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Count the heads of Bnei Yisrael

Parashat Bemidbar



Written by the rabbi

Dedicated to the memory of
Yosef ben Yaakov

The Parashah of Bamidbar is always read on the Shabbat before Shavuot, the last Shabbat of the Omer period. After counting 49 days of tum'ah, uncleanliness, we are ready to celebrate the holiday of Shavuot. In Bamidbar, following the catasrophe of the golden calf when so many members of the Jewish people died, God commands that a census be taken. Rashi explains that the census was taken out of God's love for the children of Israel, as the Shechinah entered the Mishkan. Therefore we read: "Count the heads of the children of Israel according to their families and the house of their ancestors."
In the modern world, a census may be taken for various purposes: political, business, medical, etc. In the Diaspora, a census is taken at regular intervals to assess the state of the Jewish people. The census of American Jewry shows that there continues to be a steady drop in the number of Jews and an increase in the number of mixed marriages. Surely Rashi would not have said that such a census is beloved upon God. God rejoices with continuity of family structure that is dedicated to the Torah way of life.
In the Sephardic community the Shabbat before Shavuot is called Shabbat Kallah. Shavuot, the festival that celebrates the giving of the Torah, emphasizes the fact that the relationship between God and the Jewish people is similar to the relationship between a Chatan and his Kallah, a relationship of love and a long list of commitments.
Among other things, God gave us a dowry, "to your seed will I give this land." We dare not reject this dowry especially since each successive census shows ever increasing losses. It is incumbent upon us to thank God for His dowry and have the love and courage to consider coming on Aliyah.


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