In this week’s Parshat Bamidbar, G-d tells Moshe to count the Children of Israel.
With meticulous counting, we learn that there are 603,550 males ages 20 to 60 that could be drafted, and 22,300 males older than a month in the tribe of Levi that can serve in the sanctuary.
Yet, we know that we don’t count the Jewish people outright, because we don’t want an ayin harah (“evil eye”) to bring undue attention to ourselves and possibly a bad judgement. Therefore, G-d instructs Moshe to conduct the census by collecting a half shekel for each man of age.
Similarly, when we count the number of men for a minyan, typically this is done for each man with one of the ten words in the phrase from Psalms 28:9
הוֹשִׁיעָה אֶת עַמֶּךָ ,וּבָרֵךְ אֶת נַחֲלָתֶךָ .וּרְעֵם וְנַשְּׂאֵם עַד הָעוֹלָם
“Save your people, and bless your inheritance, and tend and carry them forever.”
Interestingly enough, in the Holocaust where over 6 million Jews were murdered, the Nazi’s kept meticulous records of the number of Jews that they exterminated everywhere as well as the diabolical practice of tattooing the infamous identification numbers on their victims and dehumanizing them.
In a book by Israel author, Amos Oz that I read recently, I remember him explaining with numbers, the incredible odds that we were up against in Israel fighting off the millions of Arabs that repeatedly try to overrun us. Hence, even if we maintain the greatest of armies in world with the brave and heroic IDF (which they most certainly are) and with all the technological superiority that we can innovatively muster, so that we can go up with one of us against 10 of them, what will happen when they send the 11th against us?
Thus, Israel with just over 6.5 million Jews could not simply defeat the surrounding Arabs numbering over 400 million by sheer military might alone–the pure numbers just don’t bear that out–and that’s why any sane person knows that the miraculous hand of G-d is at work here, and that we are living in the times of Mashiach.
In Downtown Jewish Center Chabad of Fort Lauderdale today, Rabbi Schneur Kaplan marvelously taught about the importance of everyone doing the right thing in life, and that we cannot look away or stand by while others are in need or mitzvot need to get done. In other words, one of the fundamental lessons from Bamidbar is that “G-d doesn’t count us; he weighs us” for the people we are and what we do.
When you add it all up, G-d doesn’t just count us; he counts on us!