Parshat Bamidbar: People are Not Numbers

Parshat Bamidbar: People are Not Numbers

The fourth book of the Torah in Hebrew is called Bamidbar, meaning, “in the desert”. In English however it is called “Numbers”, which as we shall see is a serious misnomer.

On memorial days in Israel, whether for victims of the Holocaust or for soldiers who have fallen is Israel’s wars, one often hears the famous poem of Zelda which begins “Every person has a name”. This song comes to combat the dulling effects of the statistics of each day and to remind us that the memorial is not for a number but for people each one who is unique.

In this light it is understandable why the torah views a census as an abomination and King David was punished for counting the people. However, if this is case why does G-d command Moshe to count the people in our Parsha?