If I asked you to imagine a scientist in your mind’s eye, what image would emerge? A balding man in a white lab coat? A woman wearing thick glasses? A millennial glued to a laptop? How many of them would be women? This becomes relevant when we think of takin a census. Census-taking rolls like a sand dune through& Parashat B’midbar, which is also the Hebrew name for the fourth book of the Torah that we begin reading this week, known as the Book of Numbers in English. More than once in Numbers, God issues an order to count heads.
The Book of Numbers, B’midbar, seems to begin with great promise, evoking universalism, deep spirituality, and the openness of the wilderness. Then, just as quickly it contains that openness with God’s command to take a census, thereby numbering and organizing the people.