Friday, 13 January, 2023 - 2:54 pm

‘Spare’ was a word that was all over the news this week. While personally I hadn’t read the book, nor do I plan on doing so, enough people apparently took interest in it to make it break some bookselling records. However, what is apparent even without reading the book is that the author had a sense of feeling he was ‘spare’ and was using these feelings as a justification, or explanation, for a whole variety of behaviors and actions.

“These are the names of the sons of Israel that came to Egypt” – begins the 2nd book of the Torah, the one we start reading this week – “Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah….” The list goes on, until concluding that they were 70 souls. 'Why bother listing and counting them again?' asks Rashi, the primary commentator of the Torah; 'hadn’t the children and grandchildren of Jacob been enumerated just a few chapters ago, when the story of their decent to Egypt is told? Why count them again – and by name and number?'

“He counted them again”, says Rashi, “to let us know how precious they are to Him.”

When something is very dear to you, it is always on your mind, you speak of it and keep track of it. When you travel with a large amount of cash or Jewelry on you, you’re always checking on it and counting it to make sure it is safe, never taking your mind off of it. So too, he explains, G-d keeps a watchful eye on the Jewish people, counting them and enumerating them again and again, to show how precious they are.

I find it telling that the verse is telling us of our individual significance specifically when the exile to Egypt becomes challenging. It is in those difficult moments that we need to be reminded that G-d is counting us, letting us know he’s thinking about us. “You aren’t spare,” says G-d, “I need you and I’m thinking of you. I have a plan for you.”

Counting us by number, shows that each of us is important; listing us by name, shows that each of us is unique. Each and every one of us must remember that we are not a meaningless dot in an 8-billion people universe, rather that we each bring something special to G-d’s table, something only “I” can provide.

Being a Jew in ancient Egypt, under the tyrant Pharaoh, wasn’t easy physically – we were enslaved, beaten and tortured; while being a Jew in America today, isn’t easy spiritually – we are challenged with assimilation and the winds of un-holiness and G-dlessness. In both scenarios, however, the antidote is ‘do not feel like a spare.’  Remember, each and every one of us is counted, named and means something special to G-d.

But in order to not only ‘know it’ but also ‘feel it’ we must turn to the practical Mitzvot. The only way to internalize an intellectual knowledge into a sense of being and a personal conviction is by constant activity, by doing something with our hands and feet, in accordance with and as a conclusion of this knowledge. When we constantly ‘do’, we develop a deep bond and connection that intellect alone cannot create. And the more we do, the more we will feel that connection and individual importance.

Practical Mitzvot have kept our bond and connection going strong for over 3,300 years. Let’s keep it going….

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Mendel Greisman

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