The Blessings of Names

Credit: Jack Dorsey on Flickr


B’midbar, the book of “Numbers” in English, literally means, “in the wilderness.” Speaking to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, God commands him to bring some semblance of order to the chaos of Israelite community wandering b’midbar. This is accomplished by taking a census, a count, of the people by their ancestral tribes. It reminds me a lot of being back in elementary school, where the teachers would count heads when we went out for recess or a fire drill. It wouldn’t look good if the class came back missing anyone!

These careful counts remind us that every person, every soul, is precious to God, and should be to us. It’s not lost on me that in 2020 the US is taking its census, and that proper and careful reporting is the key to funding services that will benefit the population.

Here in our Torah reading, the count is initially to determine how many men “from the age of 20 years up in Israel, all who will be able to bear arms” will be available to amass an army if needed (it was, and will be). The Levites, descendants of Moses and Aaron, are counted separately, as they will be responsible for transporting and maintaining the Mishkan and its furnishings.

For decades, companies have advertised themselves along the theme of, “you’re a name, not a number,” and our Torah reading reflects that, with the commandment to s’oo et rosh kola adat b’nai yisrael l’mishp’chotam, l’vet avotam, b’mispar sheimot, “to lift up the head of the entire congregation of the children of Israel by the families and their ancestral houses, by listing their names.”

The Torah may give us mostly numbers, but God gave everyone a name. May we be blessed to live up to our names.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Sermons

Yom Kippur: Hope, Despair And A Shining Sun
Yom Kippur: Hope, Despair And A Shining Sun

Yom Kippur 5783 Like many of the quotes and poems that make their way into use, a poem attributed to an anonymous person in a concentration camp, or in hiding, became somewhat of an urban legend, and has often been taken out of context, as well as not accurately...

Kindness

Kol Nidre, 5783 On Rosh Hashanah, we began our prayers in the hopes of moving God, the Holy Blessed One, from kisei din, the throne or seat of judgment, to kisei rachamim, the throne or seat of compassion. Ten days later, here we are at the eve of Yom Kippur,...

Shema: Listening, Hearing and the Shofar

Rosh Hashanah 5783, Day 2 The word, “Shema.” What do you think of when you hear it? Usually, we think of “The Shema” as the verses we chant or sing from the book of Devarim, Deuteronomy, and in that context, it’s a bold theological statement. It is an idea which goes...

Latest Midrash HaZak

Kedoshim: Coming of Age in Holiness
Kedoshim: Coming of Age in Holiness

Photo and art by Rabbi Susan Elkodsi Kedoshim: Coming of Age in Holiness Rabbi Dr. Jill Hackell As I move through my 70s I find myself increasingly aware of my “senior” status in our society. Suddenly, by virtue of my age I am in a category that labels me vulnerable–I...

Parasha Vayakhel: A Mirror of the Holy Whole
Parasha Vayakhel: A Mirror of the Holy Whole

                                  Parasha Vayakhel: A Mirror of the Holy Whole Cherie Karo Schwartz  My Mom, Dotty Karo of blessed memory, was an ultimate crafter. She had a room stuffed with kaleidoscope-colored treasures she’d collected or had been gifted by...

Ki Tavo: Entering the Land and a New Age

Ki Tavo: Entering the Land and a New Age Charles Goldman This midrash speaks to me. Just as the people of Israel were about to embark on the next mega steps of their lives in the Holy Land, and Moses was intoning to them that they have “a heart to know, eyes to see,...

Latest Personal Blogs

Blessing My Bended Knees-A Poem
Blessing My Bended Knees-A Poem

This past week, I participated in a Ritualwell class with Alden Solovy on "Writing From One Word of Torah." I distilled 3 stream-of-consciousness prompts on the word "Baruch/Berekh," the root of which can mean "blessing' and "knee, into this poem. Blessing my bended...

The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives
The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives

Photo: publicdomainpictures.net The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives An email from My Jewish Learning about “A Woman of Valor” prompted me to pivot the next evening’s planned adult learning session to looking at these 22 verses from Mishlei, the Book of Proverbs. These verses...

Live Long and Prosper?
Live Long and Prosper?

By Oklahoma Heritage Association, Gaylord-Pickens Museum - Author, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25656727 Live Long and Prosper? January 5, 2022 began the third year of the seven and a half-year cycle of Daf Yomi, the practice of...

Pin It on Pinterest