Thursday, May 21, 2009

It's all a numbers game

“Not one, not two, not three...” anybody who has been at the morning minyan will know about counting the crowd and waiting for that 10th man to arrive.

The Jewish community seems obsessed with numbers: “How many members does your Shul have?” “How many people were at the talk last night?” “How many guests did the Goldbergs have at their son’s barmitzvah?”

Is Judaism simply a numbers game? Do we rate the value of an institution, event or family by how many followers they attract?

In the early days of Facebook, a friend of mine won a radio competition for having the most “friends” in Joburg. I doubt whether he knows more than half of them, but he’s winning the numbers game anyway.

There are two ways to count people: You could reduce each person to a simple number, a statistic in a census, a mark on a ballot paper or a cog in a massive machine. Just 65 years ago, one-third of our nation was demeaned into a faceless sea of numbered bodies.

Or you could count them like the attentive collector, who proudly counts his artifacts or diamonds again and again- with love.

Jews don’t count Jews. We dare not relegate our fellow to a simple number. Hence the “not one, not two” formula for figuring out how many minyan-makers are present. It reminds us that a person is not a number.

G-d does count Jews. He obviously knows how many of us there are, so He’s not counting for numbers’ sake. He counts us to express His love and pleasure, like one who relishes knowing exactly how much he has of what he loves.

We are expected to emulate Him, to always see the preciousness of our fellow Jew.

No comments: