April 22, 2024
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In last week’s Parsha of Bamidbar the Torah tells us that people were counted in several ways. They were counted according to their families, according to their father’s household and by name. What is the significance of that?

The Ramban offers the following explanation of how and why the census was taken in this fashion. He writes that in this particular census, each member of the Jewish people being counted had the opportunity to come personally before Moshe and Aaron. They were able to tell them their names and describe their situations. They described which tribe they were affiliated with and which family they belonged to. Moshe and Aaron blessed each one of them and prayed for them. The half-shekel contribution towards the Temple served as an atonement for them.

They walked away feeling not only counted but that they counted for something. They received individual attention. By doing the census in this manner, Moshe was able to fulfill the literal command that was given to him. People were able to walk away with their heads lifted higher, filled with pride and self-esteem.

This explanation, incidentally, brings back memories of how the Lubavitcher Rebbe used to stand patiently and greet thousands of people waiting on line, listening to each person and giving them a dollar bill and a bracha.

Parshat Bamidbar ends with Moshe being commanded to take a census of the “K’hos” family. We read that they were an important,“high status” family. They were the ones who handled the Holy of Holies including the Ark of the covenant. Parshat Nasso, this week’s parsha, begins with God commanding Moshe to count the rest of the Levite tribe, especially the “Gershon” family. God tells Moshe that when it comes to taking a census of the Gershon family: “gam heim,” count them too.

We know that the K’hos family carried the Holy of Holies. What did the Gershon family do? What was their job? We read the answer in verse 24r. The work of the Gershon family was “la’avod u’limaseh,”– to work and to shlep. They did the behind-the-scenes, less glamorous work.

Rav Moshe Feinstein tells us that these extra words in the Torah, “count them too,” illustrates a very important concept. In life there are different tasks that various people can do. Some handle the Holy Ark while others engage in more behind-the-scenes work. Yet God tells us that the folks who do the more mundane things are just as important. They count as well. The reason that they count as well is because, in the end, those who do service, whether it’s a high profile job or a low profile job, enrich the community by providing their very necessary contributions. They should never feel discouraged because every role is significant and each person can contribute in their own unique way.

By way of extension, if a person can only give a small amount of charity (tzedakah) or can only study Torah on a simpler level, he should not give up. Every contribution is meaningful and every effort is appreciated. It is not only the “big shots” that count. One does not have to be a great scholar or be a very wealthy philanthropist to make his contribution count. We all get credited with fulfilling the mitzvah if we do our best to study Torah or give charity to the best of our ability.

Organizations or shuls cannot run without the contributions of time, effort and money of the “little people” behind the scenes. Everybody counts.

May God bless all of us so that we can continue to make our personal efforts, big or small, as viable and productive as possible. May we rise from strength to strength remembering that, just like the Levite Gershon family, we all count.


Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg is a forensic, clinical psychologist and a member of the American Psychology-Law Society. He is acting president of the Chai Riders Motorcycle Club of NY/NJ. He is the coordinator of Bikur Cholim/Chesed at Congregation Torah Ohr in Boca Raton, Florida. He can be reached at [email protected]

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