How does one come to feel as if one is standing at Mount Sinai, hearing the word of God, in the year 2012?
What is the word of God? Can anyone truly and clearly answer that question? Let's take a look at the Torah portion we read right before Shavuot, Parashat Bamidbar.
Throughout the Torah, we come across a number of censuses of the Children of Israel. The book of Numbers begins with one of these censuses, but how does it differ from the others?
The great Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev explains that since this is the first census after receiving the Torah, there must be something monumentally significant about it. When Moses counts every Jew, he finally realizes the purpose of everything — of being slaves in Egypt, of the miracles in the desert and ultimately, of receiving the Torah.
When commanding Moses to count each person, God Himself is letting us know that if we really want to understand what God is all about, we must count every individual. To be godly doesn’t just mean to follow the commandment that every person should be counted, but rather that every person counts.
Shavuot is the anniversary of the death of Rabbi Yisroel ben Eliezer, the Baal Shem Tov — the founder of Hasidic Judaism. The Baal Shem Tov, in a teaching that shows us where the Berditchever rebbe received his inspiration, says that the highest level in life is when I understand that everything is connected to me and I am connected to everything. When I walk down the street and see two drunkards talking to each other and I overhear the conversation, it is meant for me, because if it wouldn't be meant for me, I wouldn't hear it.
This explains why we read Parashat Bamidbar right before celebrating the receiving of the Torah on Shavuot. In the year 2012, we live in a world with countless ways of connecting to each other through technology, yet far too many souls who don’t feel counted and don’t feel important. To show God and ourselves that we are ready to receive the Torah, each of us needs to ask one simple question: Am I prepared to see how every person I come into contact with is connected to me?
The word of God never changes, it only gets deeper and deeper over the generations. May the word of God never let us to compromise on the notion that everyone counts … especially ourselves.