Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Bamidbar – Numbers 1:1-4:20
Part of navy work entails reporting, in my case a monthly summary of how many people I’ve counseled and the issues confronted. But slotting people into general categories belies the distinctiveness of the challenges they face. This week’s parsha, Bamidbar, reveals a better perspective:
Take a census of the entire assembly of the Children of Israel . . . (Numbers/Bamidbar 1:2)
This Sabbath’s parsha begins the fourth book of the Torah, Numbers or Bamidbar, which means wilderness. G-d commands Moses to take a census of the Children of Israel, first of the Twelve Tribes and then of the Levites. Next He gives the arrangement of the tribes into four camps that will travel with and encamp around the Holy Ark. Then the Levites are appointed to the service of the Tabernacle in place of the first born, giving us the mitzvah of Pidyon Haben, the redemption of the first born, still done today.
The phrase G-d uses when commanding Moses to take the census, typically translated as it is above, more accurately means, “raise up the head of all of the assembly of the Children of Israel.”
The Almighty loves His people so much He counts them several times. If you’re a stamp or coin collector like me I suspect you know the enjoyment that comes from studying them. Spending an afternoon counting them, examining each one’s unique features, is wonderful.
But, G-d has other reasons for taking censuses. Knowing He loves you is great, yet there are other ways you can feel loved.
You are probably used to thinking of a census as the once a decade procedure through which the population is determined and congressional seats are apportioned. But this aggregating process is the opposite of what the Creator has in mind. The censuses done in the wilderness were designed to let each individual person know he or she was important. Whether a scholar or a boor, G-d, through his agents, recognized the uniqueness of a person’s soul. When He said, “Raise up the head,” G-d was entreating Moses to help each individual understand the essence of the Divine Spirit in each human being and strive for fulfillment of that potential.
More important is helping each one of them to see their value, strengths, and weaknesses.
And keep in mind, you’re one of G-d’s uniquely valuable children too.
How do you help someone understand his individuality? Please comment below.
Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!