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Parashat Bamidbar

Numbers 1:1-4:20; Hosea 2:1-22; Romans 9:22-33

The World Was Created for Me

A census report makes for difficult reading. Working through the details of tribal and family tallies can be an exercise in monotony, but Rashi found a sweet message about God's love underlying the dry census data. He explained that God enjoyed counting the Israelites because of his special affection for each person. According to his interpretation, the census is a reminder that the children of Israel are not just a collective whole. Israel is a nation composed of individuals.

All the people of God are real people. Moses and Aaron counted them according to their "genealogical registration by their families, by their fathers' households, according to the number of names, head by head" (Numbers 1:20). This method gave every Israelite the opportunity to tell his name and be counted as an individual of worth. Each person is valuable and unique, a special treasure to God.

In the Talmud, there is a discussion about Adam, the first man and father of all humanity. Why does all of humanity descend from a single human being? "To teach you that whoever destroys a single person is regarded as if he had destroyed an entire world [of people] and whoever saves a single person is regarded as through he had saved an entire world" (b.Sanhedrin 37a). The meaning of this teaching is that each person is as valuable as Adam, the first man. Though Adam was only a single human being, he held within him the potential of all humanity. So, too, each person shares that same potential. No person should be dismissed as simply a number or a cog in the wheel. Every human being is a whole world.

Moreover, the same Talmudic discussion points out that every person, regardless of race, is part of the same human family. The Talmud says, "Adam was created for the sake of peace among men so that no one can say to his fellow, 'My father was greater than yours.'" We all have Adam as our common father. The same discussion points out that while we all come from the same prototype, we are all unique individuals:

[Adam was created] to demonstrate the greatness of the Holy One, blessed be He. If a smith strikes many coins from one mold, they all look identical, but the most high King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be He, fashioned every man in the image of the first man, yet not one of them is identical to his fellow. Therefore every person is obliged to say, "The world was created for my sake." (b.Sanhedrin 37a)

Yeshua told a parable about a shepherd who noticed that one of his hundred sheep was missing. A one percent loss is not terribly serious, but this particular shepherd had special affection and concern for every sheep in the flock. He left the ninety-nine and went out seeking the lost sheep, rejoiced when he found it and carried it on his shoulders back to the flock (Luke 15:1-7). From God's perspective, we are not a nameless, faceless crowd of people. Each person is unique, special and beloved. God cares for you personally. He is concerned with your concerns and seeks your well-being.

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