The book of Bamidbar opens with Hashem commanding Moshe Rabeynu to count the nation. And G-D spoke to Moses in the desert of Sinai in the tabernacle of the covenant, the first day of the second month, the second year of their going out of Egypt, saying: Take the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of the names, every male, one by one.” Interestingly, only a half a year went by since the last census took place. The previous population survey occurred after the sin of the Golden Calf in order to determine how many people survived the punishment. If one compares the results of this poll to the prior one mentioned in Parashat Pikuday, he will find that the sum is identical to the one mentioned here. These facts, the proximity of the polls and their identical numbers make us question the necessity of this survey? Rashi in his commentary on the verse solves the problem when he explains that this census was conducted as a display of Hashem’s love for his people. “He counts us out of his fondness towards us.” In other words there was no other reason for the poll other then a pure display of Hashem’s love towards His people. This is supported by the fact that there was no other logical reason to conduct a poll at this time. Nevertheless, a question still remains to be answered. Why is counting the nation considered an act of affection? In the laws of Hilchot Taarovot (mixtures of non-kosher food with Kosher food) there is a law that teaches us that anything that is numbered in not nullified even if there is a thousand times the amount of kosher food as compared with the non-kosher. In other instances we know that everything is nullified when there is 60 times the non-kosher element. We learn from this that number reveals the importance of the things they represent. By counting something you are revealing its importance, its inner essence.
Interestingly, the Nazis who wanted to eradicate the Jewish nation didn’t want to relate to the Jews as a people and instead they tattooed a number on their arms. This was and act of the dark side. Those who follow Hashem and His Torah don’t accept the concept of just another number. The number testifies that something very special stands behind it that it being represented by this digit. It is for this reason that our Rabbis place great emphasis on counting letters and relating the spiritual meanings and connections to their numerical value. (Gematriah) We are taught that the 600,000 letters in the Torah are the 600,000 souls of our people. Just as if a letter is missing in a sefer Torah it is not fitted for use in the same way one soul that is not shining its special light affects the entire world. The oldest know Kabblalistic work called the book of creation, Sefer Yizirah, calls these letters building stones and that with each additional letter the number of permutations grows. With only one letter this is only one possible permutation, with 2 letters there are 2, with 3 there are 6, with 4 there are 24, with 5 there are 120, with 6 there are 720, and with 7 there are 5040 possibilities and so on. Each and every additional letter adds another spiritual dimension that is vital to the world’s success and prosperity. This same idea is reflected in the special Mitzvah of preparing ourselves for Matan Torah. By counting the 49 days from Pesach to Shivuot we are revealing the importance of each and every day. Each day blessed with a unique spiritual energy allows us to make the proper spiritual preparations for receiving the Torah. If, G-D forbid, we leave out one day in could have a detrimental result on our preparation for Matan Torah. May be we all merit in a complete and joyous counting and to again ascend to our Holy Temple in the City Jerusalem with the first fruits(Bikurim) Amen.
Shabbat Shalom- Rabbi Moshe Goldsmith