Adeever son of Eltzafan the Levite opened his eyes, partly out of habit and partly out of hope. The results were the same as the day before. Darkness. The darkness threatened to overwhelm him, as it did every morning. He remembered to focus on sounds. He listened to the beating of his strong heart; the rustling of his tent flap; the scuffling of sandaled feet on the desert gravel outside his tent.
Adeever felt for his walking stick. He found it on his second try. I’m improving, he thought. I will have mastered my blindness by the time it disappears, he quipped to himself. I just hope the healer was right and that my eyes will really heal. The healer said that as I am young and strong I have a better chance of recovering from my accident.
Adeever stood to his full height and with his walking stick protectively in front, he walked out of his tent. He faced south, out of the Levite camp, which surrounded the Tabernacle. The warmth of the sun rising from the east felt good on his face. He mourned the lack of any brightening on his eyes. The chaotic sounds around him threatened to send him back to the protection of his tent. There were children running and yelling around a nearby tent. Two old men were talking too loudly to each other. A flock of sheep was bleating in the distance. A blacksmith’s hammer pounded in the center of the camp. Adeever stood his ground until he became accustomed to the waves of sound.
He took his first cautious steps, touching the ground in front of him with his stick. He heard some muted falling sounds in front of him followed by young giggling. He knew what it was, but wasn’t sure how to proceed. He had fallen over the rocks placed in front of him before. He would not be ensnared by the children’s cruel prank again.
Adeever heard rapid footsteps approaching. The footsteps had a rhythmic quality to it, as if the owner favored one foot over the other. The owner can’t be very heavy, Adeever thought, noting the lightness of the footfalls. Then he heard a whistling and cracking sound, of a stick whipped rapidly through the air, hitting young flesh.
“How dare you!?” the female owner of the rhythmic footsteps yelled furiously. “How dare you place stones in front of a blind man? “You think it is some type of game? He could have been hurt badly. Remove the stones from his path. If I see you doing such a thing again, I will give you a beating you will not forget!”
A flurry of small rapid footsteps approached Adeever, stopped, and quickly scampered off.
The rhythmic footsteps also receded.
“Wait!” Adeever yelled. “Who are you? Come back. Please.”
The rhythmic footsteps stopped.
“Who are you?”
“Nobody of note,” a bittersweet voice responded.
“You are my savior. I must know your name.”
“Pnina is my name.”
“That is a beautiful name from a beautiful voice,” Adeever said. “Whose daughter are you?”
“What does it matter who my father is? Does it change who I am?”
“But how will I know who you are? How can I find you? At least tell me what tribe you are from?”
“I am from the tribe of Yissachar and my tent is across the path from yours. I am easy to find.”
“That is good to know, Pnina. Can I ask you another question?”
“You have just done so.”
“A sharp girl too, I see. May I feel your face?”
“What? What sort of question is that? What sort of girl do you take me to be? Just because I’m…” Pnina quieted suddenly.
“You misunderstand me,” Adeever put his hands out. “That is how I can see people. If I can touch their face, I can tell who they are. I can see with my hands.”
“You do not want to touch my face. You are better off not seeing it.”
“Why? What is wrong? Are you scarred like me? You sound beautiful.”
“No, Adeever. I am sorry. I must go now. I hope you have a speedy recovery from your accident.”
“You know me? You heard about my accident?”
“Yes. Everybody knows the handsome son of Eltzafan; the son who had boiling dye accidentally splash into his eyes, and was blinded. Good day Adeever.” The rhythmic footsteps went away.
“Good bye, Pnina,” Adeever said softly to her back. “I hope we meet again.”
The following morning Adeever found his walking stick on the first try. He stepped out of his tent and recovered quickly from the onslaught of noise. With his stick firmly in front of him he walked slowly southward across the path, outside of the Levite section, until his stick hit the bottom of a tent. Adeever raised his stick and rapped lightly on the tent covering.
“Excuse me,” Adeever called out. “I am looking for Pnina.”
“There is no Pnina here,” the annoyed voice of an old woman called out. Adeever heard the flap of the tent open. “Oh, it’s you Adeever. Pnina lives in the tent across there.”
“Ah, Birtah,” Adeever bowed down. “I’m sorry to have disturbed you. I can’t tell where you are pointing and I just came from across. Would you be so kind as to point me in the right direction?”
“I am here, son of Eltzafan,” Pnina called out. “Follow my voice before you disturb everyone here.”
Adeever rushed to the sound of Pnina’s voice with his stick lightly touching the ground in front of him.
“What is it you want, Adeever.”
“I wanted to thank you for saving me yesterday.”
“It was nothing. Is there something else that you seek?”
“Yes. I want to get to know you.”
“What would the son of a prestigious Levite want with a plain girl like me?”
“What is plain about you? I know that you have a beautiful voice, the courage of a lioness and the heart of a princess.”
“You are blind. What do you know?”
“When I lost my sight, an entire world of sound, of smell, of touch was opened to me. I can tell more about a person from listening to their voice and touching their face then I ever could before. Let me touch your face and confirm what I think of you.”
“You are persistent.”
“Yes. And curious too. That is what got me into trouble in the first place. May I?” Adeever stretched out his hand.
“Fine, if it will stop your pestering me. What do I need to do?”
“Nothing, just stand still and let me run my fingers over your face.”
Adeever touched her hair first. She was shorter than he expected. The hair was dry, rough and sandy. He touched her forehead and briefly drew back his fingers at the first encounter with pimples. He felt thick eyebrows. Pnina closed her eyes. Her entire body trembled briefly at Adeever’s inquisitive touch. He felt sunken eye sockets and a short pug nose. There was barely a trace of cheekbones, but rather a round fleshy face. The lips were thin and the chin imperceptible. Adeever took a step back wordlessly.
“There. Are you happy now? Do you see me for the ugly thing I am? For a moment I had actually fantasized that there was someone in the world that wouldn’t judge me by my face. But then I thought it wouldn’t be fair to you. Besides, you were so annoyingly interested.”
“You are mistaken,” Adeever said. “I do not see ugliness. I see strength and firmness of purpose. I see compassion and a kind heart. If anything, my blindness has taught me to see below the surface. I would be honored to get to know you better.”
“You tease me,” Pnina sniffled. “Please leave me alone.” Pnina ducked into her tent, leaving Adeever starring sightlessly at nothing.
Early the next morning a loud commotion awoke Adeever from his slumber. He quickly picked up his stick and exited his tent. He heard masses of feet walking in all directions. He heard tent material falling on the ground and being folded. He heard yelling, a lot of yelling.
“Hurry up with that…”
“Move out of the way, you sluggard…”
“Today? Today? Moses wants us to move today?”
“Where are we going? We’re moving to the eastern side of the camp? We’re preparing for our march to Canaan?”
Adeever tried to make sense of the chaos he couldn’t see. Every time he put his stick in front of him someone kicked it or tripped over it. He stayed unmoving in front of his tent trying to hear a familiar voice or footstep.
“Pnina?” Adeever called out tentatively. “Pnina?”
“I am Pnina,” nearby footsteps stopped and an unfamiliar squeaky voice responded.
“I’m looking for a different Pnina.”
“Too bad,” the footsteps continued.
“Pnina!” Adeever called out in a louder voice. “Pnina!”
“She is gone,” Birtah’s voice confirmed to Adeever.
“Where did she go?”
“Her family moved to their new tribal encampment.”
“Where is that?”
“I think it is around the corner. I’m not sure. I need to move to the other side of the camp.”
“I’m sorry for you. I wish I could help.”
“Good luck to you Adeever. I hope that you will heal quickly.”
“Thank you, Birtah.”
There is no sense looking for her now in this chaos, Adeever thought. I’ll wait until people settle into their new encampments and I will find her then.
Later in the day Adeever set out from his tent in the Levite camp, in the section of Kehat, which did not have to move during the relocation. He walked southward again, to see who the new inhabitants were.
“Hello? Hello? Can someone help me?”
“What’s the problem?” an old voice asked.
“I’m looking for the tribe of Yissachar. Do you know where they moved to?”
“I’m not certain. I’m from the tribe of Reuven, next to us are the tribes of Simeon and Gad. We are all on the southern side of the camp. Perhaps they are west.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Adeever raised his head to sense the position of the sun. It was almost midday, so he was not sure of his directions. He had tried to keep track of his position and turned to his right, hopeful that he was moving westward. There was a wide path between the Levite camp and the southern tribes that allowed Adeever to move easily. Finally, his stick touched a tent in his path.
“Excuse me. Is somebody here?” Adeever spoke to the voices he heard.
“Yes. How can we help you?” A young woman’s voice responded.
“I am looking for the tribe of Yissachar.”
“Yissachar? You’re on the wrong side of the camp. I am Tehila daughter of Avidan from the Tribe of Benjamin. The tribes of Menashe and Ephraim are here with us on the western side. You need to go to the eastern side. If I remember correctly, Yissachar is on the northern edge of the eastern side, so you need to get to the exact opposite side of the camp. Would you like me to walk with you?”
“No thank you, miss,” Adeever stood straighter. “I can manage on my own.”
Adeever turned around and started walking eastward, back where he came from.
“Wait!” Tehila called after him. “You would be better off going north and then east. If you go east now, you will have to cross the tribe of Simeon. I heard they are not happy with the move and might be causing trouble.”
“Thanks for the warning,” Adeever said and righted himself to a northwest direction.
“You know what?” Tehila took hold of Adeever’s elbow and shifted him northward. “I think I will walk with you. I have finished our moving and my family no longer needs me today.”
“You are too kind,” Adeever said.
Tehila escorted Adeever northward and pointed out the tribal encampments of Ephraim and Menashe on the left and the Levite encampment of Gershon on the right.
“We are now at the northwest corner of the camp,” Tehila announced. “Let’s turn right and it will lead us past the northern tribes and eventually to Yissachar. Would it be easier if I held your hand?”
“No, thank you. I have learned to manage to walk on my own. Your kindness is already above the call of duty.”
“It is my pleasure. What are you looking for by Yissachar anyway?”
“Really? What’s her name?”
“Pnina daughter of whom? Pnina is a fairly common name.”
“I don’t know. But I will know her when I find her.”
“Well, we have just passed the tribe of Asher on the left and this is the tribe of Dan. On the right are your Levite cousins, the Merrari and soon we’ll be passing Naftali. Did you know that I am the daughter of a prince?”
“Avidan son of Gideoni is your father?”
“Yes, I am the eldest daughter of the Prince of the tribe of Benjamin and I know that you are the eldest son of Eltzaphan the Levite. We would be a suitable match.”
Adeever stopped walking. “You honor me with your forthrightness, daughter of Avidan, but I barely know you.”
“Yet you chase a girl from a different tribe that you do not even know her father’s name? She must be a real beauty.”
“Pnina is different. I do not seek her because of her beauty.”
“I have heard that the blind can see a person by touching their face. Would you like to touch mine? I have been told that it is beautiful.” Tehila took hold of Adeever’s hand.
“If you insist.”
Tehila placed Adeever’s hand on her head. Tehila was tall. Almost as tall as Adeever. Her hair was soft, long and silky. Her forehead was smooth. Her nose was small and thin and framed by high cheekbones. Full smiling lips accentuated a strong dimpled chin.
“You truly have beautiful features” Adeever said. Adeever felt warm in the midday sun. He could almost see the sun shining through.
“I can see.” Adeever whispered.
“What do you mean?” Tehila asked.
“It is not so dark anymore. I can see some light!”
“That is wonderful! What fantastic timing!”
“Yes, I must find Pnina.”
“What is it with you and Pnina?”
“I don’t know how to explain it. You are beautiful and kind, but I must find Pnina.”
“Then go in peace son of Eltzafan. May you find your heart’s desire. Good luck.” Footsteps receded westward.
Adeever moved quickly eastward. He could start to make out patches of light and darkness. By the time he reached the northeast corner of the camp he could make out shapes. He ran to the camp of Yissachar. He discarded his stick as he could make out the shapes of people again.
“Where is the tent of Pnina?” he asked a grey haired woman at the corner of the camp.
“Which Pnina? There must be over a dozen Pninas in our tribe. Who is she the daughter off?”
“I don’t know.”
“What does she look like? What color hair does she have?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know!”
“Young man, you are wasting my time.” The woman puffed and walked away.
“Pnina!” Adeever called out as he walked through the camp of Yissachar. “Pnina!”
Women of all ages exited their tents.
“Is someone calling me?”
“What does he want?”
Adeever stared at every woman that responded to his call. He sought signs of recognition but did not see any. A short dull-haired girl stood in front of her tent unmoving, yet staring intently at Adeever. Adeever ran right past her calling out “Pnina!”
“Pnina!” he kept calling and running further away from the dull-haired girl with tears rolling down her round face.
“What is the matter, my daughter?” A tall gray-haired man asked the crying girl.
“Oh, it is nothing, Father,” she answered.
“Pnina, I know that you do not cry without good reason. Does it have something to do with the madman calling out your name?”
“He is no madman. He is a kind, sensitive man. He is Adeever, the blinded son of Eltzafan, who I suspect has just recently regained his sight.”
“Do you like him, daughter?”
“What difference does it make? What man, blind or not, would be attracted to me?”
“I have told you not to speak like that! Whatever man does not see the beauty in you is not worthy of you.”
“Father, you are sweet to think so and I know I will always be beautiful to you, but the reality is that my features are not pretty. It is hard for men to overcome that. Think of how many matches you arranged that fell apart as soon as they saw me.”
“I would like a chance,” Adeever interrupted.
“How? How did you find me?”
“At first, I looked for you with my restored sight, but I wasn’t sure what you looked like, and my calling out to you just upset the people in the camp. I then closed my eyes to listen for your voice which I knew so well, and walked around camp, listening to conversations until your voice drew me to you. Pardon me, sir.” Adeever bowed to the father. “My name is Adeever son of Eltzafan.”
“Do you know who I am?” the father asked.
“No sir, my eyesight is still blurry, though you look familiar.”
“I am Nethaniel son of Tzuar, and this is my eldest daughter and the apple of my eye, Pnina.”
“Prince Nethaniel! I had no idea! Your daughter never mentioned who her father was.”
“I am not surprised. She has always tried to remain anonymous. Nonetheless, what business do you have with my daughter, that brings you half blind and screaming her name throughout the camp?”
“I would marry her, if she would have me.”
“I see. And what makes you think that the two of you are compatible?”
“Your daughter is brave and strong and caring and I would seek to live up to her standards.”
“Very well,” Nethaniel smiled slightly. “Are you aware that she feels she is unattractive? Though I don’t know how many maidens have had men chasing them across the camp and hunting them down.”
“I am aware, sir. Outward measures of beauty are not what attract me. I believe her to be the fairest woman I have met in my life.”
Nethaniel’s smile grew. “Pnina, would you have this rash, loud and half-blind man as a husband.”
“Then Mazal Tov!” Nethaniel embraced, lifted and kissed his daughter. “I think that this impetuous young man will be very good to you.”
“It is settled then,” Nethaniel turned to Adeever and shook his hand vigorously. “I shall speak with Eltzafan to coordinate the time of the matrimony and leave you two to get to know each other better.” Nethaniel clapped his hands and strode off to the south of the camp.
“Can you see me now?” Pnina daughter of Nethaniel asked.
“I have always seen you,” Adeever answered. “I just didn’t always know where to look. Will you walk back with me to my camp?”
“To our camp,” Pnina answered and they both strode confidently together, following the setting sun.
* * * * * *
Numbers Chapter 1 provides a list of the tribal princes and the headcount of men of army age. Chapter 2 provides the encampment orders for the 12 tribes and is given in full detail below. Chapter 3 gives the placement of the members of the tribe of Levi around the tabernacle.
Numbers Chapter 2:
1 And the Lord spoke unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying: 2 ‘The children of Israel shall pitch by their fathers’ houses; every man with his own standard, according to the ensigns; a good way off shall they pitch round about the tent of meeting. 3 Now those that pitch on the east side toward the sunrising shall be they of the standard of the camp of Judah, according to their hosts; the prince of the children of Judah being Nahshon the son of Amminadab, 4 and his host, and those that were numbered of them, threescore and fourteen thousand and six hundred; 5 and those that pitch next unto him shall be the tribe of Issachar; the prince of the children of Issachar being Nethanel the son of Zuar, 6 and his host, even those that were numbered thereof, fifty and four thousand and four hundred; 7 and the tribe of Zebulun; the prince of the children of Zebulun being Eliab the son of Helon, 8 and his host, and those that were numbered thereof, fifty and seven thousand and four hundred; 9 all that were numbered of the camp of Judah being a hundred thousand and fourscore thousand and six thousand and four hundred, according to their hosts; they shall set forth first. 10 On the south side shall be the standard of the camp of Reuben according to their hosts; the prince of the children of Reuben being Elizur the son of Shedeur, 11 and his host, and those that were numbered thereof, forty and six thousand and five hundred; 12 and those that pitch next unto him shall be the tribe of Simeon; the prince of the children of Simeon being Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai, 13 and his host, and those that were numbered of them, fifty and nine thousand and three hundred; 14 and the tribe of Gad; the prince of the children of Gad being Eliasaph the son of Reuel, 15 and his host, even those that were numbered of them, forty and five thousand and six hundred and fifty; 16 all that were numbered of the camp of Reuben being a hundred thousand and fifty and one thousand and four hundred and fifty, according to their hosts; and they shall set forth second. 17 Then the tent of meeting, with the camp of the Levites, shall set forward in the midst of the camps; as they encamp, so shall they set forward, every man in his place, by their standards. 18 On the west side shall be the standard of the camp of Ephraim according to their hosts; the prince of the children of Ephraim being Elishama the son of Ammihud, 19 and his host, and those that were numbered of them, forty thousand and five hundred; 20 and next unto him shall be the tribe of Manasseh; the prince of the children of Manasseh being Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur, 21 and his host, and those that were numbered of them, thirty and two thousand and two hundred; 22 and the tribe of Benjamin; the prince of the children of Benjamin being Abidan the son of Gideoni, 23 and his host, and those that were numbered of them, thirty and five thousand and four hundred; 24 all that were numbered of the camp of Ephraim being a hundred thousand and eight thousand and a hundred, according to their hosts; and they shall set forth third. 25 On the north side shall be the standard of the camp of Dan according to their hosts; the prince of the children of Dan being Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai, 26 and his host, and those that were numbered of them, threescore and two thousand and seven hundred; 27 and those that pitch next unto him shall be the tribe of Asher; the prince of the children of Asher being Pagiel the son of Ochran, 28 and his host, and those that were numbered of them, forty and one thousand and five hundred; 29 and the tribe of Naphtali; the prince of the children of Naphtali being Ahira the son of Enan, 30 and his host, and those that were numbered of them, fifty and three thousand and four hundred; 31 all that were numbered of the camp of Dan being a hundred thousand and fifty and seven thousand and six hundred; they shall set forth hindmost by their standards.’
This love story was a needed break from the many dark and gruesome stories of Leviticus.
Names: Adeever is combination of Iver (“blind”) and Ad (“until”). Spelled it with a double ‘e’ as otherwise looked like “A diver”. Pnina is common Hebrew name in usage from Biblical times. Means “pearl”. Also play on phrase/word of “kvoda bat melech pnima” (the honor of a king’s daughter is inside).