“So I took the heads of your tribes, men of wisdom . . .
and I commanded your justices” (Dt.1:15-16)—
I enticed them with words, saying to them:
How fortunate you are!
Over whom are you about to be appointed?2
Over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—
people who are addressed as
and other terms of endearment.
“Men of wisdom, and knowledgeable” (Dt.1:15).
This is one of seven necessary qualities [of leadership]
that Jethro specified to Moses.
He sought them all [in each appointee], but found [no more than] three—
[all appointees were] men,[had] wisdom, and [were] knowledgeable.
“So I placed them as heads7 over you” (Dt.1:15)—
that they should be honored by you as heads of purchasing,
heads of sales, heads of negotiation, heads of import and export,
the first to enter [a public gathering], and the last to leave.8
This is why it is said:
“I placed them as heads over you” (Dt.1:15)—
so they should be honored by you.
“Commanders of thousands” (Dt.1:15)—
that is, for each group of 1,999,
only a commander for one thousand would be picked,
[leaving a remainder of 999 for the next appointee].
“Commanders of hundreds” (Dt.1:15)—
for each group of 199,
only a commander for one hundred would be picked,
[leaving a remainder of 99].
“Commanders of fifties” (Dt.1:15)—
if there were fifty and forty nine,
only a commander of fifty would be picked.
“Commanders of tens” (Dt.1:15)—
if there were nineteen,
only a commander of ten would be picked.
“And officers for your tribes” (Dt.1:15).
These are the Levites, who administer the lash.
And this confirms what is said:
“The levitical officers stand ready before you” (2 Chron.19:11).
- H:38-39; JN1:48-49
- Cf. the loose parallel with Sifre Nu. 92.
- E.g., Ps.122:8
- E.g., Is.5:7.
- E.g., Is.54:17.
- E.g., Ezek.34:31.
- Hebrew: r’oshim. In this context, “ministers” or “administrators.”
- B. Ber.43b records a list of “six things that bring shame upon a disciple,” the last being “he shall not be the last to enter the study circle.” F:25, l.1 reads this barait’a in light of Sifre, but it is difficult to conflate Sifre’s interest in commercial appointments with the Bavli’s setting of the behavior appropriate to the disciple. Cf. Pardo ad loc.