This week’s parshah of Bamidbar opens the fourth book of the Torah. Though we call it Sefer Bamidbar, in the Gemara (Sotah 36b) it is referred to as Sefer HaPekudim — the Book of Counting — and in English it is popularly known as Numbers. The name “Numbers” is based on the content of the first Sidra which begins with the Divine command to count the Jews and also a subsequent counting which is reported towards the end of the sefer in the parshat Pinchas.

Rashi in his opening commentary writes “Because of Hashem’s love for the Jewish people He counted them frequently: When they departed from Egypt, He counted them (Shemot 12:37). After they fell because of the sin with the Golden Calf, He counted them to determine the number of those who remained (Ibid. 32:35). And here, when He rested His Divine Presence upon them He counted them.”

There are quite a few difficulties that beg explanation. Firstly, why did Hashem need a census taker; didn’t He know their number precisely? Obviously, it was not the number that He was seeking, but a message He was eager to convey. What is that message? How did counting the Jews demonstrate Hashem’s love for them and what was the significance of these three censuses in such a short period?

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains it as follows:

An interesting aspect of counting is that the quality or characteristic of the person or thing counted is entirely irrelevant to the number. Thus, in the census of the Jews at that time, the greatest of them was reckoned as not more than one, while the simplest and least important was counted as not less than one.

In intellectual capabilities, in emotional disposition, in all traits of character and personality, there are great individual differences, and no Jew is the same as the next. Our people range from giants of the intellect and the most refined of persons — to the simplest and most coarse individuals. Yet, there is one aspect present within every Jew that is basically the same within all of us — the Divine Soul (Neshamah), our true essence. A striking example of this basic “equality of Jewishness” may be found in an everyday religious experience. We all know that in order to conduct a prayer service, a quorum — “minyan” — of ten adult males is required. Should one Jew be missing, even if he is a simple lad just thirteen years of age, then the service cannot be conducted, though the other nine Jews are great Rabbis and scholars!

Hashem surely does not need to take a census to establish the amount of Jews. The message He conveyed by telling us to arrange a counting of the people is that every Jew is one. There is no Jew who, as the expression goes, “er is a gornisht” — “he is a nothing” — and there is also no Jew who is more than one. This is so because, regardless of our individual acquired qualities, there is a common denominator: We are all His children.

The three different censuses in the short period of about a year, demonstrate that He loves us since we are His children regardless of our status at the given time.

At the time of the departure from Egypt the Jewish people did not have much to boast of. They were a people without Torah, and they only had two mitzvot (milah — circumcision — and Pesach) to their credit. As the prophet Ezekiel (16:7-17) describes, at that time the Jews were “naked and bare” (from mitzvot), but Hashem saw that “Your time was a time of love” and He lavished affection upon them as a groom would upon his bride. To show His love for the Jews, this was the first time He counted them.

Afterwards, He gave them the Torah, declared them as His chosen people and a Kingdom of Priests. Unbelievably, the Jews committed the most treacherous betrayal — they stooped to the lowest level and worshipped a golden calf in lieu of Him. While, common logic would dictate that He abandon them, destroy them, or replace them, He did none of these things. The Jews were His children and He cherished them, and they had the utmost of His affection. To prove it: He again counted them.

Finally, the Jews built a Mishkan of gold (and other metals) as a means to atone for the terrible iniquity they had previously committed with gold (Midrash Tanchuma, Terumah 8). They then reached the most lofty spiritual height in their history as His people. Again, to demonstrate His love — He counted them.

Hashem was emphasizing with the three censuses that His love for them was unconditional. Each and every Jew is a complete entity of one and he is His beloved child.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, G‑d is your partner in this marriage. His love for the both of you is unconditional and you should emulate this trait regarding each other. A father loves a child even when he disappoints him. Indeed, he may feel hurt and pained, but the love is not diminished. In married life too, you may experience disappointing and hurting moments, but it will be ameliorated through understanding and compassion. By following in Hashem’s footsteps and emulating His unconditional love for the both of you, you will quickly resolve that the spouse whom for the moment you thought is a gornisht — a nothing — is really the same “one” whom you cherished, and you will continue, with G‑d’s help, to perceive him or her as the real “one” and the only “one” tailored specifically for you for 120 years.