WWW.KOSHERDELIGHT.COM - GLOBAL JEWISH DIRECTORY WITH NEWS AND INFORMATION, TRAVEL, EDUCATION, PARENTING, HOLIDAYS AND MORE   כושר דילייט - מגאזין יהודי באינטרנט הכולל חדשות ומידע יהודי גלובלי. המגאזין כולל: בתי חב"ד, בתי ספר יהודיים, אוכל כשר ומסעדות כשרות, מקוואות, חינוך ועוד

   

Kosher Restaurants

Kosher Hotels

Synagogues

Kosher recipes

Mikvah

Jewish Holidays

KOSHER RESTAURANTS

KOSHER HOTELS

SYNAGOGUES

KOSHER RECIPES

MIKVAOT

JEWISH HOLIDAYS

                          ב"ה   
KOSHER DELIGHT - YOUR JEWISH ONLINE MAGAZINE!

Bullet Home
Bullet
SITE INDEX
BulletJEWISHKD.COM
Bullet
DONATE 

KOSHER
BulletKosher restaurants
   Around the World!
BulletKosher Hotels
Bullet
Kosher Recipes 

BulletVegetarian Restaurants
Bullet
Updates from the
   Chief Rabbinate of
   Israel

BulletKosher Alcohol Updates
Bullet
Kashrut Authorities
BulletKosher Products Lists

Bullet
Kashrut Comments

BET DIN OUTSIDE ISRAEL
BulletInternational Directory of Rabbinical Courts

SHABBAT
BulletCandle Lighting Times
   for Shabbat & Holidays


NEWS
Bullet
News & Media


JEWISH STUFF...
BulletJewish Simcha
BulletJudaism, Spiritualism,
   Opinions and more

Bullet
Jewish Communities
   Around the World

Bullet
Parashat
   HaShavuah
   
Bullet
Jewish Holidays
Bullet
Synagogues
Bullet
Mikvaot
Bullet
Chabad Houses
Bullet
Aish HaTorah
Bullet
Young Israel  
Bullet
NCSY
Bullet
B'nai Akiva
Bullet
Hillel
BulletThe Holocaust


PARENTING
BulletParenting
BulletJewish Camps
BulletKids
Bullet
Babies


HEALTH
Bullet
Jewish Hospitals
Bullet
Your Health
Bullet
Do not Abuse
    Drugs and Alcohol


FRIENDS ON 4
BulletOur Pets
BulletThe Dog Trainer: Q & A
BulletThe Veterinarian Corner
Bullet הטסת כלבים
Bullet כלבים: עכשיו הדיאטה
Bulletהיצלנו את לוקה


BulletInsurance New!
BulletQuestions & Answers
Bullet
Links


BulletCONTACT US!  


 
 
  JEWISH AND KOSHER UNITED STATES       
 
 
  KD MAGAZINE!                      ב"ה     
 

 

Why Don't Jews Count?

Reflections is sponsored in honor of Sammy Weiss on the occasion of his becoming bar-mitzvah . May he grow from strength to strength. Mazel Tov to the entire Mishpacha

Also, the deadline for the 1st Reflections Book is this week - anyone that would like to dedicate or sponsor a page or a partial page to underwrite the printing expenses should email me at  

rabbi@kehilla.org


 

Jews have an aversion to counting people. Walk into a weak mincha minyan and you will experience how Jews use ten-word verses to verify the minyan. To the minyanaire, no sweeter word than haolam, the final word in the classic Hoshia es Amecha ... [Tehillim, 28:9] pasuk can be heard. --- Why not just count straight?

First, a famous Torah pasuk apparently indicates that bad things happen when counting people directly: [Shemos, 30:12]

"When you take the count of the B'nei Yisrael to determine their numbers, each man shall give an atonement pledge for his soul to Ad-noy, when you count them. Thus there will be no plague among them when you count them[1].

No one wants to get plagued!

Second, and perhaps even more significantly, the Talmud lays down a clear prohibition[2]:

R. Eleazar said: Whoever counts Israel, transgresses a [biblical] prohibition, as it is said: "Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured" [Hoshea where]. R. Nahman b. Yitzchak said: He would transgress two prohibitions, for it is written: 'Which cannot be measured nor numbered'.

So there is something very not good about counting people! --- And yet our parsha, Bamidbar, commences the book of Numbers - so called because of the two major censuses in the book. Again and again, God counts his people. Indeed, according to the midrash [Tanchuma, Ki Tisa 9], God counts his people ten times. Rashi spells it out clearly:

Because they (Bnei Yisrae) are precious before Him (Hashem), He counts them all the time; when they went out of Egypt He counted them [Shemos, 12:37], and when they fell because of [the sin of] the golden calf He counted them to know the number of those who remained, when He came to cause His Presence to rest upon them He counted them.

Counting people then is an expression of love. Consider: People count money, vacation days, carats and calories [each calorie is negative-precious]. Certainly, there are numerous expressions of Divine love. What is that special message of counting?

Now that we have concluded that counting is bad and good - we are officially confused. Wait, because two other questions confound further:

a. The classic Torah word for counting is sefira as in omer, shemittah (sabbatical year), yovel (jubilee), stars and niddah (days of menstrual separation) - to name but a few. Yet when counting people we skip that classic word and opt for two others, pakad and se'u that loom large in the people-count context.

Both have multiple meanings: Pakad is the classic word for memory, as in: And Hashem (pakad) remembered Sarah. Se'u means to lift up, as in: Avraham, sa einecha, lift up your eyes. Why does the Torah depart from the classic pristine "sefirah" and use more ambiguous formulations? Please note that there is a 4th counting word (minyan/ mana) as well.

b. The deepest counting problem emerges from a troubling story in Shmuel 2:24. David HaMelech overrules his general Yoav and counts his people.

And the king said to Yoav ..  "Go please, to and fro throughout all the tribes of Israel, from Dan as far as Beer-sheba and take census of the people, so that I may know the number of the people."  And Yoav said .. "May the Lord your God add to the people a hundredfold of whatsoever they may be, and the eyes of my lord, the king may see it; but my lord the king, why does he desire such a thing?"   But the word of the king prevailed against Yoav ...And Yoav presented the sum .. And Israel consisted of eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men.  ...  And David's heart troubled him after he had counted the people. And David said to the Lord: I have sinned greatly in what I have done; and now, 'O Lord, put aside please, the iniquity of your servant, for I was very foolish!   ..  

Hashem asks David to pick his poison:

'So says the Lord, "Three things I offer you, choose for yourself one of them, and I shall do it to you".   [Do you prefer] that seven years of famine in your land shall come upon you? or three months that you shall flee before your oppressor while he pursues you? or, that there be three days pestilence in your land? ..  and David said to Gad; "I am greatly oppressed; let us fall now into the hand of the Lord; for His mercies are great; but into the hand of man let me not fall." So the Lord sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning until the appointed time; And there died of the people from Dan to Beer-Sheba seventy thousand men.  

So much is troubling here . Two obvious questions

1.       How could David have violated such an obvious imperative? Even if he did, why should the rest of the nations suffer?

Let's commence with a basic logic that appears throughout the literature. Two true but opposing negative notions emerge when considering the count of people:

Every number is unique; a person who is counted is thus individualized, he is left stripped of community - for my number is different than your number.

Paradoxically, even as the counted one is individualized, he stripped of his unique nature. Nothing dehumanizes more than a number; something the Nazis understood very well.  In the process of counting, Reuven + Shimon no longer remain Reuven and Shimon - they now become two nondescript generic people

So what's good about counting? A classic story illustrates:

Five minutes left in the exam, and the proctor calls out, "Finish up, people." Everyone starts writing conclusions, one guy keeps writing. The proctor calls out, "Time's up. All papers in." Everyone who hasn't finished brings up their papers. One guy just keeps writing. The proctor sees him, says, "I said 'Time's up.' Get your paper in now, or I'll have to disqualify your exam." The guy keeps writing. The proctor gathers all the exams into a big pile, looks at the guy writing, says, "That's it, then. Your exam is disqualified." The guy finishes up, checks the paper, carries it up to the front. The proctor shakes his head and says, "Sorry. I told you -- I won't accept your exam." The guy looks indignant, stares at the proctor, says "Do you realize who I am?" The proctor looks surprised, then annoyed, and says, "I don't know, and I don't care." The guy says, "I didn't think so," stuffs his paper into the very middle of the huge stack of exams, and runs out of the room.

Numbers bind. Sefas Emes teaches that they connect us to our roots. Jews are 3 [Patriarchs] and 70 [souls who went to Egypt] and 600,000 [at Mt. Sinai]. Numbers link horizontally. A minyan of ten simple Jews can say kaddish, kedusha and barchu while 8 Chofetz Chaim's, and a Chazon Ish cannot. Within the number resides the power of the community. That which unites in the number is our common kedusha - our common roots. Thus for the Jews, Hashem alone counts HIS people: [Yoma 22b]

R. Jonathan raised an objection: It is written: 'Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea,' and it is also written: 'Which cannot be numbered? This is no contradiction: Here it speaks of the time when Israel fulfils the will of the Lord, there of the time when they do not fulfill His will. Rabbi, Rebbi? on behalf of Abba Jose son of Dosthai, said: This is no contradiction: Here it speaks of [counting done] by human beings, there of counting by Heaven.

God is the great unifier. In His count,  the numbers serve to connect[3]. In man's count, however, there is something highly problematic.

Therefore man only counts when he must, and even then only in a specific way. To express bravado or possession [these are my people] is wholly inappropriate. When Shaul counts twice [with lambs and with shards, Shmuel 1: 11 & 15], it is because he needs to know how many soldiers can fight.

And yet even when counting is necessary, it retains (as we mentioned) negative peripheral effects - for it strips one of communal merit and serves to dehumanize. Here we uncover the mystery of pakad. God, Rabbeinu Bechayei teaches, grants special hashgacha when counting is mandated or necessary. The metaphysical benefit of counting indirectly is that shards, coins or lambs are counted - not the individual. And what of s'eu? Even as you count many individuals together, Hashem reminds us that one must not forget the special nature of the individual. Indeed, every person is lifted above the crowd.

As for our David Hamelech conundrum we conclude with three famous approaches:

    1. David counted the people directly [cf. Berachos 62b]
      1. he thought the obligation to count indirectly was a temporal obligation. [Ramban] 
      2. he planned on bringing the coins afterwards [Levush]
    1. David counted the children from above age 13 [Ramban]
    2. David counted the people indirectly, but without reason [perhaps as a statement of pride].

i.         That too is prohibited [Ramban, Midrash] 

ii.        David neglected to use coins [Ohr HaChaim]

These are David-focused answers. And why are the people punished? According to Rabbeinu Bechayei, the simple answer is they aren't: their deaths are a natural result of their lost communal merit.

Ohr HaChaim's approach still intrigues. If indirect superfluous counting remains prohibited, why should coins be better than lambs. He doesn't say exactly, but I believe his implied notions can serve a powerful reminder; for it is not the coin, but the half coin that is key. Unessential counting accentuates people - by definition. That cannot be hidden under the ruse of a shard or a lamb - for the counter prides himself in the people. shekel coins however protect - for in the half-ness can be found a classic Jewish notion: I cannot be whole without you. When I feel incomplete and in need of the other, then by definition I may garner communal merit.

To be properly counted within Klal Yisrael, we must think and live for the other.  

 

May Hashem count his people as he beckons Mashiach, oh so speedily.   

 

Good Shabbos, Asher Brander

 

[1] Cf. Rashi for things that are counted are subject to the evil eye and as a result a plague befalls them like in the days of David.

[2] Why did the Talmud not use the Biblical pasuk ? Cf Maharsha Yoma 22b who answers that perhaps the pasuk is referring to the Golden Calf and is not a general prohibition. This is also an approach to understand King David's countiong of the Jewish people.

 

[3] L'havdil, but in a strikingly similar vein, the family patriarch might count his 5 children and 25 grandchildren . He is the chain that links.

 

 Good Shabbos

Asher Brander             


 
   
Custom Search
 
KOSHER DELIGHT - YOUR JEWISH ONLINE MAGAZINE! כושר דילייט - מגזין החדשות והמידע מהעולם היהודי ומישראל, כולל מסעדות כשרות, בתי כנסת ועוד ועוד

Zikit Translation Services

ZIKIT TRANSLATION SERVICES , שירותי תירגום, שרותי תירגום, שירות תרגומים, שירות תירגומים, שרות תרגום, תירגום, תרגום, תירגום מסמכים, תירגום תעודות, תרגום טכני, תירגום טכני, תרגום, תרגומים מעברית לאנגלית, תרגומים מאנגלית לעברית, תרגום עברי אנגלית אנגלי עברי -  זיקית שירותי תרגום

www.zikit.org


THE JEWISH HOLOCAUST
THE HOLOCAUST - THE SHOAH

Advertise with Us!

KD Kosher Recipe Collection
Send us your 
Kosher Recipe!


COMPREHENSIVE WORLDWIDE JEWISH SEARCH: JEWISHKD.COM Comprehensive Worldwide Jewish Search