You Really Count!

Psst! Want to see a list of the world’s 50 most influential Jews?  How about the list of the top 10 mistakes that husbands make?  Interested in the top 10 distinctions between millionaires and the middle class?  The 100 best lawyer jokes or the 7 secrets of success?

All these lists are real and all attracted wide readership.  As you can imagine, articles titled, “Jews Wield Much Influence Internationally,” or “Many Marital Mistakes Men Make,” etc., would not have done nearly as well. People love lists, which is why books and articles that promise to list a specific number of things do far better than those that do not.  Comedians regularly acknowledge the reality that we are drawn to lists with their offerings of the 10 best, or 10 worst or even just 10 reasons why…

Here is a reliable technique for enhancing the next speech you have to deliver in public. Early in your remarks include the phrase, “I would like to describe the 3 main explanations/reasons/excuses,” or so on. You will increase the chances that your audience will pay attention.

Let’s try to understand why lists intrigue us. Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that there are two ways of counting.  The first ignores the value of each individual item and is only concerned with the whole.  For instance, when we count coins we don’t care about each one, we only care about the total.

King David aroused God’s anger counting the Israelites in this manner. (II Samuel 24:10)

However, there is another way of counting, perhaps the way we might count books we love.  Each one is unique and valuable.  This is the way that God instructs Moses to count the children of Israel at the beginning of the Book of…Numbers, of course!

In this kind of numbering, the importance of each individual element is strongly emphasized. When we hear of the top 10 or top 20 of anything, we assume we are hearing about the 10 most important or the 20 most important. Each item is neither trivial nor interchangeable.

The English verb to count has several synonyms.  Enumerate, tally, number, figure, and so on.  Wouldn’t you be astonished to discover that each of those synonyms had another shared meaning?  For instance, if count, enumerate, tally, number, and figure all meant some type of pasta you would rightly consider it to be an astounding coincidence.

Yet, in the Lord’s language, five synonyms for counting do just that.

פ-ק-ד (P-K-D) “don’t count the Levites”    (Numbers 1:49)
נ-ש-א (N-S-A) “…count the heads..”     (Numbers 1:2)
ס-פ-ר  (S-F-R) “…count seven weeks”  (Deuteronomy 16:9)
מ-נ-ה   (M-N-H) “He counts the numbers of the stars…” (Psalms 147:4)
ח-ש-ב  (CH-SH-V) “…seek wisdom and reckoning…” (Ecclesiastes 7:25)

Amazingly, the roots of each of these words can also mean an elevated, important or prominent person. This idea was captured by the writers of the children’s PBS television series, Sesame Street, in which the character who ‘counts’ is also the aristocrat, the Count.

We often attach a number to something as a way of ascribing importance to it. A wedding anniversary doesn’t sound as significant as a 25th wedding anniversary. A business’ centennial is more exciting than its 102nd year.

We all need to make an effort to relate to people in our lives as significant, individual and important. No matter how many students, employees or neighbors we have, both they and we benefit when we ‘number’ them in ways that matter.

Numbers also help us—particularly in a relationship we hope will turn into marriage—to tune into what is most important. Chana Levitan does just that in her book, I Only Want to Get Married Once, where she explains the 10 questions you need to ask and answer in order to, “get it right the first time.” We found Chana’s book full of wisdom and insight and her 25+ years of counseling couples provides her with great experience. We offer this book with great pride. It is sale-priced this week and we also are extending the sale on our audio CD, The Gathering Storm for 24 more hours. Whether you are dating, raising a family, or trying to live in accordance with God’s wisdom both these resources make our top 20 list!

This week’s Susan’s Musings: Hey Beautiful, You’re Fired

Life must be terribly annoying to human secularists.  They are stuck with human beings that God created who possess certain built-in tendencies, and no amount of social engineering seems to eradicate those proclivities.  No matter how many times the, “we know what’s best for you,” crowd insists that we should act according to their wisdom, we keep on being (gasp)—human.

This past December…READ MORE

Ask the Rabbi

As I live in the bay area which is a popular tourist destination I am quite welcoming to have guest(s) stay at my home. But my wife absolutely rejects the idea. She gets all stressed about it. Isn’t it a good or Godly deed to host old friends or relatives?

What are your thoughts on this?


Read Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin’s ANSWER HERE

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