So I posted this as a normal Facebook thing but I thought it needed expansion and repetition. As I re-read my original Facebook post, I thought of things I wish I had said. So I will try to say them now.
First, I have to say how remarkable it was that almost all the people that reacted to my original post were women. Not to say there were no men, but not many. And I felt, as I sometimes do, that the world is very in need of the sensibilities of women. In need of that special kind of strength mixed with tears and compassion. Women, often, are very pragmatic problem solvers. Something we seem to be in dire need of. But I digress.
While most of you hopefully are gathered round a table of those you love, giving thanks, be grateful that you are not a child in Yemen, be grateful that you are not homeless due to a fire in California, be grateful that you are not a young man of color in an American prison, be grateful that you are not one of the millions of American children living in poverty and hunger, be grateful that you are not mourning your dead from a shooting in a house of worship or a bomb in Israel. You can be grateful you are not a refugee seeking asylum from terrible violence and having to choose what is safer for your child- the road you are on or the horrors you left. You can be grateful you are not a transgender teenager in a conservative town. Be grateful you are not a high school student afraid to go to the school where your classmates died. And be grateful you are not a parent mourning a child killed in a school shooting.
Every day there is more tragedy, more horror, more sorrow. The world never seemed so sad. It is hard to watch the news. And it is hard to feel helpless. I can only make donations to so many causes. I recycle, I teach, I try to set an example, I make donations when I can, I write, I march, I vote. It does not feel like enough. But it will have to be.
Know that however little you may have it’s probably more then many. Say a prayer of gratitude for what you have and say a prayer for those who don’t. Give thanks.
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.