Parshas Bamidbar – Counting the Jewish People

This week in the Torah:

The fourth book of the Torah, “Numbers,” opens with the commandment to count the Jews. Because of this opening, the entire book is called “Numbers.”


The act of numbering the Jews alone adds to them no particular importance. One Jew is no greater than the next just because of his partaking in a census; regardless of his stature he represents only one numeral. So why is this tallying of the Jews, something seemingly superficial, held in such prominence as to be the given name for a whole book of the Torah?


A census does signify that those counted are, as a group, significant and important. But this is not because a census is itself important and special. Only the group that is tallied is special, and the census itself merely indicates this. Why then is the census itself given such prominence?


We must say that the census itself gains importance by means of its attachment to the important subjects it tallies.


The Jews are referred to as “A single nation on Earth,” (Samuel II 7:23). The founder of Chabad, known as “The Alter Rebbe” interprets this to mean that Jews unify Earth and everything earthly with the One (“Single”) G-d. Hence they unite “Numbers,” a census which is something quantitative, with quality.

Therefore, in Judaism, an increase in quantity can cause an increase in quality.

Some examples:

  1. A Minyan for sanctified prayer is made by a quantity of at least ten Jews.
  2. Grace After Meals can be said with its official introduction only if three Jews ate together. If they were ten, then they can even mention G-d’s Name in the introduction.
  3. While one is busy with one Mitzvah, one is concurrently free from the obligation to fulfill a different Mitzvah, regardless of the second Mitzvah’s sometimes seemingly greater importance.
  4. The Torah would, G-d forbid, not have been given to the Jews at Mt. Sinai had there been missing even one of the requisite number of Jews, regardless of that Jew’s stature.

The lesson:

Nowadays, “quantity” ranks major. One must put one’s efforts into bringing more and more Jews into the ranks of Torah-true Judaism, regardless of said Jew’s “quality.” In the words of The Alter Rebbe, “The Divine Presence rests on a gathering of ten or more Jews, even if they are not occupied with Torah at the time.” And, eventually, the increase in Jewish quantity will increase Jewish quality.

“Nor must one ignore one’s own flesh.” I.e., besides for working with another, one must see to it that one’s own self is not spiritually handicapped. While, one must draw every Jew close, regardless of their spiritual level, nevertheless, in terms of oneself, if one sees a spiritual blemish it must be rectified.

(Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. 2, Bamidbar)


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