Ask The Rabbi

Why Jews Don't Count

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Census, Counting Jews

Todd from Dallas, Texas wrote:
Dear Rabbi,

There was a time where King David took a census of the people. One of his servants tried to talk him out of it but was unsuccessful. Then Hashem dealt severely with David and with the people of Israel. (Sorry, I'm not sure of the exact reference.) I have never understood why G-d does not like a census? What is so wrong with counting the people?


Dear Todd,

The reference is in Samuel II, Chapter 24. The reason that G-d did not approve of counting the people directly is that by counting, one is ascribing a finite value to a Jew, a number, a physical reality. In fact, the Jewish people are spiritually infinite, and should not be numbered and defined in the finite sense. Even when the Jews needed to be counted, such as the census described in the Book of Numbers, it was done indirectly, whereby each person contributed a coin and the coins were counted.

By the way, if you are from Dallas, may I suggest continuing your study of Judaism with the Dallas Area Torah Association. Below is a contact:

Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried, Dean
Dallas Area Torah Association Community Kollel
5840 Forest Lane
Dallas, Texas 75230
Phone: 987-DATA
data@datanet.org

 
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