It is that time of year again. We will be beginning the Book of Numbers, and during this week’s Torah reading in the synagogue we will hear verse after verse of numbers: 46,500 for the tribe of Reuben, 59,300 for the tribe of Simeon, and so on. Why the detailed counts of the Israelites? Who cares?


I have often wondered the same thing. What value is there in knowing exactly how many Reubenites there were at a specific time in our history? How is this even remotely relevant to me?

Here is a thought: In my neighborhood there lives an elderly lady who lost her husband a few years ago. She has been retired for years, and lives far from her children. Whenever I meet her in the grocery or on the street, the first thing she does is whip out her pictures of her grandkids. “You see that little boy?” she crows. “He goes to Hebrew school, and can read the prayer book like a pro.” Pulling another picture out of her wallet, she continues with delight, “And this young lady is almost finished high school, and she is going to Israel next year.” And on she goes.

I listen politely to her patter, smiling and nodding when it seems appropriate. To tell you the truth, I’m not really paying attention well enough to know when to smile and when to nod. One thing I do know, however, is that this woman truly adores her grandkids.

G‑d loves us dearly—each and every one of us. So He counts us, like one who counts precious diamonds. The numbers may not be terribly relevant to you or me, but they are very important to Him. After all, each number accumulated represents one of His beloved children. And every year, as we read these numbers in the synagogue, He listens again with delight.

Now that is relevant.