Parshat Bamidbar

desert

How am I counted? What is my measure? Who am I?

Bamidbar 1:1
… the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting, saying: Take a census of the whole Israelite community by the clans of its ancestral houses, listing the names …
Rashi
Because of His affection for them, He counts them at all times … (Rabbi Wolbe, trans., others translate now and then)

Ramban
Hashem told Moshe: ‘Count each and every [member of Israel] with honor and dignity. Do not merely ask the head of each household how many children he has. Rather, everyone should pass before you with honor, and you should count them.

Does the Torah actually say this? How is the Midrash inferring this?

What does it mean, figuratively, to be seen and counted?

Rabbi Henach Leibowitz
Hashem was teaching Moshe and the Children of Israel the value and uniqueness of each and every person. No one can be treated as a mere number … Moshe had to meet each member of B’nei Yisrael and show him the honor and respect he deserved, as a human being created in the “image” of Hashem. When dealing with a group of people, be it a group of ten or ten thousand, we must be conscious of the fact that the group is comprised of individuals, each one unique and worthy of the entire world existing for his sake.

Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe
The Gra said that during the era of prophecy there was no need for anyone to try to determine his own unique purpose in life. He would simply ask the prophet, and the prophet would tell him what he was supposed to do and how to go about doing it. A person who came before Moshe, the greatest of all prophets, would merit an even more inspiring encounter. Moshe would
penetrate into the deepest recesses of each person’s soul in order to give him an appropriate blessing for success. Afterward, Aharon and the leader of his shevet (clan) would also bless him individually. Such a process uplifts and encourages the person significantly.

It is crucial that every person know that he is important. “Each and every person must say, ‘The world was created for me.'” (Sanhedrin 37a). Every person has a unique combination of strengths and circumstances that distinguish him from anyone else who has lived or will ever live. … he has an avodah that he, and only he can accomplish. The entire creation is waiting for him to achieve what is incumbent upon him.

If a person is not conscious of his own importance, he cannot begin his avodah in Torah.

If we don’t have a prophet tell us our purpose in life, how do we find it? Do you think you have a purpose in life? If so, how did you find it, or are you still looking?

Midrash Rabbah Bamidbar
… when [God] came to the wilderness, the desolation [silence] greeted Him and praised Him. … anyone who does not make himself like a wilderness that is ownerless cannot acquire wisdom or Torah

Rabbi Yaacov Haber
So for this week’s Parsha, and in preparation for Shavuos, close your eyes and meditate: I am a desert. I am thirsty. I am owned by no-one. I am humble. I am free. I will receive the imprint of any footstep that treads on me. I am a blank canvas, I am ready to receive the Torah.