Bemidbar (Numbers 1:1–4:20)

        After Leviticus’s almost complete focus on laws, the book of Numbers (Hebrew, “Bemidbar,” literally “in the desert of”) returns us to the narrative.  It is now 13 months since the Israelites left Egypt and they are getting ready to conquer the Promised Land.  First, Moses is commanded to take a census of all men, aged 20 and up, who can fight.  This excludes the Levites, who will be occupied with carrying the Tabernacle and its accoutrements.  Each of the other tribes is duly counted, ranging from 32,200 (Manasseh) to 74,600 (Judah), and the total comes to 603,550.  The Levites are to encamp around the Tabernacle, and the other tribes will be distributed beyond them, a division of three tribes camped opposite each of the four sides of the Tabernacle. That would add up to 13 tribes, including the Levites, but remember, Ephraim and Manasseh each count as 1/2, so we still end up with 12. The divisions range in size from 108,100 to 186,400.  I don’t know the rationale for the specific grouping into divisions, nor for the choice of each division’s lead tribe of (Judah, Reuben, Ephraim, and Dan).  Any ideas? Maybe I’ll look that up next year.

        The rest of the chapter concerns the tribe of Levi.  It is made up of three houses (after Levi’s three sons): Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.  Each house consists of clans, the descendants of Levi’s grandsons.  Where they are to camp and their duties vis a vis the Tabernacle are outlined.  The males from one month up are counted, coming to 22,000 (don’t you just love these round numbers?).  Now it gets a little interesting.  The Lord commands that the Levites and the first born of their cattle would be dedicated to the Lord in place of the first born male Israelites and the first born of their cattle.  Turns out there are 22,273 first-born Israelite males one month and older, or 273 more than there are Levites.  As a consequence, Moses was commanded to redeem those extra 273 by collecting 5 shekels for each of them from the Israelites, i.e., 1,365 shekels.  This is the origin of the pidyon haben ceremony we still perform today when a first-born Jewish boy (not a Kohen or Levi) is 30 days old.  How did they identify who was among the 273 “extra” who paid?  Or was the money apportioned to each tribe by population (i.e., a tribe having 1/10 of the 22,273 would be responsible for 136.5 shekels, etc.)?  Something else for me to look up next year.  Anyhow, the chapter ends with the beginning of a different type of census of the Levitical houses, this time of those able to do the daily work in the Tabernacle, which is only from ages 30 to 50.

Shabbat shalom,
Speaking of numbers…

3.14 and the rest  [excerpt]  

Pi can be found in the design of the pyramids at Giza

By David Blatner (14 March 2008)

It’s Pi Day, a celebration of the mathematical ratio that man has been trying to unlock for millennia. But why are we driven to find the answers behind it?

As we’re all taught at school, pi represents the number you get when you divide the distance around a circle (its circumference) by the distance across (the diameter).

With just a string and a ruler you can quickly measure that pi must be just over three-and-an-eighth (3.125). With more precise measurements, you may be able to narrow it down to 3.14.

3.1415926535 8979323846 2643383279 5028841971
However, if you ask a typical maths nerd, you’ll get an earful of pi – 3.14159265 and so on. A surprising number of students have memorised 50 or even 100 digits after the decimal point.

The rough ratio of pi 3.14 gives us the date for Pi Day. March 14, or 3/14 in American dating style, makes sense for a celebration of this famous constant.

Coincidentally, Pi Day is also the birthday of Albert Einstein, who no doubt knew more than a little about pi. Pi Day celebrants, usually children with an enthusiastic teacher and a varying degree of personal interest in the subject, learn about pi, circles, and, if they’re lucky, eat baked pies of various sorts.



The math professor’s six-year-old son knocks at the door of his father’s study.

“Daddy”, he says. “I need help with a math problem I couldn’t do at school.”

“Sure”, the father says and smiles. “Just tell me what’s bothering you.”

“Well, it’s a really hard problem: There are four ducks swimming in a pond, when two more ducks come and join them. How many ducks are now swimming in the pond?”

The professor stares at his son with disbelief: “You couldn’t do that?! All you need to know is that 4 + 2 = 6!”

“Do you think, I’m stupid?! Of course, I know that 4 + 2 = 6. But what does this have to do with ducks!?”
Math jokes

Theorem. A cat has nine tails.
Proof. No cat has eight tails. Since one cat has one more tail than no cat, it must have nine tails.

Q: How does a mathematician induce good behavior in her children?
A: `I’ve told you n times, I’ve told you n+1 times…’


The results of statistics

1.Ten percent of all car thieves are left-handed
2. All polar bears are left-handed
3. If your car is stolen, there’s a 10 percent chance it was taken by a Polar bear

1. 39 percent of unemployed men wear spectacles
2. 80 percent of employed men wear spectacles
3. Work stuffs up your eyesight

1. All dogs are animals
2. All cats are animals
3. Therefore, all dogs are cats

1. A total of 4000 cans are opened around the world every second
2. Ten babies are conceived around the world every second
3. Each time you open a can, you stand a 1 in 400 chance of becoming pregnant

Census Taker

The census taker knocked on the lady’s door. She answered all his questions except one. She refused to tell him her age.
“But everyone tells their age to the census taker,” he said.
“Did Miss Maisy Hill, and Miss Daisy Hill tell you their ages?” she asked.
“Certainly.” he replied
“Well, I’m the same age as they are.” she snapped.
The census taker simply wrote on the form, “As old as the Hills.”



A young woman greeted the census taker. ‘Good morning,’ said the caller,
‘I’m taking the census and I’d like to ask you a few questions.
‘Homemaker,’ replied the woman.
‘Husband’s occupation?’
‘No,’ said the woman. ‘Dresses.’

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