We are in Numbers 1:1-2 and the Israelites are in their second year in the wilderness and G-d says “count”. Oy vey is there counting. Count the adult men, count the tribes, count the sons of Levi, count the first born males. And so forth and so on. This portion also details the duties of various muckety mucks, but that is for another blog.
There are many phrases and adages regarding counting. For example, we “number our days” and we “count our blessings” and we “count to ten” before we speak in anger or frustration. We say its the “little things that count” and “don’t count your chickens”.
Why did G-d instruct Moses to do so much counting? Perhaps it was to ensure that everyone, in their wilderness community was accounted for. Isn’t that what we are really doing when we “count” things in our lives, we are making sure they are all there, all in line, all accounted for. And for wandering Jews I imagine it would have been easy to lose track of people, wilderness being what it is. When we count the number of our friends on Facebook are we assessing our community? Accounting for the people we care about? Making sure we don’t lose track?
Counting gives us comfort, lists give us structure, assessing gives us security. But honestly, doesn’t it work in the opposite in some ways? When you number your days are you making them count? Or worrying at how few they are. When we count to ten before we speak are holding back angry inappropriate words, or are we failing to speak the words that count, the truth. When we say its the little things that count are we discounting the big, important things? Because often it is the very very big things that count. When we say don’t count your chickens are we simply saying don’t hope for things that count.
I don’t know the answers, I think each of these things can be seen in either way, from both sides. The one that I only see one way is to count my blessings. When I number my blessings, I can’t see the losses. When I number my blessings, I don’t wallow in the painful. When I number my blessings I am doing G-d’s work.