In the Torah reading for Parshat Bamidbar, Moshe is instructed by G-d to count the people. As G-d led His people out of Egypt from slavery, He asked for everyone to be counted, even people who were not priests or landowners. Each person was to be counted by name and to be oriented by tribe. In Egypt, they did not have any family or tribe to belong to. Also, the parshah describes how to transport and set up of the Tent of Meeting, which is also known as the Mishkan. Counting of the Levites was another task for Moshe, but the Levites were to be omitted from the others in counting, as they were charged with the responsibility of caring for the Mishkan. Today, the Jewish people also have a counting ritual at a certain age. At 13, when boys become a bar mitzvah, they are counted as part of a minyan.
In the haftorah for Bamidbar, Hoshea the prophet tells G-d to give up on the Jewish nation, that there are so many Israelites, it would be impossible to count them all. G-d says that they have committed many sins against Him and He still shows favor and compassion to help His own nation. Hoshea believed that G-d is wrong and thinks that G-d doesn’t know what He is doing. So G-d wants to teach Hoshea a lesson and show Him His reasoning for keeping His nation. He forces Hoshea to marry a prostitute and to create a family for her. Hoshea takes care of her and buys her many things such as oils and wheat.
Eventually, they have children, and Hoshea raises them alone while his wife leaves him every day. Then one day, G-d instructed Hoshea to abandon his wife and children. Hoshea, who loves and cares for them, feels hurt and says to G-d, “I cannot just leave my wife and children by themselves. I care for them, and I love them.” G-d responds as Hoshea did to G-d’s response of staying with his nation. “But your wife leaves you every day to be with other men,” He says. “You buy her gifts and you care for her children, yet she has no interest in you.”
Hoshea feels the pain of leaving his family and says to G-d, “You are right. You shouldn’t have to leave Your nation, even though they have disobeyed You many times.”
He understood his lesson and he changed his attitude toward the Jewish people. The final words of the haftorah capture the eternity of G-d’s love for His Chosen People. “I shall marry you to Me forever.”
G-d has said this to Hoshea not as a literal marriage but as a figurative marriage between G-d and the Jewish people and that He would never leave His nation.
Ben Glazer is a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School.