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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Bamidbar

Parashat Bamidbar

Counting the Jewish People

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The Book of Bamidbar begins with God's instructions to Moses to count the Jewish people. Rashi notes that this is the third count of the Israelites since the Exodus. The first was at the time of the Exodus itself (Exodus 32:28). The second was after the sin of the golden calf (Exodus 38:26) to ascertain the number of survivors. This census preceded God's resting His Shekhina in the camp of Israel after the completion of the Tabernacle. Citing the Midrash, Rashi comments that it is out of His love for Israel that God counts them so frequently.

The second counting is understandable. After those who had worshipped the golden calf were put to death, God counted the survivors as a demonstration of His continued love for the people. However, taking us out of Egypt and resting His Shekhina on Israel were themselves expressions of God's love. Why then did God count the Israelites on these occasions?

According to Rashi, the Torah is teaching us the important lesson that nothing should be taken for granted. Even when a parent demonstrates his love for his child with a hug and a kiss, he still verbalizes the words "I love you." So too our Father in Heaven. Even though taking the Israelites out of Egypt and resting His Shekhina among them were clear demonstrations of God’s love for Israel, he still wished to demonstrate His love by counting the people. Nothing should be taken for granted.

Certainly, Eretz Yisrael should never be taken for granted. From the time of our wandering in the desert, Jewish history is full of suffering resulting from Israel's failure to appreciate its Land. Taking something for granted jeopardizes its continuity. The antidote to Israel's sorrows which originated with the sin of the spies is to achieve a true understanding and appreciation of the connection between the People of Israel and its Land.

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