Individual sparks

Every Jew counts.

Moshe Kempinski,

Judaism Moshe Kempinski
Moshe Kempinski
צילום: PR

The book of BaMidbar is also called “ Sefer Hapekudim, the Book of Counting”. We read in the beginning the command “Take the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by families following their fathers' houses; a head count of every male according to the number of their names. (Numbers 1:1-2) The Midrash Rabba goes on to explain that in fact there were to be ten such countings.

Rashi explains that this was so because of " G-d's great love for His people, He counts them all the time.” Just as one who counts his prized possessions again and again out of affection. We are then told “As HaShem commanded Moses, so did he count them (Vayifkidem) in the Sinai desert. (Ibid: 19) 

In the Torah portion of Nasso we see another list that illustrates affection coming from the opposite direction.

And it was that on the day that Moses finished erecting the Mishkan, he anointed it, sanctified it, and all its vessels, and the altar and all its vessels. The Nessi'im (leaders) of Israel, the heads of their fathers' houses, presented [their offerings]. They were the leaders of the tribes. They were the ones who were present during the counting. (Numbers 7:1-2)


Each one of these Nessi'im or leaders of the tribes brought a separate offering of his own as "a dedication of the altar." The Torah in a very lengthy set of verses enumerates each of the 35 gifts brought by each one of the leaders of each one of the tribes. What is most striking is that the lists are identical. Yet the Torah sees fit to enumerate each one of the lasts again and again. It enumerates each tribe's gift separately, although each Nassi brought the very same 35 items as part of his offering. Then the Torah chooses to summarize the gifts;

"This was the dedication of the altar, in the day when it was anointed, by the leaders of Israel: twelve dishes of silver, twelve silver bowls, twelve spoons of gold... All the silver vessels weighed two thousand four hundred shekels... All the gold of the spoons was a hundred and twenty shekels." ( ibid 84-88)

Each leader of the tribe brought an identical gift and each gift is listed in almost identical fashion. One wonders why the Torah text which is so careful and purposeful with the words and phrases would simply repeat this list again and again.

Furthermore we have completed the count of the omer between Passover and Shavuot. Each night we counted up from the first to the forty ninth day. Rabbi Baruch Taub of Netanya taught recently a deep insight into the counting.

There are times in our Torah life where the obligation to say a blessing can be fulfilled by listening to another reciting the same blessing and answering an “Amen” .This is based on the principle of Shomeya K'oneh – literally, "hearing is like answering"(Talmud – Sukkah 38b). As a result we fulfill the obligation of the Shabbat Kiddush by listening to one individual recite the Kiddush blessings and answering Amen. That would be true of the Motzi or Breaking Bread blessing at the Shabbat meal. Yet with the counting of the Omer, even if we have heard the leader of the community reciting the blessing we are enjoined to recite the blessing as well. Why would that be?

The counting of the Omer is more than counting the days between Pesach and Shavuot. It is a series of levels of spiritual cleansing that must be undertaken and accomplished. Yet each individual creation in our world is a world unto themselves. Everyone is unique and a brilliant masterpiece of Divine sparks. As a result everyone's "work" is different. Therefore every individuals counting is unique and cannot be absorbed by another's "counting". In the words of Rabbi Taub ": every Jew counts because every Jew counts".

This gives clarity to the question we began with.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that each offering was not identical. The 72 "repetitious" verses in our Parshah teach us that each individual can do the very same act of service defined by the same details, and still imbue them with their uniquely individual character.

Each individual soul may pray the same words, do the same things and bring the same offerings, yet define those things with the colors of each individual soul. Even as they as they are involved in the common denominator of their bond with G-d, they each bring to the experience the richness of their own creative souls.

Each individual soul needs to understand the unique nature of his journey and to understand that the world and the Divine plan for the world  awaits his unique purpose and journey.

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved