The Torah portion this week is B’midbar, which literally means “in the desert.”
For my Torah MOMentary, I would like to draw on Rashi‘s commentary on this portion for inspiration. Rashi is an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Itzchaki, one of the most famous rabbis of Judaism who lived during the 11th and 12th centuries.
Rashi notes the following regarding God counting the Jewish people. He discusses the other times in the Torah when the Jews are counted. (I am paraphrasing for clarity; these are not direct quotes.)
1. When we leave Egypt, He counts us.
2. When many die as punishment for praying to the golden calf, He counts us to know the number of the survivors.
3. When He makes His Divine Presence rest among us, He counts us.
4. On the first of Iyar, He counts us.
Why all of the counting? Well, Rashi says it very simply and beautifully: “Because they were dear to Him, He counted them often.”
Wow. As a mother, this totally resonates with me. The watchfulness that we have over our children; the almost obsessive and compulsive need to know about our children’s welfare, whereabouts, and well-being, especially in the early days and weeks and months of their lives, makes such sense. It’s a counting of sorts that we do as moms. And it doesn’t end after those first days and weeks and months.
Here is my Mama version of this sweet counting that Rashi notes God does for the Jewish people. I am using ‘counting’ to mean the assessing, surveying, and maintaining safety and well-being.
When they are in our bellies, we count them.
When they draw their first breath, we count them.
When they miss a breath, we count them.
When they do anything for the first time, we count them.
When the distance between us and them becomes too scary for us and them, we count them.
When they tremble with fever, we count them.
When they first say, “I love you,” we count them.
When they first shriek, “I hate you,” we count them.
When life throws us curveball after curveball and we need something that reminds us that we belong here, we count them.
When the Divine Presence rests unmistakably in their eyes and dances upon their small capable fingers, we count them.
When their abilities and capacities as humans surpasses anything we could have ever imagined, we count them.
I have been struggling with understanding many aspects of Jewish law lately, but this portion opens up so much for me. It is clear to me that the lessons of our Torah are timeless and the power of the Torah and its interpretations are meant for anyone who cares to look beneath the surface.
That’s how we are counted by God. He counts us.
To read the previous posts in our Torah MOMentary series, click here.