Bamidbar – True Love

This week’s Torah portion of Bamidbar starts the fourth book of the Torah. It begins: “Hashem spoke to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first of the second month, in the second year after their exodus from the land of Egypt saying” (Bamidbar 1:1). The Torah then proceeds to describe one of the many censuses counted in the desert.

Rashi
, wondering why Hashem counted His people three times in one year, explains: “Because Bnei Yisrael is beloved to Hashem, He counts them at all times. When they departed from Egypt He counted them. And when they fell at the sin of the golden calf He counted them to determine the number of those remained. And when He came to rest His Divine Presence upon them He counted them. On the first day of the month of Nissan the Mishkan was erected and on the first of Iyar He counted them" (First Rashi in Bamidbar).
The Levush HaOrah, a commentary on Rashi, asks: why was Rashi’s question,which prompted his explanation, placed on this pasuk? The discussion of the census did not start until the second pasuk, which is where this Rashi should be? The Levush HaOrah answers, quoting Rav Shlomo Luria, that the question of Rashi was why did the Torah emphasized the date, the 11th of Nissan,  more than by any other commandment? Rashi therefore answers that Hashem was displaying his  love through counting his precious people, and since this speech was out of pure love, Hashem’s Presence rested amongst them. This manifestation of his presence was deservingof recognition, it was therefore written on which day it took place, just like a chosson (groom) gives his kallah (bride) a kesuba with the date and location in it. (Click here for Hebrew text.)
The Torah is expressing Hashem’s pure love for his children, that they as beloved as a Kallah to her Chosson. Indeed, the census itself is  an expression of love, in that just as a collector counts his collection constantly, because he loves what he collects, so too Hashem counts his children often.It seems ironic and a bit degrading that Hashem at first expresses his love by comparing our relationship as a chosson giving his kallah a kesuba at their weddingand then laterseems to treat us as an object, comparing the Jewish People to a collector’s item. Why did Hashem’s expression of Love so drastically change, and why is it an appropriate expression of love?

We must say that Hashem is teaching us a lesson about showing one’s love for another. Of course Hashem has the ability to constantly shower us with the ultimate intensity of love , but love does not have to be constantly expressed with the same intensity and exactitude. As long as one genuinely shows continual expressions of love, even if it varies, it is still considered true love, which will be appreciated.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Dovid Shmuel Milder