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Numbers 1:3 says the census is for men above the age of 20. I have this fact in my head that it was only for those below the age of 60. Is that true? If so, where is the source?

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    R. Moshe Shama writes (Recalling the Covenant p. 689) notes that the implication of the verses is that there was no upper age limit. – mevaqesh May 26 '17 at 16:14
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By the Meraglim, the decree was that "in this desert, your carcasses will fall, for all of your countings and all of your numbers, from the age of 20 and older..." (Bamidbar 14:29).

The Gemara (Bava Basra 121b) derives by a gezeirah shavah - the common usage of "and older" here and by Erchin (Vayikra 27:7) - that the decree was for 20 to 60. As this was according to their countings, which Rashi to the above passuk in Bamidbar1 explains to refer to anyone counted in the original census, it must be that that census was from 20 to 60 as well.

1The reason I quote Rashi and not the Gemara in Bava Basra is because the Gemara ultimately rejected that. Apparently Rashi learns that it still stands, but that there are exceptions.

  • +1 including the details of the Gezera Shava there explicitly would improve the post. (also if you can find any opinions who argue on that midrash that would be good too) – Double AA May 26 '17 at 14:40
  • This answer is slightly misleading and incomplete. The gemarra there is searching for a source that the decree on those who will die are between the ages 20 and 60, and they make a gezeira shava using the word ולמעלה, one from the parsha of arachin and one presumably from the parsha of the decree (Bamidbar 14:29), as the Torah Ohr indicates, and not from the census, as you said. Who says the same limud could be made to those counted in the census? – robev May 28 '17 at 2:48
  • @robev You are correct. I misspoke in my quotation of the Gemara. It indeed only makes the gezeirah shavah to the Meraglim. However, from the Pesukim by the Meraglim, we can explain the original census, as I have edited to explain. – DonielF May 28 '17 at 4:16
  • Okay thanks for the edit. Fyi Rashi is quoting Bamidbar Rabbah 3, so it must be a machlokes. I wonder if the gemarra holds the census was for everyone above the age of 20? – robev May 28 '17 at 12:23
  • Bamidbar Rabbah (that part, anyway) most likely was written around when Rashi lived FYI. Most likely the Midrash got it from the Gemara. – DonielF May 28 '17 at 12:46

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