מציון תצא תורה
Read a Debar Torah from Israel Scholarship Recipient
In this week’s Parasha, פרשת במדבר, Hashem commanded Moshe to count Bnei Yisrael. But why? What was the reasoning for them to be counted and why at the beginning of the Parasha?
There were a few other instances in the Torah where Bnei Yisrael were counted: when they left Egypt and after the Golden Calf. When Hashem asks for a census of Bnei Yisrael, it is usually to show His love to them. Rashi says that Hashem was counting Bnei Yisrael now because He was about to cause His Presence to rest on them (Numbers 1:1). But, in some cases, the Torah explicitly says that taking a census of the nation is full of risk. In Shemot 30:12, Hahsem said:
כִּ֣י תִשָּׂ֞א אֶת־רֹ֥אשׁ בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֘ל לִפְקֻדֵיהֶם֒ וְנָ֨תְנ֜וּ אִ֣ישׁ כֹּ֧פֶר נַפְשׁ֛וֹ לַיהוָ֖ה בִּפְקֹ֣ד אֹתָ֑ם וְלֹא־יִהְיֶ֥ה בָהֶ֛ם נֶ֖גֶף בִּפְקֹ֥ד אֹתָֽם׃
When you take a census of the Israelite people according to their enrollment, each shall pay the LORD a ransom for himself on being enrolled, that no plague may come upon them through their being enrolled.
The Torah describes the act of counting as ‘se’u et rosh’, “Lift the head”. What does this mean? Why not use any normal phrase to describe the census, why this particular expression? Normally, when counting a census, the goal is to focus on the group as a whole. Counting in masses takes away from the individual, and the larger the group becomes, the more the individuality is lost. The Torah however, insists on focusing on the individual, on each and every person. We believe that every human being was created in the image and likeness of God and that each person is an integral part of the world’s existence. Judaism doesn’t allow us to lose our identity in the crowd. The Gemara explains that every person is different, each with our own attributes. Although we may look like a huge cluster, Hashem refers to each of us as individuals. That’s the importance of the phrase, “lift the head,” it’s to prevent the feeling of insignificance in the crowd.
The meaning of individuality is to be a unique and valuable member of a team. It may be confused with individualism, meaning that “I am not a team player at all. I am interested in myself alone, not the group.” Judaism values individuality, not individualism.
Jewish leaders have an important role to fill. They must “lift the heads of each individual person.” If they seek to lead, however small or large the group, they must always communicate the value placed on each person.
The purpose of a census at the beginning of this Parasha is to teach the importance of focusing on each individual as part of a crowd. This theme is more prevalent now than ever. As a small nation, we’ve gone through so many tests and troubles. From ancient to modern-day times, we’ve survived countless wars and so many annihilation attempts, but yet we’re still here as a strong nation. With the recent news of the ongoing war in Israel, we must remember who we are. We are a tiny percentage of the world’s population, yet we date back so many years. It is important to unify in these times of trouble and to have אמונה and בטחון in Hashem. Each and every one of us has to come together as a unified group to get through it together.
There have been over two thousand rockets sent from Gaza and Lebanon into Israel, and there were some direct hits which have led to unfortunate deaths. It is extremely important to do all that we can to protect and defend our Jewish state, but while doing so, we must remember to come together to put our complete trust in Hashem and remember what we have already gone through. Hashem instructed Moshe to count us on many occasions to show his love and to show how we are each an individual as part of the nation. Now is the time where we remember who we are and where we should be putting our faith.
Diana Gindi has attended the Yeshivah of Flatbush from pre-k through 12th grade. She has always had a strong passion for Israel, especially since her family tries to visit once a year. Diana likes to focus on her studies and plans on becoming a doctor one day. She hopes to spend her year in Israel to help her grow and spend more time focusing on Torah. She went on Hesed Mission during high school, which opened up a whole new lens of Israel—Hesed. She is currently learning in Israel for herself while also doing hesed for those in need.