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 “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 headcount 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. When many fell because of the golden calf, He counted them to know the number of the survivors. When He came to cause His Presence to rest upon them (by erecting the Mishkan), He counted them. On the first of Nissan, we erected the Mishkan. On the first of Iyar, He counted them.”
The above is surprising. The reason for counting something precious is to know how much one has. For example, the reason people count money is to make sure that they did not lose any. This does not apply to Hashem! He always knows how many Jews there are!
The explanation is that counting expresses a unique characteristic of the item that one counts. We count each item as one; no more and no less. This defines the greatness of each Jew. Whether one is intelligent, refined, or unrefined, we each have a common denominator. Each Jew has a G-dly soul. This 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 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? The Torah is one with Hashem, it is His Will and Wisdom. So too is every Jew a part of Him.
I wish one and all a good Shabbos and a good Yom Tov!
Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn
Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 8, Beginning Page 1
מוקדש לזכות כ”ק אדמו”ר נשיא דורנו מליובאוויטש
חיילי “צבאות השם” חיים ועדן עודד שיחיו מאריס
נדפס ע”י הוריהם
הרה”ת ר’ מנחם מענדל וזוגתו מרת חי’ מושקא שיחיו מאריס
. Our Parshah, Bamidbar 1:1-2.
. Parshas Bo, Shemos 12:37.
. Parshas Ki Siso, Shemos 32:28.