THOUGHT FOR PARSHAT BAMIDBAR 5779
BY RABBI CHAIM FACHLER
The English name for the fifth Book of the Torah, Sefer Bamidbar, is “Numbers”, probably because in this week’s Parsha, and again in Parshat Pinchas, the People of Israel are counted. Our Rabbis also sometimes refer to Bamidbar as Sefer HaPekudim – which seemingly sounds like numbers or counting but is actually something a little stronger.
Why did they choose this description, based on the two occasions when a census was taken of Bnei Yisrael, rather than any one of the many dramatic and more meaningful episodes that appear in this book?
Bnei Yisrael were counted twice while in the wilderness. The first time to find out who came out of Egypt. The second time almost 40 years later, before entering the Promised Land.
The Hebrew word “Tafkid” means job or position. The word “Pikud” means a position of responsibility. And the word “Mefaked” is used in the army as a commander, a leader. From the term used by Chazal, “Pekudim,” it seems that there is a bigger message here. Each individual within the Jewish Nation has a “Tafkid” – a job/position. When necessary, he or she needs to take “Pikud” - responsibility, and sometimes even become a “Mefaked” – a commander, a leader.
There is no such thing in our tradition as a non-active member of the community. Everyone has a job and a responsibility. To make up a Minyan; to get involved in the Shul; to fill a social need where local agencies fail; to help financially when a fellow Jew is in need; to fulfil family responsibilities – and the list goes on.
Even in the Midbar - wilderness, where everyone was a little bewildered and followed the lead set by Moshe and Aharon, the people were taught the importance of the individual. Some lived up to the challenge. Others didn’t. This then is probably why this, the 4th Book of Moses, is referred to as “Sefer HaPekudim” – the Book of “Counting”.
We face challenges every day – at home, at work, in our community and within our social lives. We need to remember that being apathetic and pretending not to notice situations doesn’t fit the job description HaShem designed for us 3,000 years ago when He chose us over all other nations. And yes, sometimes we need to stand up and be counted.