The preparations for any given event give us an idea as to the substance of the anticipated event. The woman in a bridal boutique purchasing a white wedding gown is preparing for her wedding day, and the person in a camping site collecting dry wood and arranging it in a pile is getting ready to make a bonfire. It’s a pretty fair assumption that the wedding gown isn’t intended for wearing at a bonfire, and the wood isn’t being stacked in a pyramid in anticipation of a wedding reception. The same applies with preparations for spiritual and religious events. A month of introspection and repentance is certainly the suitable preparation for the High Holidays, when G‑d examines our deeds and renders a judgment regarding the new year. And scouring the house in search of chametz is a sure sign that Passover is approaching—a holiday when the possession of all leavened substances is banned for eight days.

Shavuot is the holiday that marks the anniversary of the day when G‑d gave us the Torah. This monumental day also follows a preparation period—the seven-week Omer counting period. We prepare for Shavuot by counting numbers.

Interestingly, the Torah portion of Bamidbar is always read shortly before Shavuot, usually on the Shabbat immediately preceding the holiday. This Torah reading begins the book of Numbers, and the portion is indeed filled with numbers. First a census is taken of the Israelites, and the Torah supplies us with the number of Israelites in each tribe and in each of the four “flags,” and then gives the grand totals. The Levites are then counted—twice. The firstborns earn their very own headcount, too. What is the connection between numbers and the special gift our nation received on Shavuot?

Why the countdown to the holiday of Shavuot? What is the connection between numbers and counting, and the special gift our nation received on this holiday?

Counting is an equalizer. Every unit which is counted adds up to one, no more and no less. Let us use the two countings which we have just mentioned—the Omer counting and the censuses of the Israelites—as examples:

The seven weeks of the Omer period contain many different days, some holy and exciting, others seemingly mundane and ordinary. On one side we have the days of Passover, seven Shabbats, Rosh Chodesh, and the deeply mystical holiday of Lag BaOmer; and then we have the “back to dull work” Mondays and the rest of the run-of-the-mill days. But as concerns the counting of the Omer, each of these days has the exact same value: one day in the journey towards Shavuot. This is because no matter the external qualities (or non-qualities) that any given day may possess, in essence every day is a carbon copy of the day that just passed and the day to follow. Every day is a gift from G‑d, and we are intended to use it, to maximize it to its utmost in His service. Counting days allows us to focus on what unites them all, their common factor and purposeHow we are to serve Him on any particular day will vary—some days we serve G‑d by going to work, and on other days we serve Him by abstaining from work. Some days we serve Him by eating, and on others we serve Him by fasting. Counting days allows us to focus on what unites them all, their common factor and purpose.

The same is true with regards to counting Jews. As a nation, we are far from a homogenous group. This is true in all areas—and our service of G‑d is no exception. Depending on our unique talents, some of us serve G‑d through assiduous Torah study, others through volunteering time in public service, others through financially supporting worthy causes, and yet others through reciting Psalms with devotion and sincerity. Leaders and followers. Old and young. Men and women. Scholars and laymen. Every segment of our nation, and indeed every individual person, serves G‑d in his or her unique way.

And the counting of the Jews teaches us that the service of any one person isn’t more or less important than the service of another. One’s service may be more attractive, flashy and attention-grabbing than another’s; but at the core we are all involved in the exact same pursuit—serving our Creator with all our available talents and resources.

All these countings lead to Shavuot, the day when we were given the Torah, the ultimate equalizer.

The essence and purpose of all of creation is G‑d’s desire for a physical abode, an earthly realm which would be transformed into a hospitable habitat where His essence could be expressed. It is the Torah that (a) reveals to us this divine plan; (b) contains the mitzvot, the tools with which we bring this purpose to realization; and thus (c) brings harmony and equality to all of creation—for it shows us how every one of its myriads of components is essentially identical, for they all have one purpose.

As Shavuot approaches, let us take this message to heart. Every person counts. Every day counts. Every component of creation counts. And we should be counting our blessings that we were given the Torah—without which nothing would count.