פרשת במדבר

God spoke to Moses in the Sinai Desert, in the Tent of Meeting, on the first of the second month, in the second year of the Exodus from Egypt saying “Count the heads of all the congregation of the Children of Israel.”

Count שאו is linguistically connected to the word התנשאות, to lift up/elevate/appoint. Through this counting, every individual will be lifted up and each one will be in his/her proper role, as it is written (Hosea 2:1), “The number of the people of Israel shall be like that of the sands of the sea, which cannot be measured or counted.

But this verse appears contradictory, for it initially says “The number [of the children of Israel],” meaning that it is possible to count them, and afterwards it says “[they] cannot be measured or counted.

In reality, the totality of Jewish existence is innumerable. Thus when it says “The number…” it is referring to the specific individuals that will constitute the whole that is counted/lifted up, and all those counted become worthy and significant in the eyes of God, as it is written (Psalms 87:6), “The Lord will inscribe in the register of peoples.” “But of Zion it shall be said, ‘Every man was born there‘” (ibid.)

The Lord will inscribe…” This is referring to all the nations, for they too are governed and taken notice of by God, but not individually, rather in a general way for the continuity of humankind.

But of Zion…” This is to say that God personally oversees each soul specifically [in Zion].

And this is the meaning of “The number [of the children of Israel],” that each person is needed [by God], for within the wholeness of the Jews, God’s greatness is made known. And if one person is missing from the whole, the entire atmosphere lacks.

At the moment when each person was counted, he was the greatest in all of Israel, for each person is a portion of the divine, as it is written (Deuteronomy 32:9) “For the Lord’s portion is His people.” Each individual manifests one aspect of God’s attributes, and at that moment when one is counted/lifted up, God becomes manifest through the individual’s aspect [and since God is the greatest, when He becomes present through that person, so too does the person become the greatest in Israel], and it is through this that each member of Israel is lifted up.

 

When we plumb the depth of ourselves and arrive at what our very particular purpose is in this world (our specific attribute), we are empowered to bring God into this world. When I fulfill my purpose, act out my divine attribute and bring out my spark of Godliness into this world, then God will live through me and “lift me up” ie. reinforce my work in the world, and contribute to the greatness of all of us, to all God’s people, together.

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