Sefer Bamidbar begins with the counting of Bnei Yisrael, with a hint of military purposes (“all those who go out to the army” – Bamidbar 1:3). Rashi (ad loc. 1) mentions the other countings that were carried out, which seem important, considering that Hashem commanded Moshe to involve great people – Aharon and the heads of the tribes. What is the big idea behind this, and why is the exact manner it was done important?
Hoshea (in this week’s haftara) had a unique solution for Am Yisrael – they were to be sent to the desert (2:16). Most prophets warned against things that could lead to the need for exile and set as the goal, returning to the Land and making its desolate places blossom. Hoshea prophesied when the nation was still in Eretz Yisrael, and its most acute problem was the idol worship of the Ba’al (literally, the husband). The Ba’al, and its wives, Asheira and Annat, turned promiscuity into a way of life. This matter finds expression throughout the haftara.
Over the last few weeks, we proved that Torah and Chazal saw a deep connection between Brit Bein Hab’tarim and Kriat Yam Suf. Avraham was concerned that, even if his children were to inherit Eretz Yisrael, they would still be subservient to Egypt. We explained that Hashem promised that when Bnei Yisrael would leave Egypt and cross the sea, their subservience would end and their independence in Eretz Yisrael would begin.