For the week of May 26, 2001 / 4 Sivan 5761
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 1:1 - 4:20
Haftarah: Hosea 2:1-22

You Count

Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one (Bemidbar / Numbers 1:2).

It's census time where I live. Just the other day, I was given the forms, which by law must be filled out by each household on a certain day this month. We are told by the government (and I do believe them) that the census makes a difference for our community. Apparently census figures affect funding and such matters.

Interestingly we are reading the passage in the Torah where God commanded Moses to take a census of the people of Israel.

At first glance we may not find the census figures listed in the early chapters of Bemidbar that interesting. Not much of a story here. For the most part it is just names and numbers. And yet this is part of God's sacred writings handed down through the centuries.

One of the things that encourages me when I read these chapters is that their presence within the Torah emphasizes that it is a real book about real people. Even though there are many extraordinary passages, describing some hard to believe events, the Bible does not read as if it were made up.

Another thing that the description of the census provides us with is an understanding that all the unnamed people who lived at that time were important too. As we read the Torah there are only a few individuals that stand out. This is also like normal life in our day. There are only relatively few people who are known by most of the general public. Only a small percentage of the population is ever mentioned in the newspaper or is seen on TV and the movie screen.

Yet that doesn't mean that the great many other seemingly nameless ones are not important. In fact each and every person has been placed on Earth for a purpose. While some people appear to have very wide influence, that doesn't make the others less important. What is essential is that each person fulfills their God-given purpose, whatever that is.

Maybe you feel like you are just a number, a nameless person in the midst of a crowd while others live in the limelight. But the fact is: in God's eyes you count.

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