"Count me in," called Ephraim to his classmates as they raced towards the school yard to continue the morning game. "I just have to bring a form to the office. I'll be out in a minute."
Ephraim wanted to be counted in for the game. That same morning, his sister Shiffi asked her friends to count her in on the Bikkur Cholim Club trip to the Old Age Home. Everyone likes to be "counted in" for good things.
And what could be better than each and every one of B'nei Yisrael being counted by HaShem? This week we begin reading Bamidbar. It is also called the Book of Pikudim - census or numbers - because it begins and ends with the counting of the Jewish people.
Are you wondering why HaShem counts the Jews? Doesn't He know how many there are without counting? Of course! But there's more to counting than adding up numbers. We'll understand this better by first explaining a rule stated in the Talmud and the Shulchan Aruch.
Have you heard of the phrase batel beshishim? This means that something can be considered as if it doesn't really exist, because it was mixed in with a lot of something else. To give an example: If a bit of milk splattered into some chicken soup, but there was at least 60 times more chicken soup than there was milk, the soup is still kosher. The amount of milk is so small that it is batel beshishim. It is as if it doesn't exist.
But not everything can become batel beshishim. For example, a piece of non-kosher meat which gets mixed in with kosher meat does not always become batel beshishim, even if it's only a tiny piece. When the non-kosher meat is considered a davar chashuv - something separate and significant - it can never become batel, it cannot be ignored and considered as if it does not exist.
Another example of something which cannot become batel beshishim is davar shebiminyan - anything sold by number and not by weight. Because it is sold by number, every piece counts, and is considered a davar chashuv. For example, each of the potatoes sold by the sack is not a davar shebiminyan, but when grapefruit are sold three for a dollar, each grapefruit is.
Now we can see how HaShem showed His care for the Jewish people by counting them. They became a davar shebiminyan, a davar chashuv. After the census was taken, we can never become batel - insignificant and ignored. No matter how many hardships Am Yisrael may experience, we will never be wiped out. Our people's importance will continue forever.
(Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. II, p. 263ff)