Stemming from this question about the seeming discrepancy between the number of people and the number of first-borns as counted in the beginning of Numbers:

I noticed this problem in my first reading of the text. Why don't the commentaries take note of it? Even if they didn't have an answer, why didn't they at least mention that there was a problem?

(Just to be clear- "the commentaries" means every commentary on the bar ilan responsa site. I would have expected at least one of them to have mentioned this)

I'm assuming this is not an anomaly, so if you know of any other issues that are ignore by all of the classic commentaries, please post them. Also, if you can, please provide a more general explanation as to why so many mefarshim would ignore an issue in addition to a specific answer for this case.


3 Answers 3


In grade school (or so), I learned (though I don't remember from whom/where) that things that were obvious to those with a stronger m'sora were not written down; later generations' respective rabbis wrote them as those rabbis realized that the matters were not so obvious to their own contemporaries. This is a sort of extension of the es laasos lAshem that allowed the mishna to be written. Thus, in the specific case you mention in the question, perhaps the classical commentators considered the resolution of the discrepancy so obvious that they did not feel a need to write it down.

  • Do you know of any specific cases where we know this is true? Feb 24, 2012 at 4:50
  • @AriA, I suppose any time Rashi comments on the g'mara.
    – msh210
    Feb 24, 2012 at 16:14
  • 1
    Sorry, I meant to ask if you know of any other issues that are ignored by all of the classic commentaries Feb 26, 2012 at 0:41
  • 1
    @AriA: judaism.stackexchange.com/…
    – msh210
    Feb 26, 2012 at 7:14

I think the גמרא asks this, or something very similar, see .בכורות ד:/ה and .סנהדרין יז.

  • 8
    Summarizing what it says there would greatly improve your answer.
    – msh210
    Feb 21, 2012 at 23:27

Actually, the commentaries do deal with this specific question and they point out that since they had sextuplets, the mathematics of the bchorim does work out. Also see What happened to the bechorim (first-borns)?

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