commanded Moses, so he recorded them in the wilderness of Sinai.

Getting to Know my Parasha

What Does my Parasha Say?

  1. Who is to be counted?  Why?
  2. What is the special role given to the tribe of Levy?
  3. What are Aaron and his sons special job?
  4. Read how the tribes were supposed to spread out around the Tabernacle.  Create a map showing where each tribe was positioned.
  5. What happened to the first born children?  What changed?