Micha Berger 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
    their strength...

    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.


Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger             Take time,
micha at aishdas.org        be exact,
http://www.aishdas.org   unclutter the mind.
Fax: (270) 514-1507            - Rabbi Simcha Zissel Ziv, Alter of Kelm

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