כי לא התפקדו בתוך בני ישראל כי לא נתן להם נחלה בתוך בני ישראל
“And grant me to come to the Land of Israel, Land of the Living, the Holy Land, speedily. To roll in its dust, to kiss its rubble, to inhale its holy air, and to sit in its shade. Have mercy and compassion on me to come in peace to the Land of Israel, the land You have chosen from all other lands, the Land sanctified with 10 sanctifications…” (Likutei Tfilot I, 47)
This week’s parsha brings us, with the explicit census and preparation to enter the Land of Israel, ever closer to the aspiration of the Generation of the Wilderness and the aspiration of our People time over – to enter and settle the Holy Land. As is clear from our title quote, one of the most primary motives of the census in this week’s parsha is to prepare for the settlement of the Land of Israel – ‘to the greater (numbering tribe) you shall give a greater portion of Land, and to the lesser (numbering tribe) you shall lessen their portion’.
Therefore, as our title quote declares, the Levites are not to be enumerated among the rest of Israel, because they do not receive a set portion in the Land of Israel. In Dvarim (10, 9) it is explained that the Levites receive no earthly portion for “HaShem is their portion”. This explanation requires further analysis, considering the fact that, although it is true that the Levites do not receive large plots of land like the other tribes, yet still the Levites do receive 48 cities in the Land of Israel, and are not expected to be wandering nomads across the Land of Israel. Rather, we should say that even the Levites have a portion in the Land of God, but this portion is relatively limited in order to aid the Levites to concentrate on their spiritual activities, and not be distracted by agricultural and more earthly activities. In addition, the scattering of the Levites into 48 cities throughout the Land of Israel also aids in the Levites spiritual goal to spread Torah and their spiritual work, their Godly ‘portion’, among the People at large.
In addition to the Levite cities, the Kohanim, who also constitute as Levites in this regard, also receive a ‘sanctified field’ in the Land of Israel. Rambam explains this law in the laws of Arachim (Sanctifications): “If one said [that his property should be given] as a dedication offering (‘herem’) without making any specifications, it should be given to the priests, for unspecified dedication offerings are given to the priests, as [Numbers 18:14] states: ‘All of the dedication offerings from the Jewish people will be yours…’What is the difference between dedication offerings designated for priests and those dedicated to Heaven? Dedication offerings to Heaven become consecrated property and must be redeemed for their worth… Dedication offerings designated for the priests, by contrast, can never be redeemed.”
In the laws of Bikurim, Rambam also clarifies that this law of ‘sanctified fields’ is one of the few gifts given to the Kohanim that apply in the entirety of the Land of Israel and not just in Jerusalem or the like. The fact that these portions of Land must be sanctified in order to be given permanently to the Kohanim, may shed light on the nature of the 48 cities that are also given to the Kohanim and Levites. We may say that similarly these 48 cities are uniquely holy or ‘sanctified’ cities that are befitting for the Kohanim and Levites. At the top of the lists of these Kohanic and Levite cities in the book of Joshua stands Hebron. This is Hebron, the holy city our Patriarchs cherished, the holy Levite City, the City where our Father Yitzhak ‘discovered’ the Holy Presence.
Real Stories from the Holy Land #127
“One day, I heard a story of one boy who was expelled from the yeshiva he learned in, but was later returned on the request of R. Elyashiv who asked the Rosh Yeshiva to return him one last time. This boy later became one of the great Roshei Yeshiva of our generation. Hearing this, I realized that I am not hearing this story now for reason. Indeed, just a few minutes later a boy knocked on my door, telling me that just an hour ago he was expelled from his yeshiva. I told his Rebbe the story I had just heard, and he agreed to give this boy another chance…” R.G
Sources: Rambam Bikurim 1, 6, Arachim ch. 6, Zohar II 39