Thursday, May 22, 2014

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey

It is that time of year again. We will be beginning the Book of Numbers, as this week's Torah reading begins the book of Bamidbor ([Numbers] 1:1-4:20), and during this week’s Torah reading we will hear verse after verse of numbers: 46,500 for the tribe of Reuben, 59,300 for the tribe of Simeon, and so on. Why the detailed counts of the Israelites? What value is there in knowing exactly how many Reubenites there were at a specific time in our history? How is this even remotely relevant to anyone of us?

G‑d loves us dearly—each and every one of us. So He counts us, like one who counts precious diamonds. The numbers may not be terribly relevant to you or me, but they are very important to Him. After all, each number accumulated represents one of His beloved children. And every year, as we read these numbers in the synagogue, He listens again with delight.

Now that is relevant.

As usual, the mystics add sparkle. There's a spiritual science to counting, they teach.

When counting members of a group, no one individual counts more than the next. Thus, the act of counting cuts through the externals and differences, touching the part in us all which is one, called the soul.

And here, as well, only a Moses can qualify to count, and make count.

For only a special leader of Israel – who sees the pristine soul in every individual and the good within every human being, who chooses to define things by the good in them, rendering the bad in them external and superficial, like dust on a precious stone – only he can be trusted to polish G‑d's diamonds.

From Moses we learn to change the way we view others: not as stones, but as diamonds.

From G‑d we learn not just to love, but to express our love, and "[Because they are precious to Him, He counts them] all the time."

And for no reason at all.

Why wait to tell the people you love that you do? Until sometimes it's too late.

I remember listening to a moving talk given by a well-known Australian rabbi who had recently lost his wife due to tragic and sudden circumstances.

His message was simple but powerful: "Go home and tell your families how much you love them!" His voice broke as he said: "If only I had the ability to do that…"

The next day, my mother called from the States and suspiciously asked, "To what do I owe the honor of receiving such a lovely phone message from you in middle of the night?"

"To the passing of an Australian rebbetzin," I thought.

"Must it be owed to anything at all?" I said.

In addition to expressing our love, we must encourage our children to express theirs, and show them appreciation when they do.

A young girl once wrote to the Rebbe:

"Dear Rebbe, I love you very much. Chasia Rivkah Kahan."

The Rebbe responded:

"Miss Chasia Rivkah Kahan

Blessings and Greetings,

I was pleased to receive your letter, and I thank you very much for letting me know how you feel…"

One Sunday, a young child passed by the Rebbe and said, "Rebbe, I love you." The Rebbe's face lit up and, as he gave her an extra dollar, he said, "This is for the love."

(Excerpts from

May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!

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