G‑d spoke to Moses in the Sinai Desert... ‘Take a census of the entire congregation of the Children of Israel…’”

-Bamidbar 1:1-3

In a census, every member of the group is counted equally: the greatest or most exalted is no more than “one,” even as the smallest or lowest is no less than “one.” This indicates the intrinsic value of every individual. Nonetheless, the counting itself is something rather superficial. It seeks to establish the sum-total.

On the other hand, the importance of the aggregate quantity enhances the quality of each individual counted. For example, a gathering of ten Jews (the quorum for a minyan), regardless of the individual “quality” of each, provides the necessary condition for an indwelling of the Shechinah (Divine Presence), as it is said: “The Shechinah rests upon every assembly of ten” (Sanhedrin 39a). The minyan thus allows for the recitation of certain sacred texts. Quantity, therefore, enhances quality.

This aspect of quantity affecting quality is seen also in the census of our parshah. The sum-total was 600,000, the basic number of the Jewish people. Our sages note that the Giving of the Torah at Sinai required the presence of 600,000 Jews.

If just one had been missing, even if he were the least significant, the Torah would not have been given even to the greatest among them. The lack of even one would have diminished not only the quantity but also the quality of all others.

The fact that parshat Bamidbar is always read before Shavu’ot, the day on which the Torah was given to Israel, serves as a perpetual reminder of this principle. Moreover, it reminds us that it is not enough to have the mere presence of all 600,000. There is the additional need for “ ‘Israel camped there [before Mount Sinai]’ (Yitro 19:2)-as one man with one mind!”

The Midrash notes that G‑d wanted to give the Torah to Israel right after they left Egypt, but there was dissent among them. When they came to Sinai, however, they were unified. G‑d then said: “The whole Torah represents ‘peace,’ thus I shall give it to that nation which loves peace.”

The peace and unity which were the preparation and precondition for the Giving of the Torah are also the preparation for the Messianic redemption. The present galut was caused by sinat chinam, gratuitous hatred. Thus we must nullify that cause by ahavat chinam, gratuitous love. There must be gratuitous (unqualified) love for every Jew-even to one who has never done you a favor, even to one you have never met or seen, and even to one who is chinam, devoid of any quality that would warrant feelings of love.

This love, this sense of peace and unity, is the channel for all Divine blessings, including the greatest of all: G‑d speedily sending us Moshiach to redeem us, thus fulfilling: “In this place (the Land of Israel) which is now desolate... the sheep (the people of Israel) will pass before the one who will count them (Moshiach), says G‑d!” (Jeremiah 33:12-13)