Each person has a name
Each person has a nameKnesset channel

The parasha we read this morning opens with the commandment, to conduct a census of Bnei Iarael, (1:1-19) ‘On the first of the second month, in the second year, after their exodus from the land of Egypt:Take a cencus of the entire assembly..according to their fathers’ household, במספר שמות: by the number of the names, every male..From twenty years of age and up..you’ Moshe, ‘shall count them..according to their legions, you and Aaron..They gathered together the entire assembly on the first of the second month, and they established their genealogy according to their families, according to their fathers’ household, by the number of their names, from twenty years of age and up..As Hashem had commanded Moshe, he counted them in the Wilderness of Sinai’.

The Netivot Shalom wonders:”Why, in the census in our Parasha, is the census to be ‘according to their fathers’ households, by numbers of the names’, whilst in the census in Parashat Pinchas - later, in our in our Chumash, Sefer Bamidbar - it is only to be ‘according to their fathers’ households’- and not, also, ‘by number of their names’?

“The Sforno answers: here, those to be counted, were great men, the generation of the exodus from Egypt, ‘the generation of knowledge’, and therefore, with regard to them, the Torah states:’by number of names’, in the manner that it says (Ps’ 147:4):’He counts the number of the stars: He gives them all names’ - Hashem calls each star by its name, because every important thing is called by name.”

Adds Rav Eliyahu Shlezinger:”Every person is ‘a name’ by himself, in the nature of ‘He counts the stars; He gives them all names’- every Jew is like a star in the firmament, which though they appear to our naked eye like little dots, they are in reality each an entire world in themselves, and each one of them has a role that Hashem has allocated to him in His world.

“They are all ‘the legions of Hashem’, His host, arrayed around the Sanctuary, in the manner that the Throne of Glory is surrounded on its four sides, by the camps of the Ministering Angels.”

The Radak expands:”’He gives them all names:Hashem created them all in the number known to Him, and each one He called by the name appropriate to him, according to the purpose for which He created them, with the abilities necessary to perform his role.”

Concludes the Netivot Shalom:”Therefore, this special generation is referred to ‘according to their fathers’ households, by number of names’, because, apart from their status from the side of their fathers and their families, they, in their own merit, were great men.

“This was not the case with the generation which were the subject of the later census, in Parashat Pinchas - they were of a lesser stature, and therefore they did not merit to be counted ‘by number of their names’; only ‘according to their fathers’ households’, because their standing was solely due to their fathers and families - and not their own merit”.

Rav Aryeh Leib Heiman adds:”Those counted in our Parasha reached the peak of purification, having undergone the two hundred and ten years of purification in Egypt, and thirty days of the presence of the Shechina, which shone in their midst from the day of the inauguration of the Mishkan, on the first day of the preceding month.

“It was therefore possible to count them ‘by name’ - each of them having risen to be unique, without ‘a second’ to fulfil his role.

“A person’s name, in that generation, signified his essence, which denotes his being different from all others - this generation merited to have attained this unique and exalted ‘one-ness’, to be able to each be ‘counted by his name’.

“The generation counted in Parashat Pinchas, on the other hand, had fallen from this lofty status, due to the ‘sin of the spies’, and no longer merited to be ‘counted by name’.

“In addition, as the Rambanexpounds, the manner of the census in our Parasha, differed materially from that in the later count:Each person, individually, appeared before Moshe and Aaron, and introduced himself by his name, the name of his father, and of his tribe.

“This, in itself, conferred on him merit ‘and life’, as the Father of Prophets and his sanctified brother would cast their eyes on him, in their benevolence, and pray for mercy and blessings for him from Above.

“Surely this, in itself, made the person into a ‘different’ person, on that special day, and left a lasting impression on each person so blessed.

“The generation counted in the later census, could not be similarly elevated and inspired, as Aaron had departed this life by then.”

Rav Chaim Friedlander expounds on the significance of the appearance of each individual before Moshe:”The reason that they were to be counted ‘by name’, was that” as we have brought, “the names of each person in that generation testified as to his essence, and his unique qualities.

“Thus, by his name, his special attributes were known, and, accordingly, he was allocated his fitting role in his service of Hashem.”

A concluding insight from Rav David Hofstedter:”Clearly the purpose of the census in our Parasha was not only to know the number of Bnei Israel, but also to establish the people in its proper order, as befits its destiny to be ‘the army of Hashem’.

“To this end, each tribe had to recognize its special role, in the tapestry that is Am Israel; similarly, each household, and each individual had to be allocated their intended roles.

“Since the names of each person had, with Divine Providence, faithfully captured the person’s attributes, the count could be ‘by the number of names’, to activate, in practice, the lofty purpose of being Hashem’s army on earth, with each person placed in his appropriate role.”

לרפואת נועם עליזה בת זהבה רבקה ונחום אלימלך רפאל בן זהבה רבקה, בתוך שאר חולי עמנו.