Two Line Torah Bamidbar 5778 – Why Bother Counting?



May 14, 2018

We’ve all been there. Staring at the sign-in sheet after a long event, counting the number of people who attended.  Did we miss someone? Should we count the person who came for five minutes and grabbed food but didn’t catch the actual program? 

We worry as much about quantity as quality for our programs.  Who will come to our Shabbat dinners?  Will we have enough food? Our impact is measured in bowls of Matzah Ball Soup and check-ins at the Ice Cream Social.  If we’re being honest, tracking attendance brings a dose of anxiety to our events. 

Although stressful, counting is essential.  Just as it was for the Israelites wandering the desert. Taking a census of the tribes of Israel is the entire focus of Bamidbar, the book of Torah we are starting. In Hebrew, it means “in the desert.” But with an entire opening portion dedicated to statistics, it’s not hard to see why the word “Numbers” was chosen in English. For the Israelites to flourish, they must count their numbers. Survival literally depends on their ability to move people together. Pausing to count is a way to check in with each tribe and ensure no one is left behind. That’s why we count at Hillel too. We need to remember everyone, not only those regulars who dutifully show up.  We need to count each individual at every event, not only to gauge our success, but to challenge us to reach the entire Jewish community on campus. 

Alana Bandos, Student Life Coordinator, Hillel at Kent State University