We have now begun the 4th Book of Torah, called Numbers in English and Bamidbar in Hebrew. Like all Books of Torah, the first chapter carries the same name as the Book, in this case Bamidbar, meaning “in the wilderness.” It is called Numbers because the chapter begins with a census of the Israelites.
This census, commanded by God, is beautifully constructed in the Hebrew. In English, the translation is “take a census…” but the literal translation of the Hebrew, suh’oo, is “lift” or “raise.” I learned from my teacher, Rabbi Mel Gottleib, that each Israelite’s head was lifted so that Moses could look each in the eye as each was counted. Moses saw each Israelite’s face. No one was just a number, merely a statistic.
The purpose of the census was to take an accounting in preparation for the Israelites to do battle, as they wandered through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. But the language – lift the head – assured them that they mattered, that each was an individual.
As Congregation Emeth grows, we welcome and appreciate each membership unit, for what they contribute to the total. At the same time, we recognize each person’s individual attributes which are important to creating and sustaining our holy community. Each person brings a different perspective, vitality, interest, and way of contributing that make our congregation such a vibrant mosaic of Jewish living. Each is valued and all are welcome.
May you have a week of blessings and a Shabbat of peace.
Rabbi Debbie Israel