Parashat Bamidbar (In the wilderness…)
5th of Sivan, 5779 / June 8th, 2019
By Eric Meiri
This Week’s Readings:
Torah: Numbers 1:1 – 4:20
Haftarah: Hosea 2:1-22
Brit Chadashah: Revelation 7:1-10
For those of you who know me, you likely know that I am very particular about details. You often hear people insisting on “focusing on the big picture” and “not getting caught up in the details”. But details matter to me. And they truly do matter to a lot of people. We just differ in what details are important to us. For example, there are details about music and sound that matter a lot to me, which someone like Rabbi Gliebe may not see as important. But I know there are certain details that matter a lot to him, and those involve data. He loves collecting data and sees those details as crucially important. Just ask any of the Gabbaim who have had to fill out the attendance doc! As for me, data does not seem so important. But I do see how the details of data collection impact our world. We keep track of numbers to create statistics and do things such as track progress and set goals to predict success or failure. Data collection is a huge driving force in our economy. You can make a successful career for yourself by learning how to analyze and interpret data! So clearly this stuff matters to us as people. It’s strange though, because it is usually the sections of Scripture that involve data, such as this week’s parashah, that people find the most boring! And yet, data remains very important to us, and it also seems to be very important to G-d. Reading this week’s parashah makes that very clear.
The Torah Portion is the opening of the book of Numbers, which is the quintessential chapter on data collection in the Bible. G-d has called for a census. The purpose here is to determine Israel’s strength in manpower for massing an army. It is hard to imagine that G-d needs these numbers and details. Moses and Aaron will not write a report on their data collection findings, and G-d does not have an inbox for them to send it to. Perhaps G-d asks this for the benefit of the people: that they can be encouraged by amassing their forces and organizing their tribes in preparation for battle. It shows the value in each individual person and tribe as part of a larger collective. It also will show how when the numbers of Israel are much less than the enemy, they overcame by the grace and strength of ADONAI Tz’vaot being on their side.
Portion gives us data that serves a different purpose. The section starts
and ends on an encouraging note. G-d tells us that “the number of Bnei-Yisrael will be like the sand of
the sea, which cannot be measured or counted” (2:1). But the road to getting to
this destination is littered with mistakes, failures, and the consequences of
disobedience to G-d. As I think about it, I imagine an episode of Shark Tank where someone is trying to
convince the investors that “our numbers are predicted to be like the sand of
the sea, you won’t even be able to count all our progress! You just have to
bear with us as we fail miserably and suffer all the consequences of our
mistakes”. It wouldn’t convince many investors, but these are the promises of G-d.
They are true and trustworthy; data that we can rely on and should motivate us.
The Brit Chadashah Portion is also full of divine data, and this is for the kingdom to come. 144,000 from Bnei-Yisrael will be counted as part of G-d’s Chosen Remnant. When we consider the world population of Jewish people, this data might be a little discouraging. I am sure if Rabbi Gliebe had the opportunity to discuss this predicted data with G-d the conversation might sound something like: “Come on, G-d! Only 144,000? We can do better than that! I wanna see at least 250,000 coming out to the Kingdom in the End Times.”
Based on the data found in Revelation, we know that the Kingdom of ADONAI will have less Jews in it than can fit into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This means you need to ask yourself: In the details and data that G-d has planned for His kingdom, will you be counted among the righteous? It doesn’t take much today to be counted as a data statistic; if you’ve used Facebook or shopped on Amazon than you are already in the system. But to be counted in G-d’s divine data as one of His chosen requires much more than that. Although it is by grace alone, and through faith alone, G-d will judge your heart and your mind and the fruit which you produced in this life. Let us be challenged by this truth, pray for His mercy, and give thanks that it endures forever.