This week’s Torah reading describes the census of the Jewish people taken after the construction of the Sanctuary. Counting implies two concepts: a) we count something that is important; b) counting something increases its importance, making it more significant in our eyes.

Why does G‑d have the Jews counted? Because He cherishes them. Every Jew counts as one, because every Jew is as dear to G‑d as an only child born to parents in their old age. Conversely, counting the Jews brings their positive quality to the surface. For when a person knows that he is counted, he realizes that he is being counted for a reason: that he has a mission and purpose that is unique and special.

This is not just a point of faith; it is a logical construct. Just as a person building a structure tries to ensure that every element in it is functional, so too, in our Sages’ words, “the Holy One, blessed be He, did not create anything without a purpose.” Each one of us is different from all others and that difference implies that he has been given the opportunity to add something — a unique contribution that no one else can make — to bring this world to its consummate purpose.

Counting an individual makes him aware of his mission and encourages him to fulfill it. Simply put, counting someone motivates him to make himself count. It teaches him to look inside and discover his individual purpose and then work to carry it out.

There is a parallel to this concept in Jewish Law. In the laws of kashrus, we find the idea of bittul bishishim, i.e., when a non-kosher substance is mixed with sixty times its volume of kosher food, the non-kosher substance does not cause the mixture to be considered forbidden. There is simply too much of the kosher substance for the presence of the non-kosher substance to be considered significant. Since there is so little of it, it’s as if it’s not there at all.

When does that apply? When the non-kosher substance is of an ordinary nature. When, however, it is important, that importance prevents it from ever being considered insignificant. For example, if a particularly choice piece of meat falls into a soup containing milk, the soup is considered non-kosher even if its volume is more than sixty times the meat. Because this cut of meat is noteworthy, it is never considered as if it did not exist.

Now another example of a substance that is always considered as important is a substance sold by number. The fact that every entity is counted individually shows that it is significant even though its volume is surpassed exceedingly by that of the other substances.

Similarly, in the spiritual analogue, counting the Jewish people prevents the Jewish people from ever being considered as insignificant. Though they will face challenges and travails from within and without, the fact that G‑d treasures them and looks toward them for their contribution will give them the strength to persevere and accomplish their mission.

These concepts also relate to the present time of year: the days of Counting the Omer. Counting the days teaches us to bring out the positive quality that each day uniquely possesses, using it to its fullest.

Looking to the Horizon

Our Sages relate that there have been nine censuses of the entire Jewish people and the tenth census will be conducted in the Era of Mashiach. For this is the age when the cherished nature of the Jewish people will reach consummate fulfillment. Every individual will play his role in bringing the world to its desired state.

This census will, however, be different than the previous nine. As the prophet declares: “The number of the children of Israel will be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor counted.” In that era, the infinite G‑dly quality that pervades our people and this world will be manifest.