In a world of 7 billion people and trillions of organisms and cells, what value can a single person possibly have? Are we negligible and insignificant creatures?
This week we read the first portion of the Book of Numbers, which begins with a census of the Jewish people. And immediately we are compelled to ask: Why is it so important to count the people, especially considering that God, in His all-encompassing knowledge, knows their precise number?!
And why does the Torah relate that the census was done only of individuals “from the age of twenty and up who were fit to serve in the army?”
The answer to these questions reveals for us a critical lesson about the value of every human life that is especially relevant today, in our highly technological and depersonalized world.
The power of being counted and being counted upon is particularly potent in our times. With all the upheavals shaking up the world today, it is very easy to succumb to a feeling of powerlessness and insignificance in face of all the overwhelming forces swirling around us.
In time of war when human worth is questioned and individual indispensability is challenged, then it is especially necessary to emphasize and focus the power of everyone’s inherent value.
We as Jews should know this well. Israel has always been willing to swap hundreds of terrorists for one Jewish hostage. As so vividly captured in the story of Gilad Shalit several years ago: How much effort and time had been invested in order to finally free this single Israeli soldier?!
In a hostile environment, in an insecure world – where people threaten and feel threatened by each other – there especially we need to count each individual. We need to declare: “Don’t allow yourself to be depersonalized. You matter, you count, you are absolutely necessary.”