Later on in the parasha the men in the tribe of Levi are counted - not as potential soldiers, but for serving God.
- This year we are participating in a census in the United States. Do your students know about this? Who is being counted?
- What is the purpose of our census? Compare and contrast to the purpose of the census in B'Midbar.
- What is your reaction to the fact that only men were counted in the B'Midbar census?
We learned a while ago that since God saved all the first-born of the Jews in Egypt, from then on all first-born are supposed to be dedicated to working directly for God. Now we hear that the Levites will replace the first-born sons, but there's a problem: there are more first-born sons than there are Levites.
- What solutions can you think of?
- What solution is in the Torah?
- How is this related to the ceremony we know as Pidyon HaBen?
- When you read the Torah with today's eyes and minds it is often troubling. Only men count? Fathers are important but not mothers? Here is a commentary from The Torah: A Women's Commentary that helps us understand from a more contemporary perspective what the portion is about.
There is a very precise description of the way in which the tribes set camp in the desert. You can see a picture here as well as an interesting commentary on why each tribe was in a particular place.
You might also enjoy reading this blogpost which questions the numbers of people in the Israelite camp in the desert. One explanation in Torah, A Modern Commentary, by Gunther Plaut, suggests that the Hebrew word 'elef' which we understand to mean 'thousand' may have had a different meaning when used in the Torah.