Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Bamidbar

Strength in Numbers

It is interesting to note that the count of the Jewish people in the desert that appears in this week's parsha is a count of each of the tribes of Israel individually - with the entire population of the Jewish people divided into four separate groupings, and the kohanim and Levites forming another separate grouping completely. Why all of this particularism? Why is the Torah not contented to give a single population figure for the entire Jewish nation?

I believe that the underlying message here is the reinforcement of the Torah's view of the Jewish people and in fact of all of humankind, as many different individuals and never as a monolithic whole. In fact, this is the origin of the Torah's opinion that one should never count people individually in a direct and personal fashion. No two people are alike, and no two people are bound to hold exactly like opinions.

There are groupings and tribes that make up the Jewish people today and throghout all of Jewish history. This realization should make for a more tolerant and less bitterly divisive Jewish society. The Torah is therefore determined to treat the count of the Jewish people as a count of individuals instead of as a count of a large group or whole nation. It wishes us to realize that the Jewish people really are made up of so many different components and differing individuals and personalities and the Torah demands of us a maturity to deal with this omnipresent situation of the human condition.

Another point that strikes me about this week's parsha is the relative smallness of today's Jewish population relative to the total count that appears in this week's parsha. The numbers that appear in the parsha indicate a total poulation of about three million people - old, young, men and women. Three millennia later the Jewish people worldwide appear to constitute approximately fifteen million people. Natural growth alone over such a long period of time should provide us with a much more numerous Jewish people. Yet the Torah itself predicted that the Jewish people would always be the smallest in numbers of all peoples.

Exile, pogroms, assimilation, conversions and the Holocaust have all taken a depressing toll on our numbers. Yet in spite of our lack of numbers we have never lost our influence and effect on world society and civilization. The Torah teaches us that numbers are necessary - there can be no Judaism without live Jews - but numbers are not everything. It is noted that the Torah already indicated in the desert that population growth is problematic with the Jewish people.

During the forty years in the desert the Jewish population did not increase. The count at the end of the forty years eerily remained similar to the count in this week's parsha. Individuals matter greatly. That is only one of the many contributions of the Jewish people to the human story.

Shabat shalom.

Rabbi Berel Wein


Crash course in Jewish history

Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com


 

ARTICLES ON KI SAVO AND ELUL / ROSH HASHANAH:

View Complete List

What's in a Smile...
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5757

Are We listening?
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5762

Elul: A Month of Preparation
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5758

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

A Labor of Love
Rabbi Label Lam - 5769

The ‘Living’ Torah
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5766

Fruit of Our Labor
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5759

> Declarations and Taxes
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5761

To Crown a King
Shlomo Katz - 5767

Paying Attention to the Voice of the Almighty
- 5767

ArtScroll

Becoming and Adam Shalaim
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5773

Love Out of Fear
Shlomo Katz - 5760

Plotting Our Course for the Coming Year
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5761

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Happy New Yira
Rabbi Label Lam - 5769

"Grind it out"
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5772

Leave it Up to the King
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5764

Focusing Our Prayers
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5760



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information