Often overlooked is a small miracle described in the opening of the Book of Numbers, this week’s Torah reading.  Nestled quietly among the major miracles, it can still remind us of the supreme value of every life in the sight of G-d.  What is it?

          Numbers is called Bamidbar in Hebrew – literally “In the Desert.”  Here in the desert is where Moses holds a census.  So, while the English translation calls the book by its contents, numbers – the What, the Hebrew name gives us the Where.  Here in the desert, every man of military age is counted in every one of the 12 tribes – except the tribe of Levi whose adult males are exempted from military service and assigned to religious duties.  The total is 603,550.  Actually, Moses and Aaron take a separate count of the Levites and give each family its specific location and function in caring for the Ark and transporting both it and the Tent of Meeting on the people’s trek toward the Promised Land.

          Then Moses lays out the camp.  Three tribes are positioned on each side of the Tent of Meeting, and each tribe gets a set place in the order of travel.   It takes nearly three weeks to effect this massive organization, and as each tribe takes its place, we again read the number of adult males for that tribe. 

Why are these numbers repeated?  We are taught that the Torah wastes no words.  Didn’t we already learn those numbers? 

The Ramban, Nachmanides, explains that “they did not count them again…. But from the day they counted them until the day they settled them in their places, not one man was missing.  Not one man died during those 20 days, and that was a miracle, that no one died out of this vast number of people.” 

A small miracle, perhaps.  But isn’t life itself a miracle?  600,000 lives for 20 days are never guaranteed.  All of our lives, day after day – that’s a super miracle.  Baruch haShem yom yom – let’s give thanks for every day.


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