Do You Really Count?
After the 15 months we have all been through with Covid, filling out a 2021 Census questionnaire was life affirming. What a blessing to still be tallied among the living during an infectious epoch where we’ve focused on tallying the afflicted and the dead. Nonetheless, it is a humbling thought that our existence, as per the census at least, is a mere statistic. We have been counted, but do we count?
And if being just a number, a statistic, wasn’t enough, we were further dehumanized by wearing face coverings and driven into prescribed isolation, sometimes more deadly than the threat from which it offered refuge. Some found solace in cooking, others in Netflix, YouTube and various other forms of escapism. But how many turned to G-d for answers? How many self-queried whether it was perhaps a time better suited to seek than to hide?
All our nice clothes were rendered useless; there was nowhere to go. Our fancy offices were closed until further notice; our beautiful dinnerware sets that serve 12, lay dusty throughout our favorite holidays, and served one to none. Everything we have and are had to be re-calibrated. Simplicity, by mere practicality, obviated ostentation. Literally we all had to wear masks but in a very real sense, the masks finally dropped. It forced us to look at ourselves alone in the mirror and ask: “What have I counted for in this lifetime?” “ Have you been a mere number, a lifeless statistic, or have you counted for one but lived as if were an entire army, an indomitable force that gave life to your convictions, i.e., feet to your ideas, gave love to the world with deeds not words, gave hope to the downtrodden with charity not pity and served the will of God, His way and not yours? Or are you all the census bureau thinks you are—a digit?
In this week’s Torah reading, Bamidbar, we read how G-d commands Moses to take a census of the entire assembly of the Children of Israel. The sages teach that G-d wants a counting of his people for a different reason than governments. G-d counts out of love. Each is precious to Him. For certain, as the All-Knowing, does He really need to count? But any collector of fine things knows that you count and count again what you love. But the count is not only precious for the counter, but also for the counted. Imagine having three kids and in front of them only count two. The hurt is unfathomable. We each want to be counted and want to count. But with that acknowledgement comes responsibility. G-d is not just counting his children, He is counting on them as well. He is counting on you: Don’t just be a Jew philosophically, be one physically as well. Try to keep Shabbat a little better, to keep kosher a little more cautiously, to be more helpful to someone who needs you, to honor your parents like you would your best customer and better.
Look deep into yourself, to the part that is oblivious to masks. The best mirror of oneself is the study and observance of Torah. It really shows you who you are, who you are not and what you should be and can be. The statistical odds of being born Jewish is small. Value your uniqueness and rarity. Don’t just be counted or lazily count yourself out: Count for something! You can fool the whole world, but G-d Himself knows your number; and it’s your duty, as G-d’s treasured children, to add up to much much more!