The Census Taken for the Purpose of Inheritance and the Additional Offerings

  • Rav Yoel Bin-Nun
 
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Please pray for a refuah sheleimah for Shoshana Leah bat Dreizel Leeba.
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In memory of Rabbi Moshe ben Avraham Shraga Furst z”l
Niftar 17 Tammuz 5771.
Dedicated by his family.
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I. The Census of Families for the Purpose of Inheritance
 
The last census recorded in the Torah appears immediately "after the plague" (Bemidbar 26:1); in fact, it is located after all the plagues that struck those who had sinned in the wilderness.[1] Thus, it can be viewed as a census that summarizes the period of Israel's wanderings in the wilderness. Paralleling the first census of the generation that left Egypt, this was the census of the fortieth year and of the generation that entered the Land of Israel.
 
However, the nature of this last census was different than that of the first. Instead of emphasizing in each tribe "all who are able to go forth to war" (as in chapter 1), this census mentions in the context of each tribe the names of the families. These names were not mentioned in the first census. The general term "all who are able to go forth to war in Israel" (Bemidbar 26:2) is mentioned here only once, paralleling the census in Parashat Bemidbar, whereas the census itself emphasizes the distribution of the land according to family:
 
To these the land shall be divided for an inheritance according to the number of names. (Bemidbar 26:53).
     
There is a remarkable hidden code built on the paradox of "according to the number of names."[2] This census here is not connected to the establishment of a fighting army. On the contrary, the numbers and names are directed here more to the apportionment of the land than to a military campaign. Thus, the last census complements the first, in the second and most important part of the mitzva regarding the land of Israel – conquest and settlement. 
 
The ultimate goal of all the journeys in the wilderness and of the entire military campaign and conquest of the country was civilian settlement of the land. Families play a more important role in the context of settlement than they do with regard to a military campaign.
 
If one takes the time to count all of the "families" mentioned in the census, he will find 57 families, 12 of which are families of the tribes of Yosef (i.e., Menashe and Efrayim). If we add the 12 names of the tribes themselves, we reach the number 70 (minus one) – the very same number explicitly mentioned in the list of the children of Yaakov who went down to Egypt (Bereishit 46)! 
 
But how did we reach this number?
 
Five of the families mentioned in Bereishit were absorbed by other families and do not appear in this final census,[3] and the children of Levi[4] (and their families) were set aside for the service of the Mishkan, and therefore were counted separately "because there was no inheritance given to them among the children of Israel" (Bemidbar 26:62). In this way, it was possible to include the 12 families of the descendants of Menashe and Efrayim, who were not mentioned in Bereishit (because they were born afterwards),[5] but at the same time preserve the number 70 for the tribes and families as a sacred number.
 
II. The Inheritance of Daughters and the Story of the Daughters of Tzelofchad
           
Women were not included in this census because they were not heads of families – with the exception of the daughters of Tzelofchad, who did not have any brothers. It is important to be precise: The five daughters of Tzelofchad did not present their request to Moshe on the grounds of "the status of women," but rather because of the fear of removing their father's name from the families receiving an inheritance:
 
Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family because he had no son? (Bemidbar 27:4)
 
But the result was that they turned into heads of families regarding inheritance of the land. In the book of Yehoshua (17:1-6), the five daughters of Tzelofchad are mentioned on equal footing with five sons. It thus turns out that not only did the daughters of Tzelofchad receive the limited inheritance of their father Tzelofchad as part of the inheritance of Chefer, but they themselves were considered heads of families. About half of the western territory of Menashe was held by the five daughters:
 
And there fell ten parts to Menashe, beside the land of Gil'ad and Bashan, which is beyond the Jordan, because the daughters of Menashe had an inheritance among his sons… (Yehoshua 17:5-6) 
 
Another surprise occurred with the discovery of the Samaria ostraca,[6] fragments of various clay vessels that were apparently used as tax receipts for "a jar of old wine" or for "a jar of fine oil" in the cellars of the palaces of the kings of Israel in Samaria. These ostraca indicate that the various regions of the tribal territory of Menashe were called equally by the names of the sons and the names of the daughters, even hundreds of years after the settlement of the area:
 
In the tenth year [= of the king?] … from Shemida (ostracon 3; and so too 30, 31, 37, 63: from Shemida)
In the tenth year from Avezer (ostracon 13)
In the fifteenth (??) year from Avezer … (ostracon 28)
In the fifteenth (??) year from the portion (ostracon 27)[7]
In the fifteenth (??) year from Tigla… (ostracon 47);
In the fifteenth (??) year from Noa… (ostracon 50).
 
Tirtza, the first capital of the kingdom of Israel, should also to be included in the general picture. The beautiful valley north of Mount Kabir was apparently the territory of Tirtza.
 
From all this we better understand the extensive pre-occupation at the end of the book of Bemidbar with the daughters of Tzelofchad and their inheritances, which constituted about half of the territory of Menashe west of the Jordan.
 
Why did Moshe bring the cause of the daughters of Tzelofchad "before the Lord"?
 
Just as the daughters of Tzelofchad did not stake their claim on "the status of women," Moshe also did not occupy himself with this issue. What stood before his eyes was his concern about the transfer of tribal land from one tribe to another and the possible harm to the tribal territories. This follows from the connection between the request presented by the daughters of Tzelofchad and the concluding chapter of the book of Bemidbar, which deals with the question-demand posed by the "heads of the fathers' houses" of the families of Menashe:
 
The Lord commanded my lord to give the land for inheritance by lot to the children of Israel; and my lord was commanded by the Lord to give the inheritance of Tzelofchad our brother to his daughters. And if they be married to any of the sons of the other tribes of the children of Israel, then will their inheritance be taken away from the inheritance of our fathers, and will be added to the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they shall belong; so will it be taken away from the lot of our inheritance… so will their inheritance be taken away from the inheritance of the tribe of our fathers. (Bemidbar 36:2-4)  
 
God responded to Moshe in these two cases using the very same language:
 
The daughters of the Tzelofchad speak right. (Bemidbar 27:7)
 
The tribe of the sons of Joseph speak right. (Bemidbar 36:5)
 
From all of this we learn four things:
 
First of all, God recognizes the ability of a woman to marry the man of her choice and also to stand at the head of a family of inheritance – all this, without undermining the tribal structure of the territorial division of the land:
 
Let them be married to whom they think best; only into the family of the tribe of their father shall they be married… (Bemidbar 36:6-7)
 
At the same time, it may be learned from here that the concluding chapters of the book of Bemidbar (34-36) expand and complete the chapters dealing with the census connected to the division of the land, the setting aside of the Levites in the tribal territories, the daughters, and the leadership of the people after Moshe (26-27). The concluding chapters add the following topics:  the boundaries of the tribal territories, the princes of the tribes, the cities of refuge for those involved in inadvertent killing, and the cities of the Levites. The daughters of Tzelofchad and their territories will remain in the tribe of Menashe. 
 
Another point that may be derived from the story, a point that was emphasized by the Rambam,[8] is that Moshe could pose a question to God at any time, as was needed, and receive a precise answer. Therefore, no prophet after him could give Israel another Torah; Moshe's Torah was given for all generations. 
 
One final lesson that may be learned from this story is that the Torah's laws governing women do not depend at all on the essence of women being different from that of men,[9] but rather on questions of law and standing, such as preventing the transfer of territories from one tribe to another. Women can be the heads of families for the purpose of inheritance, in the absence of men, provided that "no inheritance of Israel be removed from tribe to tribe" (Bemidbar 36:7).
 
The same principle repeats itself clearly in the section dealing with the annulment and affirmation of vows (which is part of the responsibility of the heads of the tribes; Bemidbar 30:2-17). In the case of an independent woman, who is not under the authority of her father or husband, her vows are binding and cannot be annulled, just like the vows of a man:
 
But the vow of a widow or of one who is divorced, even everything wherewith she has bound her soul, shall stand against her. (Bemidbar 30:10)
 
From here Chazal learned:
 
This is the general rule: Once she has gone forth as her own mistress [even] for a single hour, he [the father or the husband] cannot annul… A bogeret [= 12 and a half years old, even if her father is alive], her vows stand. (Nedarim 11:9-10)
 
Accordingly, a free married woman whose husband does not control her or her property is equal to a man in the realm of Torah and mitzvot.
 
R. Tzvi Yehuda Kook ruled precisely in this manner in response to a question I posed regarding the status of women in our day according to the laws of the Torah: "Scripture likens a woman to a man regarding all the laws in the Torah.”[10] He vigorously repeated this three times, despite all of our "objections" based on the known differences between men and women found in Halakha. 
 
III. The Leadership of the People for War and for Inheriting the Land
 
As stated, the chapters dealing with the census and inheriting the land are expanded upon at the end of the book of Bemidbar, but the command to Moshe to ascend Mount Nevo, together with the appointment of Yehoshua bin Nun, lead us also to the end of the book of Devarim, which is the end of the Torah.
 
Here we encounter an exceptional and unparalleled verse, which is the opposite of dozens of similar verses in the Torah:
 
And Moshe spoke to the Lord, saying. (Bemidbar 27:15)
 
A firm and resolute tone can be heard here, one which had never yet been heard from the mouth of Moshe, who was "very meek" (Bemidbar 12:3), despite all of his arguments and prayers directed at God:
 
Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation… that the congregation of the Lord be not as sheep that have no shepherd. (Bemidbar 27:16-17)
 
The familiar model is the attempt on the part of a leader or king to appoint his own heir himself, thereby preventing anarchy and wars of succession, with all of the serious consequences that they entail. However, Moshe, who had argued at length with God about his own mission (Shemot 3:4), could not appoint an heir. He asked that God should appoint a leader to prevent falling into anarchy at a critical stage.
 
 Yehoshua himself, in the weakness of his old age, lacked the power to appoint an heir, and at that point God gave no instructions as to who should lead the people (but only about concluding the assignment of the territories; Yehoshua 13). The expected crisis did indeed happen (Shofetim 1-3).
 
Moshe also defined the nature of the desired leadership:
 
A man over the congregation who may go out before them, and who may come in before them, and who may lead them out, and who may bring them in. (Bemidbar 27:17)
                                                                                                        
Chazal explain in a halakhic midrash:
 
Not as others do, who send armies [out to battle] and arrive at the end. (Sifrei, Pinchas 139)
 
The midrash offers a series of examples of Israel's leaders who went out to battle, leading the way. Yehoshua bin Nun himself did so in the battle with Amalek (Shemot 17).
 
Thus, we see that the model of the moral commander (which is characteristic of the IDF) who issues the command "Follow me!" (rather than "Charge!"), is explicitly mentioned in the Torah and the Midrash Halakha.
 
IV. The Additional Offerings Brought on Shabbat and the Festivals
 
As we already saw in several parashot, here too we encounter chapters that seem to be taken directly from the book of Vayikra, appearing in the book of Bemidbar as a strange interruption between the commandment to fight against Midyan and the census connected to the tribal territories (chapters 25-26) and the war against Midyan and the territories on the east bank of the Jordan (chapters 31-32).
 
We noted at the beginning of the book of Bemidbar that the books of Vayikra and Bemidbar parallel each other, both of them continuing off from the end of the book of Shemot like two branches from one tree trunk. Vayikra is directed toward the holy inward, whereas Bemidbar is directed outward toward censuses and camps, standards and journeys, crises and calamities, sins and rebellions, and, of course, toward the journey to the Land of Israel. In all of these matters, it is difficult to find a satisfactory explanation for the chapters of the offerings in our parasha – the daily offering and the additional offerings brought on Shabbat and the festivals.
 
 However, a deeper examination reveals that the additional offerings are not at all connected to the sanctity of Shabbat and the festivals. That sanctity dictates the prohibitions of work, which is the main feature of the section dealing with "the appointed seasons of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations" (Vayikra 23).
 
Regarding Rosh Chodesh and the intermediate days of the festival, there is no mention of sanctity and no mention of prohibited work in the passage in the book of Vayikra (chapter 23). On the other hand, the additional offering of Rosh Chodesh is identical to the offering brought each day of the Feast of Matzot (two bulls, one ram, and seven sheep as a burnt-offering and a goat as a sin-offering). All the days of the Feast of Matzot are the same regarding the offering, whereas regarding the sanctity and the prohibition of work, the festival days and the intermediate days are very different!
 
The special offerings of the festivals express the public aspect of the festivals, the gathering of the people on the festival pilgrimages or in the celebrations in the cities. This is the public significance of the festival, which is most appropriate for the book of Bemidbar. This element is mentioned often in the books of the prophets, in which Rosh Chodesh is regarded like Shabbat and the festivals. This public element of communal gathering stands out prominently to this very day in the Musaf prayers and in the special public prayers that are recited (e.g., Yizkor and the prayer for the welfare of the State). 
 
V. "From the Beginning of the Year to the End of the Year"
 
In the offerings brought in the seventh month, we find the identical offering on "the day of blowing the horn" (Rosh Hashana), on Yom Kippur, and on Shemini Atzeret – one bullock, one ram, and seven sheep. Paralleling this phenomenon, the same offering – two bullocks, one ram, and seven sheep – is brought on Rosh Chodesh, on the days of the Festival of Matzot (Pesach), and on Yom Ha-Bikkurim (Shavuot).
 
Rosh Hashana is the only festival in the Torah that falls out on Rosh Chodesh, and Shemini Atzeret – in the Torah – marks the new agricultural year, as is stated explicitly regarding the Festival of Sukkot-Ingathering:[11]
 
And the feast of ingathering, at the end of the year, when you gather in your labors out of the field. (Shemot 23:16)
 
The additional offering that is the same on Rosh Hashana and on Shemini Atzeret resolves the great question: How can there be a "new year" that is not on Rosh Chodesh?
 
The day of blowing the horn is the beginning of the month of the "end of the year," which is also "the beginning of the year" that is now starting with Shemini Atzeret, which is close to the time of first rain in the agricultural new year. 
 
"Rosh Hashana" of the "seventh month" (Tishrei) according to the Torah is not a single day, but rather the entire period of the festivals of Tishrei. This Rosh Hashana starts with the blast of the shofar on Rosh Chodesh and concludes with the prayer for rain on Shemini Atzeret.
 
What then is Yom Kippur?
 
Yom Kippur is last day of the previous year (from the first of Tishrei to the tenth of the next Tishrei). According to our calendar, 12 lunar months are less than a year (354 days, plus or minus one day), and Yom Kippur is the last full day of the previous solar year (of 365 days).[12] These three days "in the seventh month" are both the beginning of the year and the end of the year.
 
(Translated by David Strauss)
 
 

[1] Thus, Datan and Aviram are mentioned in the tribe of Reuven and we are reminded of the calamity of the company of Korach, and the number of the children of Shimon reflects the great crisis of Peor.
[2] See our shiur on Parashat Bemidbar.
[3] Ohad from the children of Shimon; Bekher, Gera, and Rosh from the children of Binyamin; Yashveh from the children of Asher. It is possible that Bekher is counted in Efrayim because of marriage, and it is possible that Achi and Rosh joined in marriage to form Achiram; the same is possible of Yashveh and Yashvi. Other families changed their names (Tzochar > Zerach from the children of Shimon; Etzbon > Ozni from the children of Gad), perhaps also because of marriage.
[4] Levi > Gerson, Kehat and Merari, four names that are mentioned in Bereishit, together with five families that were absorbed by other families – altogether 9 families.
[5] In Bereishit, the count includes also Dina, the daughter of Lea, and Serach, the daughter of Asher (who is mentioned in both lists, but counted only in Bereishit); and, of course, Yosef is counted in Bereishit with Menashe and Efrayim (at the end of Bemidbar, only Menashe and Efrayim are counted as tribes). In total, 12 names are removed from the list of those who went down to Egypt, and 8 families are added from Menashe and 4 from Efrayim.
[6] See Sh. Achituv, Asufot Ketubot Ivriyot, Jerusalem 1992, pp. 162-204; A. Demski, Madrikh bi-Mekorot Chitzoniyim le-Toledot Yisrael bi-Yemei ha-Mikra, Rechovot 1982, pp. 33-38; the writing on the ostraca is in ancient Hebrew script.
[7] In ostracon 42, mention is apparently made of [I]srae[l]; and in ostracon 44: from Shekhem.
[8] Hilkhot Yesodei Ha-Torah 7:6; Guide for the Perplexed II:45 (end).
[9] Both R. S. R. Hirsch and R. A. Kook explained the blessing "who has not made me a woman" in this manner. The Abudraham (pp. 25-26), on the other hand, explains that a woman is subject to her husband and his needs, and she is therefore exempt from time-bound mitzvot, so that she will not quarrel with her husband, who might need her at that time. Similarly, R. Yosef Karo writes (Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 55) that a woman is like a slave in all matters. Thus, it is clear that if she is not subject to a man and his needs, and therefore not like a slave, she is like "an important woman" (Pesachim 108a and Rashbam, ad loc.) who is not subject to her husband, and so she is like a freewoman regarding the Torah and mitzvot.
[10] This is what it says in the Sifrei (Nasa 2, 22) and in Kiddushin 35a regarding laws and judgments, punishments and damages, and naziriteships, and so too regarding all prohibitions in the Torah. But R. Tzvi Yehuda expanded this principle to the entire Torah and all the mitzvot, and thus he veered from the explanation offered by his father, R. Avraham Yitzchak Kook. See my book, Ha-Makor Ha-KafulHashra'ah Ve-Samchut Be-Mishnat Ha-Rav Kook (2013), pp. 345-349.
[11] In the seven days of the "Festival," mention is made of 2 rams and 14 sheep – that is to say, it is a double festival.
[12] See at length in my book, Zakhor Ve-ShamorTeva Ve-Historiya Nifgashim Be-Shabbat U-Be-Luach Ha-Chagim (Alon Shevut, 2015), part II.