Pearls of Rashi – Bamidbar

This week we begin reading the fourth book of the Torah, Bamidbar, meaning “In the Wilderness.” Our Sages refer to it as Chumash Hapekudim, meaning the “Book of Counting.” We indeed find that this book begins with the counting of the Jewish people. This would also seem to be the reason for the English name of this book, Numbers.

This book begins with the words[1] “Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Sinai Desert in the Tent of Meeting on the first day of the second month. This was in the second year after the exodus from the land of Egypt. He said ‘Take the sum of all the Jewish people by families following their fathers’ houses. You shall take a head count of every male according to the number of their names.’” In the first verse Rashi cites the words “The Lord spoke… in the Sinai Desert… on the first of the month.” He explains that “Because they (the Jews) were precious to Him He counted them often. When they left Egypt, He counted them[2]. When many fell because of the golden calf, He counted them in order to know the number of the survivors[3]. When He came to cause His Presence to rest upon them (by erecting the Mishkan), He counted them. On the first of Nissan the Mishkan was erected. On the first of Iyar He counted them.”

This appears to be quite baffling. The reason for counting something precious, is to know how much one has. People count their money in order make sure that they did not lose any. This obviously does not apply to Hashem! He always knows how many Jews there are!

The explanation is that counting expresses a special characteristic of the item which is counted. Each “object” is counted as one; no more and no less. This expresses the greatness of each and every Jew. Whether one is intelligent, refined or boorish, we each have a common denominator. Namely the soul which is clothed within us. The soul is a veritable part of G-d. Its essence is the “great equalizer.” From that perspective each of us is equal. That is the reason that G-d took a census. G-d expressed, i.e. revealed, the greatness of each and every one of us.

This Parshah is always read before the festival of Shavuos, the time we received the Torah. Why did we all merit to receive Hashem’s law? Because just as the Torah is His Will and Wisdom, so too is every one of us a part of Him.

Wishing one and all a good Shabbos and a good Yom Tov!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 8, Beginning Page 1

Mr. Sholom Moshe Hacohen
ben Reb Shlomo Meir Hacohen ע”ה Cohen
Passed away Shabbos Parshas Beshalach, 13 Shevat, 5779
May His Soul be bound in the Eternal Bond of Life
* * *
לעילוי נשמת
ר’ שלום משה הכהן בן ר’ שלמה מאיר הכהן ע”ה כהן
נפטר ש”ק פ’ בשלח, י”ג שבט, ה’תשע”ט
ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.
יו”ל ע”י בני משפחתו שיחיו

[1]. Our Parshah, Bamidbar 1:1-2.

[2]. Parshas Bo, Shemos 12:37.

[3]. Parshas Ki Siso, Shemos 32:28.

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