Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
In the first chapter of the Book of Numbers we read about a census taken of the Children of Israel. It is not the first census in the Torah and neither will it be the last. Censuses are conducted with different parameters and for different purposes. This census in the Book of Numbers was a military census (Numbers 1:3).
One could be left to wonder "what is it with God and censuses?" To what can it be compared? It can be compared to a man collecting precious pearls. Each day he dives to the bottom of the abyss to gather oysters. After opening the shell, he puts all the pearl into a box. He then rubs each one against his teeth to verify its purity, and sorts them by sizes. One can go through a ton of pearls to get three or four very valuable ones. These are precious to him. They come at the price of very intense and dangerous labor. In the evening he sets them before him and counts them. He admires and loves his pearls; they are his pride. It is the same with Hashem: censuses are a sign of his affection for his people.
Here is what Rashi, a famous sage of Israel, said about God’s censuses:
Because of Israel’s dearness before Him, he counts them all the time. When they departed from Egypt he counted them (Exodus 12:37). After some fell from the sin of the golden calf, he counted them to determine how many remained (Exodus 38:25–26). And when his Shekinah came to rest upon them, he counted them again.
There is an ancient teaching that on ten occasions Israel was numbered. First when they went down to Egypt (Deuteronomy 10:22), second when they came out of Egypt (Exodus 12:37), and a third time after the incident of the golden calf (Exodus 30:12). They were counted twice in the Book of Numbers, once in connection with the standards, once in connection with the division of the Land, and twice in the days of Saul (1 Samuel 11:8; 15:4). The eight time was in the days of David (2 Samuel 24:9) and the ninth in the days of Ezra after the Babylonian captivity (Ezra 2:64).
Prophet Jeremiah tells us that there will be a tenth census the in the future,
Thus says Adonai of hosts: In this place that is waste, without man or beast, and in all of its cities, there shall again be habitations of shepherds resting their flocks. In the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the Shephelah, and in the cities of the Negeb, in the land of Benjamin, the places about Jerusalem, and in the cities of Judah, flocks shall again pass under the hands of the one who counts them, says Adonai. "Behold, the days are coming, declares Adonai, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah (Jeremiah 33:12–14).
In those days, the whole of the Israel of God, the last harvest of the souls of the world will be counted. See you there!
P. Gabriel Lumbroso
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