2 Take a head count of the whole community of Israel by their families according to their father’s houses, list the names of each and every male head. … 4 Every man will be with a tribe: represented by the head of his fathers’ house.Numbers 1
Willing or not the male children of Israel in the desert were counted exactly. First, heads of tribes were counted and then their families—man after man on that desert spring day.
17 Moses and Aaron took those men and listed the names.Numbers 1
All along the journey they would need to protect the camp and guard the Tent of Meeting, so the male children of Israel needed to count and record names and then establish the order in the camp.
52 The children of Israel camped according to every man’s troop and by his battalion standard.Numbers 1
Each father was the one to direct his family to the special camp for their tribe. From birth to death every male of the children of Israel was always sure of his place. The men spoke of flags and spaces to camp, while the female children of Israel in the desert sighed and waited. Those women sighed for themselves surrounded by the desert.
12 You will rejoice before YHWH – you and your sons and your daughters and your male servants and your female maids.Deuteronomy 12
What were the names of the female children of Israel? Not a name was recorded, yet they bore those leaders, raised those soldiers and nurtured all of those desert wanderers. How could they rejoice? The female children of Israel walked alongside the men and assisted in their deeds but in their hearts the women told their story.
"We are a tribe—the integral tribe of the DAUGHTERS OF ISRAEL", they whispered to one another. "We need no flag or special camping grounds. Our space is not marked and our names are not recorded, but we know who and where we are. We inhabit this sacred space and the ancient melody we sang on that day, as we traveled together, will inhabit the desert breeze forever."
They remembered the gifts they had given to the Tent of Meeting—rings, necklaces and bracelets of their own or from their neighbors in Egypt—never to be seen or worn again. Mundane objects contributed to adorn the Tabernacle.
2 Every man will camp at his standard with signs of his fathers’ house; the children of Israel will camp at a distance, around the Tent of Meeting.Numbers 2
Those who were counted were like the outer cover of the Tent of Meeting and those whose names were never listed were like the inner cover of the Tabernacle. Together they were to become a holy entity—the PEOPLE of ISRAEL, the men were sent to their appropriate positions and the women readied themselves for the journey ahead.
Midrash Harabah and English translations by Rabbi Gail Shuster-Bouskila ©2021
Song of the Slaves – Karolina The drum beats sadness Dust in our faces Row after row walking in step The song of the slaves Finally, even the sand round us will wander When the spirit enters, it is a witness to freedom. Chorus: To a new land away from great distress: After going through the desert, the sea and the mountains.