By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey
This week's Torah reading begins the book of Bamidbor ([Numbers] 1:1-4:20), and the portion is indeed filled with numbers. First a census is taken of the Israelites, and the Torah supplies us with the number of Israelites in each tribe, in each of the four "flags," and then gives the grand totals. The Levites are then counted -- twice. The firstborns earn their very own headcount, too.
Interestingly, this Torah portion of Bamidbor is always read shortly before the holiday of Shavuos, the holiday of our receiving the Torah. Usually it is read the Shabbos immediately preceding the holiday.
What is the connection between numbers and counting and the special gift our nation received on this holiday?
Counting is an equalizer. Each unit which is counted adds up to one, no more and no less.
As a nation we are far from a homogenous group. This is true in all areas -- and our service of G‑d is no exception. Depending on our unique talents, some of us serve G‑d through assiduous Torah study, others through volunteering time in public service, others through financially supporting worthy causes, and yet others through reciting Psalms with devotion and sincerity. Leaders and followers. Old and young. Men and women. Scholars and laymen. Every segment of our nation, and indeed every individual person, serves G‑d in his or her unique way.
The counting of the Jews teaches us that the service of any one person isn't more or less important than the service of another. One's service may be more attractive, flashy and attention-grabbing than another's -- but at the core we are all involved in the exact same pursuit -- serving our Creator with all our available talents and resources.
All these countings lead to Shavuos, the day when we were given the Torah, the ultimate equalizer.
The essence and purpose of all of creation is G‑d's desire for a physical abode, an earthly realm which would be transformed into a hospitable habitat where His essence could be expressed. It is the Torah that a) reveals to us this divine plan; b) contains the mitzvot, the tools with which we bring this purpose to realization; and thus c) brings harmony and equality to all of creation -- for it shows us how every one of its myriads of components is essentially identical, for they all have one purpose.
As Shavuos approaches, let us take this message to heart. Every person counts. Every day counts. Every component of creation counts. And we should be counting our blessings that we were given the Torah -- without which nothing would count.
(Excerpts from Chabad.org - from Rabbi Naftali Silberberg)
May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos and inspiring holiday of Shavuos!