Numbers that Matter

May 21, 2017 at 6:04 AM , ,

“…Take the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel…” – Bamidbar 1:2

שְׂאוּ אֶת רֹאשׁ כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל – במדבר א, ב

In the first thirteen months after their exodus from Egypt, the Jewish people were counted three times (see Shemos 12:37; Ibid. 30:12-16; and Bamidbar, chapters 1-3). Rashi explains the significance of all this counting: “Because of their dearness to Him [G-d], He counts them all the time.”

The significance of all the counting is not for G-d to determine the precise amount of individuals within the Jewish nation—as G-d surely knows their number without conducting an actual census—but, in Rashi’s words (on Shemos 1:1), “to make their dearness known.” In spiritual terms, this means that the census revealed within the Jewish people themselves the nature of their endearment to G-d.

Numbers that Matter

How so? Because in a census, the value that each individual adds to the count is the same; every person counts as no less and no more than one. This means that the count highlights a quality common to all Jews, regardless of their background, education, or spiritual sophistication: the “Jewish spark”—the essential Jewishness of the soul of every Jew. This “Jewish spark” manifests as a sense of unbreakable attachment to G-d, due to which every Jew, regardless of their level of Jewish knowledge or observance, is capable of surrendering their very life for their faith in order not to separate from the one G-d in Whom they intrinsically believe.

This indomitable “Jewish spark,” common to all Jews, is the Jewish people’s greatest source of “dearness” before G-d. By taking a simple count of the number of people that make up the Jewish nation, G-d “made their dearness known,” revealing within them (and in fact, to the entire world,) the essential Jewish spark possessed by every single Jew.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 8, pp. 3-4


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