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    The sense of a census – B’midbar

    The Book we open this Shabbat describes the census of the people in the wilderness.

    There were just over 600,000 Israelites, one for each letter of the Chumash. If you count the entire people – men, women and children – you come to a total of about two million.

    Now compare this with Jewish population movements in later ages. By the time of the Romans there might have been 10 million Jews. Thereafter the number declined so that at the onset of the modern era there might have been no more than one million.

    At the beginning of the Sho’ah the numbers had increased rather dramatically and there were something like 18 million Jews. In the present century we have recouped some of our numbers and we probably have 15 or 16 million Jews, of whom more than half live in Israel.

    The numbers are interesting but when dealing with statistics we need to assess both quantity and quality. It worries me that not every one of our people is a top-quality Jew, though God knows and loves every one of us and we are all capable of intensifying out Jewish quality.

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