Rebecca Masinter

Parshas Bamidbar - What's Mine and What Isn't

Parshas Bamidbar opens with the counting of the Jewish people. While most of the tribes' members were counted from twenty years old and onwards, Shevet Levi was counted from the age of one month.  Counting infants and toddlers posed a unique problem for Moshe Rabeinu. For all the other tribes, the men came and arranged themselves before Moshe and Aharon. But when Moshe was told to count babies, he knew they wouldn't come before him, rather he would have to go to each individual home to count each child. 


Unsurprisingly, Moshe was concerned about invading the privacy of the young Levi families. Instead of promptly beginning his mission, he turned to Hashem and asked, “How can I possibly go into their homes to count their infants?" 


Hashem validated his hesitation and answered, “ You're right that it's an invasion of privacy for you to walk into each tent. You do your part and I will do mine.”  At that point Moshe went and stood outside the door of each home and a Heavenly voice came out of each tent and announced, "There are this number of babies in this home”.  Therefore, when describing the counting of Shevet Levi, the Torah says Moshe counted them “al pi Hashem” "through the mouth of Hashem".


I find this idea mind-boggling. Moshe was responsible for counting the whole tribe, down to one month old babies, but he knew that part of the job didn’t feel right.  It didn’t seem appropriate for him to go baby hunting in people’s homes.  Instead of pushing onwards with his mission despite his hesitation, he stopped and asked, “Is this right?  Am I really supposed to go into their homes?” And Hashem answered him, “No.  That isn’t your job.  Your job is to go up to each house, but I’ll take it from there.”


Moshe recognized his area of responsibility, but when something felt wrong, he paused to doublecheck the exact parameter of his job and discovered that he was only partially responsible for the counting. He had a job and Hashem had His part too.  


Many have a beautiful custom of praying for their children on the day before Rosh Chodesh Sivan, (Friday, May 19th this year). When we say the Tefilas HaShlah and when we daven for our children at all times, it's an opportunity for us to be aware that raising children has responsibilities that are ours and those that are not ours.  Just as it was crystal clear to Moshe Rabeinu that going into those Levi houses wasn’t right for him, we know with absolute certainty that so much of our children’s development is out of our hands.  When we daven we are effectively saying to Hashem, “I’m doing the best I can with my part.  But the rest is yours.  Please grant my children the blessing they need directly from you to live their best lives.” Because so much of raising children is out of our hands. It's in His.