Family Matters: B’midbar 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Have you ever tried to create your family tree? If so, how much progress did you make? What was the most challenging aspect of the project?

Listing family trees is a common rhetorical device in the Torah, and in this week’s portion, we encounter the lines of Moses and Aaron:

The Pitch: “This is the line of Aaron and Moses at the time that the Lord spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai.” – Numbers 3:1

Swing #1: “The word תולדות literally means ‘begettings,’ from the verb ‘to beget’, used of a father. … By this framing technique, the normative past is represented as a genealogical narrative, and time is concentrated into the connective form of a branching lineage.” – David Rosenberg, Abraham: The First Historical Biography

Swing #2: “The genealogical note in verse 1 refers readers to the genealogies in Genesis, which progressively narrow the focus of the narrative until it finally includes only the sons of Jacob. Here the focus is limited further of the family of Aaron and Moses. Priests and Levites are found at the center of the people.” – W.H. Bellinger, Jr., Leviticus Numbers

Swing #3: “R. Samuel ben Nachmeni in the name of R. Jonathan said: ‘He who teaches the Torah to the son of his neighbor, Scripture considers him as if he begot him.” – Ein Yaakov

Late-Inning Questions: Why does the Torah place Moses and Aaron’s lineage shortly before resuming the narrative of Israel in the wilderness? Is there a desire to establish their families as quasi-“royal families” in Israel? Or is this mere record-keeping that made it into our Torah text? Should certain families receive special treatment?

On-Deck at TBT: I’m excited to start a monthly learners’ service which focuses on specific aspects of the Shabbat morning service. These learners’ services, which will take place initially on Zoom, will be concurrent with the first hour of our Saturday morning services. The first will take place tomorrow, Saturday, May 15th, at 9:30 a.m., and will be accessed through this link.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of families, many fans like to talk about father-son combinations such as Ken Griffey Sr. and Jr. or Bobby and Barry Bonds, but I’m most impressed with the Boones, who sent four family members over three generations to the Major Leagues (Ray, Bob, Bret & Aaron), all of whom had notable playing careers.

Shabbat Shalom!