Counting on You
(‘שְׂא֗וּ אֶת־רֹאשׁ֙ כָּל־עֲדַ֣ת בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָ֖ם לְבֵ֣ית אֲבֹתָ֑ם בְּמִסְפַּ֣ר שֵׁמ֔וֹת כָּל־זָכָ֖ר לְגֻלְגְּלֹתָֽם: (א’, ב
“Take the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by families following their fathers’ houses; a head count of every male according to the number of their names.” (1:2)
This week’s parsha ushers us into Sefer Bamidbar, the fourth book of the Torah, whose name literally means “in the desert.”
Sefer Bamidbar charts the travels, triumphs, and struggles of the Israelites through our years in the desert between fleeing Egypt and entering the Land of Israel. Through this time in the desert the Israelites was destined to come together as a nation, weathering conflicts and challenges as they prepared for their next chapter.
The first thing that happens in Bamidbar is a counting of Bnei Yisrael. Why was it so important to count the people at this time? God knew that they were embarking on a long journey through the desert, one that would end up taking 40 years. They were protected by God and the Clouds of Glory as they traveled, but still, they were isolated from the other nations of the world.
They had God and they had each other. By starting Bamidbar with a census, God was teaching (through Moshe) that literally, the Jewish people had to learn to count on one another, to rely on each other and work together as a nation, each tribe with its own special place, like limbs of the same body.
Home during this shutdown, isolated from other families and our friends, we can feel as if we’re in a desert of our own. We’re traveling through a kind of sameness, not in space as in a desert but in time, with every day stretching out before us and blurring together (thankfully we have Shabbat, the holiday, and the parshiot to keep us moving forward!).
But we’re not alone. Even in this strange isolation, we know that we have our families, and our extended families and friends, just a phone or Zoom call away. And we know that, with God’s help, this desert won’t last forever. Hopefully our next chapter is just around the corner.
Until then, this parsha teaches us that we can count on one another. So in these challenging times, each of us has the opportunity to be someone others can count on. Shabbat Shalom.
Questions for the Shabbat table:
- Each of us has our own special place in our family, not just as mother, father, sister, or brother, but in what we bring to make our family more whole. What do you think that role is for you?
- What do you think it means to be someone others can count on right now? What is something you can do this week to show that?