||Take a census of the entire Israelite community. [Do it] by families following the paternal line, according to the names of each male, taken individually.
Se'u et-rosh kol-adat beney-Yisra'el lemishpechotam leveyt avotam bemispar shemot kol-zachar legulgelotam.
||You and Aaron shall take a tally of them by their divisions, [counting] every male over 20 years old who is fit for service.
Miben esrim shanah vamalah kol-yotse tsava beYisra'el tifkedu otam letsiv'otam atah ve'Aharon.
|Take a census of the entire Israelite community|
According to most authorities, this was a second census, the first having been taken before the Tabernacle was made; see Exodus 30:12, 38:26 (Rashi on Exodus 30:15,16; Ralbag; Josephus, Antiquities 3:7:4). While the first census was to determine the population of Israel as a whole , this was to determine the population of each tribe (Baaley Tosafoth). However, some sources appear to indicate that there was only one census (Tanchuma, Ki Thisa 9; see Numbers 1:1). See Numbers 1:46.
(cf. Bava Bathra 109b). The term beth avoth also denotes paternal extended families (see Exodus 6:14, 12:3).
Literally, 'by a head count.'
Some say that this was done with a half shekel, as in Exodus 30:13, 38:26 (Rashi; Midrash Aggadah). According to others, however, this census was made by name lists, where every Israelite was listed separately (Ralbag; Shaar HaPesukim; Adereth Eliahu; cf. Lekach Tov).
|fit for service|
Some say for military service (Saadia; Rashi). some say that this was meant to exclude those who were physically disabled (Midrash HaGadol). According to others, tzava does not denote a military army, but the community as a whole, and 'going out to tzava' denotes those who are full-fledged members of the community (Ramban; Hakethav VeHaKabbalah; see Numbers 4:2): It may also denote all who had participated in the building of the Tabernacle (see Exodus 38:8).