I was curious about census-takers. Who are these people who once every ten years count every resident of the U.S.?

So I typed "census takers" into Google. I was directed me to the government's census site. On the top left-hand side of the page there was a cute yellow note which read: "Apply now to be a census-taker! 1-866-861-2010."

I called and spoke to a fellow named Dave. Nice guy, if a tad bored.

"Are there any qualifications to become a census-taker?" I asked.

"No, sir, there are no qualifications at all!"

"When can I begin?"

"Well, sir, you do need to pass a test first. There is a sample test on our website which will give you a good idea."

"Thank you," I hung up.

Indeed, now I saw, on the right-hand side of the homepage, there was another cute note, red and blue, which flashed: "Take our practice test!"

I did.

To give you an idea what it was like, here's the second question:

2. Alphabetize the following names of people:

Linda Jameson
James Alberts
Allan Jameson
Alfred Johnson
Lydia Moreno

I think I passed.

And so did my curiosity.

A Love Count

Let menial work be done by those unskilled, and let talented leaders run the world!The Jews were out camping in the Sinai Desert. Rumor had it they were to be counted. Imagine their absolute shock when none other than Moses and Aaron were tapped to do the count and crunch the numbers!

For lack of a better example, equate that with asking the president of the United States to personally conduct the census.

Unimaginable, right? And for good reason.

Let menial work be done by those unskilled, and let talented leaders run the world!

To say that Moses had nothing better to do with his time than counting more than a half a million Jews?

Yet, that's precisely what the Torah is saying:

There is nothing better to do with one's time than count G‑d's children, and there is no one more suited than Moses to do it.

For in the eyes of G‑d, counting Jews is far more than keeping score, an assignment that His Omniscience has no need for in the first place; it is, rather, His way of telling each and every one of His children: "You matter to Me. Deeply. You're not just a number. You're on My speed-dial."

Of all the commands G‑d gave Israel, the one to conduct a census, a seemingly purposeless task, expresses His love for them most.

The other commandments say: "I love you, therefore I command you…"

This one says: "I love you." Period.

How purposeful.

In the words of Rashi: "Because they are precious to Him, He counts them all the time."

I am reminded of my favorite story about the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

It can be said that since the times of Moses, never has the loving exercise of counting G‑d's children been reenacted so vividly as in our times.

To the Rebbe, like Moses before him, counting Jews was counting diamondsOn Sunday afternoons, the Rebbe would stand outside the door of his office to greet and bestow a blessing upon anyone who came to see him. He would stand for hours as thousands of people filed by, many of them seeking a blessing or advice about a personal matter or a spiritual dilemma.

On one occasion, an elderly woman who had been waiting in line for a few hours marveled to the Rebbe about how he, in his late eighties, could stand on his feet for so many hours dispensing the dollars, while she was totally exhausted from her wait!

The Rebbe beamed and replied, "When you are counting diamonds, you don't get tired."

To the Rebbe, like Moses before him, counting Jews was counting diamonds. For spiritual giants see things through G‑d's eyes.

Who then but Moses – and all future versions of Moses – qualifies as a "census-taker," charged with conveying G‑d's message of love to His children.


As usual, the mystics add sparkle. There's a spiritual science to counting, they teach.

When counting members of a group, no one individual counts more than the next. Thus, the act of counting cuts through the externals and differences, touching the part in us all which is one, called the soul.

It's a shiny place.

In everyone, and at all times.

It's the better place in all of us; the one we are each called upon to attain. And it's the holy act of counting that reveals that unique spot, activating its shine.

Might that shed light on the biblical term used for counting: "lifting heads"?

Now, wouldn't you rather have your head counted than lifted?

Unless the "head" refers to the soul, which can always do with uplifting.

And here, as well, only a Moses can qualify to count, and make count.

From G‑d we learn not just to love, but to express our loveFor only a special leader of Israel – who sees the pristine soul in every individual and the good within every human being, who chooses to define things by the good in them, rendering the bad in them external and superficial, like dust on a precious stone – only he can be trusted to polish G‑d's diamonds.

What's in It for Me?

From Moses we learn to change the way we view others: not as stones, but as diamonds.

From G‑d we learn not just to love, but to express our love, and "[Because they are precious to Him, He counts them] all the time."

And for no reason at all.

Why wait to tell the people you love that you do?

Sometimes until it's too late.

I remember listening to a moving talk given by a well-known Australian rabbi who had recently lost his wife due to tragic and sudden circumstances.

His message was simple but powerful: "Go home and tell your families how much you love them!" His voice broke as he said: "If only I had the ability to do that…"

The next day, my mother called from the States and suspiciously asked, "To what do I owe the honor of receiving such a lovely phone message from you in middle of the night?"

"To the passing of an Australian rebbetzin," I thought.

"Must it be owed to anything at all?" I said.

In addition to expressing our love, we must encourage our children to express theirs, and show them appreciation when they do.

A young girl once wrote to the Rebbe:

"Dear Rebbe, I love you very much. Chasia Rivkah Kahan."

The Rebbe responded:

"Miss Chasia Rivkah Kahan

Blessings and Greetings,

I was pleased to receive your letter, and I thank you very much for letting me know how you feel…"

One Sunday, a young child passed by the Rebbe and said, "Rebbe, I love you." The Rebbe's face lit up and, as he gave her an extra dollar, he said, "This is for the love."