This weeks’s portion is Bamidbar and it is the first portion in our new book of Numbers. It does not, however, mean numbers. It actually means “in the wilderness”. In this book the children of Israel are, indeed, in the wilderness. The English name, Numbers, is significant because in the first few verses of this book, the children of Israel are counted – a census is taken.
Some ancient Rabbis have said that it is important that we note that the Israelites are counted. In fact it is said that the Jewish people are or will be counted ten times throughout history. Only one of these “countings” has not happened yet. The ancient sages tell us that the tenth time that Israel will be counted is in the days when the Messiah returns and he shall count them as a shepherd counts his sheep.
This interesting notion of being counted can give us a feeling of significance. In Hebrew, the word for this type of counting is pakod which literally means to remember or to be concerned with. Think about that, when you are counting something you are concerned with it. When you count money, or if you have a collection of something, or you are on a field trip with lots of children. Especially the latter – you are constantly counting them to make sure that you have everyone. If you take the time to count something, it means that you are familiar with it, concerned with and about it.
Our sense of significant here is that we matter to the Lord. As Chomp, my shark friend and his pal Noah taught our kids this week: everyone counts. When you count people, it lets them know that everyone is significant and nobody is replaceable. Every individual is important to the Lord and that should make us feel very, very good.
It was important for the children of Israel to be numbered. In another commentary known as the chassidic masters there is a wonderful idea about being counted. It is this: that in the counting, from the greatest all the way to the least, everyone was counted in the exact same way. So that means there are two wonderful lessons to learn about Israel being counted. One is that everyone counts, everyone matters and it is important that everyone is an individual. But the second is that if we were to put everyone on a scale we would all be equal. No matter how much money we have, where we come from, what country we were born in or what our social status, we are all the same to the Lord.
All of us are counted with the same value In these days when it is so easy to put value on people based on their possessions or their station in life it is so important for us to know that the almighty himself looks at us all the same. This book, Bamidbar, contains more miracles that any other book of the Torah. Although the children of Israel are wandering in the wilderness for forty years, some amazing things take place; that’s what we should be focused on. Remember, you matter. And God knows who and where you are. You have been counted.
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