By HaRav Dov Begon
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir
“When you take a census of the Israelites to determine their numbers, each one shall
be counted by giving an atonement offering for his life. In this manner, they will not be
stricken by the plague when they are counted” (Exodus 30:11). Rashi explains that countings
fall under the control of the evil eye, inviting plagues, such as occurred in the days of King
The Jewish People possess a magnificent soul. That soul rests within all Jews in all
generations, whatever their affiliations. No attempt to count the Jews individually can meet
with blessing, for “no blessing rests upon something unless it is hidden from sight.” (Ta’anit
8b). When we count people and turn them into numbers or statistics, their personality is
thereby blotted out, and their unique soul, the image of G-d, within, disappears. Indeed the
Nazis, in their desire to degrade the Jews and to wipe them out off the face of the earth,
engraved numbers on their arms.
Therefore, when we set out to count the Jewish People, we do not count heads or
bodies. Instead, we count the half shekel that each Jew contributes to the general fund. With
that money, animals are purchased for communal offerings which will increase the public
merit and add holiness, goodness and light to the world. By such means, the whole Jewish
People are exalted, as well as each individual Jew among them.
Right now, we are not careful to avoid counting the Jewish People. Quite the contrary,
statistics, public opinion polls and plebiscites are.. accepted concepts in Israeli
society, and a genuine danger exists that this approach in society and in politics will harm
our ethical foundations, our eternal values regarding existential topics affecting the Jewish
State and People.
We must learn from the debacle of King David’s census and we must understand that
the Jewish People are not to be counted. Timeless values and our connection to the Jewish
People and the Land of Israel cannot be measured by surveys, polls or plebiscites. “The
Eternal One of Israel does not lie [yishaker]” (I Samuel 15:29). Nor can our eternal values by
measured by polls [yisaker].
Looking forward to complete salvation,