The Special Division
"You shall count them (the Levites) everyone who comes to join the tzava to perform work in the Sanctuary." (Bamidbar 4:21)
Thus was Moshe commanded by G-d, as recorded in this week's Torah portion.
Why were they not counted in the same census recorded in the portion preceding this?
The answer given by Rashi citing the Midrash is that "the legion of the King deserves to be counted separately." (Bamidbar 1:49)
In both the census of all the tribes and in the census of the Levites, the term "tzava", literally translated as "army", is used. In regard to all the tribes the terminology used is "who goes out the army" to indicate that they have the responsibility of military duty. Regarding the Levites, the term used is "those who come to join the army" as mentioned above because their duties were performed in the Sanctuary and not on the battlefield.
All Jews were thus described as being in the "tzava" but with different responsibilities. Our Sages have already pointed out that those who dedicate their lives to the study of Torah are the virtual Levites of today when we lack a Sanctuary.
Those populist politicians in Israelwho are clamoring for an end to the practice in this country of deferring military service for yeshiva students should learn from these Torah chapters that today's Levites are really another indispensable division in the army of the Jewish nation.