A Little-Big Math Problem

Here's the deal. First I clicked the audio, then the circle and I was able to listen to the Parsha while I played the PUZZLE - at the same time! AWESOME!

Parshas Bamidbar #14

A Little-Big Math Problem

The following may be a bit complicated so it’s time to concentrate, and if you want, take out your trusty calculator (unless, of course, it’s Shabbos or Yom Tov).

Ready or not, here we go:

When Moshe finished counting all the Levi’im, the grand total was 22,300.

Then, HaShem instructed him to count all the first-born sons in the entire Jewish people.

The total was 22,273.

Now it was time for the grand switch:

The firstborn sons were originally the ones who were supposed to work in the Mishkan, but tragically they were involved in the Golden Calf episode and they forfeited this honor.

Who took the firstborns’ place?

None other than the tribe of Levi, the only tribe that refused to serve the Golden Calf.

But they had to make it official – a fair exchange between the first-born and the Levi’im – one for one.

Now for the math problem. There were 22,300 Levi’im, and amongst them were 300 who themselves were firstborn sons, and so they did not need the switch with any regular firstborns from Bnei Yisrael. Now the total went down from 22,300 Levi’im to only 22,000 Levi’im who needed to switch.

So we’ll take the 22,273, which is the exact total of firstborns of Bnei Yisrael, and exchange them with the 22,000 Levi’im who needed to switch.

So here’s the calculation for the grand switch:

22,273 firstborns of Bnei Yisrael


22,000 Levi’im who were not firstborns

= 273.

Oh no! There were 273 “extra” firstborns from Bnei Yisrael – but there were no Levi’im to replace them. Somehow, they would have to be dismissed from serving in the Mishkan… but how? And of the 22,273 firstborns, which 273 of them should be considered the “extra” ones?