This week’s Perashah, Bamidbar, begins the fourth book of the Humash. In the second Pasuk, Hashem says to Moshe, "Take a census of the entire assembly of B'nei Yisrael according to their families, according to their fathers' household, by number of the names, every male according to their head count." Rav Pam says that this is due to Hashem's great love for Am Yisrael. He counts them frequently just as a man would count and recount his money which is precious to him. This can explain why Bamidbar follows the curses of last week's Parasha, Behukotai. Because when B’nei Yisrael heard of the fearful curses and punishments described there, they worried that Hashem might abandon His people forever if they sinned.
Therefore, the census of Parashat Bamidbar clearly shows the great love that Hashem has for B'nei Yisrael. Even during times of great pain and suffering, as during the Holocaust and other times in our history, Hashem tempers afflictions with eternal love, as the Pasuk in Mishlei (3:12) states: "For Hashem admonishes the one He loves". Hashem does this in order to bring the sinner back to the path of greatness and holiness as a prelude to the Holiday of Shavuot, that we will be celebrating next week.
Shavuot commemorates the acceptance of the Torah on Har Sinai. Hashem showed His love for the Jewish nation through the gift of the Torah. Hashem gave us the Torah in order to elevate the Jewish people to strive for holiness and righteousness and thereby become a "light unto all the other nations of the world". This is one of the reasons why we read "Megilat Ruth" on Shavuot, because Ruth refused to abandon her mother-in-law Naomi.
She could have gone back to her father’s palace, where she would have lived as a princess of Moab. Instead she stuck with Naomi so that Naomi would not be alone. Ruth said to Naomi: "Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you will lodge, I will lodge; your people are my people, and your G-d is my G-d; where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may Hashem do to me, and more! If anything but death separates me from you." This was the ultimate form of Hesed and the essence of what being a Jew is all about by caring for one another.
The Gematria for Ruth is 606, and if you add 7 for the seven Noahide or universal laws that all nations must obey, the total is 613. This signifies that Ruth was a true convert who was given the blessing of an obligation to follow all 613 commandments.
Perek 1, passuk 18 states..."and they established their genealogy, according to their families, according to their fathers' household". Rav Yisrael Yaakov Fisher, zl, offers a practical explanation that the receiving of the Torah at Har Sanai was not a one time commitment rather it was an acceptance for each and every ensuing generation until the end of time.
It will be the responsibility of each generation to transmit their knowledge and emotions to their children. Rambam writes that "this process affirms the veracity of the Torah, because a father will never testify falsely to his children, nor will he bequeath them something foolish in which he does not believe".
In Perashat Yitro, when B'nei Yisrael left Egypt and first journeyed to the Sinai desert, it says: "vayahanu bamidbar, vayihan sham Yisrael neged hahar". “They camped” (vayahanu) is first written in plural and then switches to singular (vayihan). Rashi comments: "k'ish ehad, b’lev ehad" –"Like one man, with one heart".
This is because B'nei Yisrael were like one person with one heart and that unity accorded us the merit to receive the Torah! There is nothing greater in Hashem's eyes than seeing B'nei Yisrael unified in harmony as one close nation, just as a father loves seeing his children close to one another, getting along, and unified as one. This is and should always be the nature of the Jewish people.
There's a story that Rabbi Frand wrote about the infamous Beilis trial. This story depicts how Jews are all connected to one another. In 1911 in Moscow, the Russian police arrested a Jew named Mendel Beilis from Kiev on the absurd charges that he had slaughtered a Christian child and used his blood for Jewish rituals. Beilis was jailed for two years before finally coming to a trial in 1913.
The prosecutor accused the Jews of harboring contempt for non-Jews. He quoted a passage from the Gemara in an attempt to demonstrate how superior Jews feel toward non-Jews and how they loathe those who do not share their Jewish faith. The passage was: "atem keruim adam…" In other words, You (Jews) are called Man, which is not said of the non-Jews. The legal defense team of Mendel Bailis was puzzled as to how to respond to this devastating attack on the Jewish faith.
They sent a telegram to Rabbi Meir Shapiro for advice on the matter, and he instructed them to tell the judge that this part of the Gemara reflects the special character trait of the Jewish people within themselves and is not intended to refer to other nations. The entire Jewish world was up in arms, trying to find any and every resource that might rescue the accused Mendel Bailis. Eventually the police found the child's true murderer, and Mendel was released due to lack of evidence.
The Beilis trial sent shock waves throughout the Jewish world and reverberated through all of Eastern Europe. The incident demonstrated clearly that the Jewish people are like 'One Man' (Adam Ehad) and are willing to sacrifice for each other in their time of need as no other people would. It's as if someone had a disease in one part of their body, and the rest of their body responds with distress and concern for the person’s well being.
This is how the Jewish nation comes to the aid of another Jew, whether they live across the ocean or across the street. As it says in Masechet Shevuot (39a), Kol Yisrael Arevim Zeh BaZeh (all Jews are guarantors for one another). This wonderful and uniquely profound trait of the Jewish people surfaced at the moment of our formation as a nation at Har Sinai and is the force that renders us a special and distinct people until this very day.
The Perashah goes on to list all the tribes and their census in numbers. It informs us that the tribe of Reuben was 46,500; Shimon 59,300; Gad 45,600, and so on. When it comes to Binyamin (who had ten sons) we see that he had 35,400 descendants, while Dan, who had only one son who was deaf, had a tribe of 62,700. We see from this that it is not the quantity but the quality that counts.
Someone can be blessed with one great store that can do more business than someone else who has a chain of ten stores. This shows that whoever has the Berachah from Hashem can outdo someone else who doesn't have that Berachah!
May we all continue to be special in Hashem's eyes as we celebrate the giving of the greatest gift any nation can receive, our Holy Torah. May we also always be as one nation and continue to always be concerned for the welfare of our fellow Jews, as the Pasuk says: Ve Ahavta L'Re-acha Kamocha, Love your friend as you love yourself.