Parashat Bamidbar

I am half way through watching an American television series called The West Wing. The fictitious American president’s staff members are always interested in polling the American public so that they can report back with numbers to help support a particular agenda. This spirit of gathering numbers resonated with me as I read through Parashat Bamidbar. Why did God order a census of Bnai Yisrael at this point in history? Afterall, Bnai Yisrael were just counted a few Parshiyot back when materials were being gathered toward the building of the Mishkan. Many commentators explain that this census was the best way to get a final count of how many men would be eligible to serve in the army (ages 20 and up) when Bnai Yisrael entered Israel.

Just as the polls were used to survey a response to the president, God utilizes this census to rally Bnai Yisrael’s confidence in their own numbers. While Bnai Yisrael went down to Egypt 70 in number, they have grown to be a mighty and numerous nation that is about to fulfill God’s promise of returning to the Land of Israel.

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