The Book of Bamidbar — "In the desert" — begins with Hashem commanding Moshe to take a census of all men over age twenty — old enough for service. The count reveals just over 600,000. The levi'im are counted separately later on because their service will be unique. They will be responsible for transporting the Mishkan and its furnishings, and assembling them when the nation encamps. The 12 Tribes of Israel, each with its banner, are arranged around the Mishkan in four sections: east, south, west and north. Since Levi is singled out, the tribe of Yosef is split into two tribes, Efraim and Menashe, so there will be four groups of three. When the nation travels, they march in a formation similar to the way they camp.
A formal transfer is made between the first-born and the levi'im, whereby the levi'im take over the role the first-born would have had serving in the Mishkan if not for the sin of the golden calf. The transfer is made using all the 22,000 surveyed levi'im from one month old and up. Only levi'im between 30 and 50 will work in the Mishkan. The remaining first-born sons are redeemed with silver, similar to the way we redeem our first-born today. The sons of Levi are divided into the three main families of Gershon, Kehat and Merari (besides the kohanim — the special division from Kehat's family). The family of Kehat carried the Menorah, the Table, the Altar and the Holy Ark. Because of their utmost sanctity, the Ark and the Altar are covered only by Aharon and his sons, before the levi'im prepare them for travel.
In The Family
“Take a census of the entire assembly of the Children of Yisrael… according to their families.” (1:2)
When it comes to exercise, swimming is a arguably a more effective exercise than either weight training or running or any other exercise for that matter. Swimming laps, back and forth, is much more calming than the repetitive “dreadmill” for most people I know. It is more fun, carries a much smaller chance of injury, and is the perfect way to cool off from the summer heat or get an effective indoor workout during the snowy winter months. Swimming is the easiest way to get a full-body workout. And if you have a good technique in your swim stroke, you can safely perform all of the cardio that any goal requires without doing damage to your body.
My wife is a keen swimmer. One of our daughters is not as keen, to put it mildly. One day, however, my wife managed to persuade her to go with her to the pool. After a mild look of distaste as she got into the water, my daughter actually started to enjoy herself.
Leaving my daughter, my wife went over to the other side of the pool where two lanes are marked off for the “serious” swimmers. She started to do her laps.
About ten minutes later, someone swimming on the wrong side of the lane banged into her with considerable force. “What are you doing?” she said. “Don’t you know what side of the lane you’re supposed to swim on? I hope you don’t drive a car!” After she had drained the water from her goggles, she took a look at this “reckless driver” and said, “Oh, darling, it’s you!” It was my daughter. “Are you okay? I hope I didn’t hurt you!”
A renowned rabbi once taught, “The souls all have one Father, and it is on account of this common root in the One Hashem that all of Israel are called ‘brothers’ — in the full sense of the word. Only the bodies are distinct from each other. Therefore, there can be no true love and fraternity between those who regard their bodies as primary and their souls secondary, but only a love based on an external factor.”
If we see every Jew as our brother — or our daughter — and if we see each other “according to their families,” we will truly be a nation of brothers and sisters.