Simeon Says: B’midbar 2017

by Adam J. Rosenbaum


Pre-Game Chatter: How important is it for you to help preserve your family’s last name in forthcoming generations? How would you feel if your descendants hyphenated your last name in order to “keep it in the family”?

As the book of Numbers begins, we discover how many Israelite males carry on the name of their respective tribes – and note that some of these numbers will shift dramatically:

The Pitch: “Of the descendants of Simeon, the registration of the clans of their ancestral house, their enrollment as listed by name, head by head, all males aged 20 years and over, all who were able to bear arms – those enrolled from the tribe of Simeon: 59,300.” – Numbers 1:23

Swing #1: “While the tribe of Simeon is numbered at the beginning of the desert wanderings at 59,300, by the time of the second census they are down to 22,200. Where did they all go? An obvious possibility was that they perished in the plague that befell Israel after Zimri’s sin with the Midianite woman, ‘the sin of Baal Peor’. Zimri was, after all, a Simeonite; his tribesmen doubtless also sinned with other Midianite women, and as a consequence many Simeonites must have been ‘brought to ruin by fornication’ in this plague.” – James L. Kugel, The Ladder of Jacob: Ancient Interpretations of the Biblical Story of Jacob and His Children

Swing #2: “Many attempts have been made to connect Simeon with Ishmael and Massa, and with the founders of Mecca, the establishment of Saul’s kingdom, etc. All that seems certain, to judge from the foregoing data and from the fact that a prominent subclan is called ‘Shaul, the son of a Canaanitish woman,’ is that the tribe of Simeon was of mixed origin and was at an early date fused with Judah.” – from “Simeon, Tribe of”, The Jewish Encyclopedia

Swing #3: “Because the love of them is before Him, He counts them every hour. When they went out of Egypt He counted them and when they transgressed with the golden calf He counted them. … When He came to put upon them His Shechinah He counted them …” – Rashi on Numbers 1:1-2

Late-Inning Questions: Since Jews no longer sort themselves by the 12 tribes, should Simeon’s rapid decline be seen as a tragedy? Or should we simply be happy that the Israelites endured (and continue to endure) at all?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: This Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Synagogue Emanu-El will introduce a new prayer book, Mahzor Lev Shalem. Other Conservative congregations describe this book as uplifting and awe-inspiring. We selected it because its readings are more relevant, provides better explanations about its prayers, and will engage congregants across the spectrum of Jewish knowledge. Honor or remember people you love by dedicating a book in their honor. A bookplate will be placed on the inside front cover recording your tribute. Dedications are $50 per book. Contact the synagogue office to truly inscribe those you love and remember in the book of life.

The Big Inning at the End: Much ink has been spilled this week about the Yankees’ attendance woes, in spite of their young and exciting roster. Is this an aberration that will end when summer starts (as is the case with many teams), or are New York fans finally fed up with ridiculous prices for tickets, parking, and concessions?

Shabbat Shalom!