[Avodah] IT IS WHEN YOU GIVE OF YOURSELF THAT YOU TRULY GIVE
micha at aishdas.org
Tue Jan 15 09:21:05 PST 2013
On Tue, Jan 15, 2013 at 09:38:49AM -0500, cantorwolberg at cox.net wrote:
: I saw the following beautiful vort with no attribution:
: "How many Children of Israel were there in the desert? Moshe did not quite
: know. They needed to be numbered. Therefore, when each one gave the
: same silver half shekel, these gifts were counted and thus the number was
: known. The Torah means to say that we are counted by what we give, NOT
: by what we take."
R/L/D Jonathan Sacks has a related thought in his "Covenant &
Conversation" parashah sheet for Ki Sisa 5770 <http://j.mp/UNNv5W> or
This week's sedra begins with a strange command:
When you take a census [literally, "when you lift the head"]
of the Israelites to determine their number, each one is to
give to the Lord an atonement offering for his life when they
are counted,so that they will not be stricken by plague when
they are counted. (Exodus 30: 12)
Evidently, it is dangerous to count Jews. This is confirmed by an
episode in II Samuel 24...
If only by way of midrash, and with no suggestion that this is
the plain sense of the verse, there is another possibility. Why do
nations normally take a census of their population? To establish
That is why it is dangerous to count Jews. We are a tiny people. The
late Milton Himmelfarb once wrote that the total population of Jews
throughout the world is smaller than a small statistical error in the
Chinese census. We are a fifth of a per cent of the population of the
world: by any normal standards too small to be significant. Nor is
this true only now. It was then. In one of his concluding addresses
in Deuteronomy, Moses said:
The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because
you were more numerous than other peoples, for you are the fewest
of all peoples. (Deuteronomy 7:7).
The danger in counting Jews is that if they believed, even for a
moment, that there is strength in numbers, the Jewish people would
long ago have given way to despair.
How then do you estimate the strength of the Jewish people? To this
the Torah gives an answer of surpassing beauty. Ask Jews to give,
and then count their contributions. Numerically we are small, but in
terms of our contributions to civilization and humankind, we are vast.
Micha Berger Take time,
micha at aishdas.org be exact,
http://www.aishdas.org unclutter the mind.
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