Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
Don't Women Count?
The Parshah of Bamidbar (Numbers 1:1–4:20) begins with a census of the Jewish people.
“. . . a head-count of every male according to the number of their names. From twenty years old and upwards, all who are fit to go out to the army in Israel, you shall count them by their legions . . .”
The simple reason for this census was to count those who would be called upon to go to war.
On a deeper level, our sages explains that G‑d desired a census of the Jewish people because He treasures them.
We the People
In Bechukotai, in the midst of one of the most searing curses ever to have been uttered to a nation by way of warning, the sages found a fleck of pure gold.
Moses is describing a nation in flight from its enemies:
I will bring despair into the hearts of those of you who survive in enemy territory. Just the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to running, and they will run scared as if running from a sword! They will fall even when no one is chasing them! They will stumble over each other as they would before a sword, even though no one is chasing them! You will have no power to stand before your enemies.
There is on the face of it nothing positive in this nightmare scenario. But the sages said: “They will stumble over each other” -- read this as “stumble because of one another”: this teaches that all Israelites are sureties [i.e., responsible] for one another.”
The Concept of Freedom
Everyone wants freedom. It is a basic human need. To some extent, even animals seek freedom and show signs of unhappiness if they do not have it.
However, the question of what freedom consists of has not been clearly answered. Many people spend their lives chasing something they call freedom. But at some point they may well turn round and say they have been deceived.
Our Parshah gives us a insight into the nature of our freedom. Perhaps it challenges some of our assumptions.
We all know that a central theme in Judaism is the fact that we escaped from the slavery of Egypt -- and reached "freedom." But in this week's Parshah G‑d says about us: "The Jewish people are My servants. They are My servants because I brought them out of the land of Egypt..." (Leviticus 25:55).