כִּי תִשָּׂא אֶת רֹאשׁ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לִפְקֻדֵיהֶם וְנָתְנוּ אִישׁ כֹּפֶר נַפְשׁוֹ
We are all very familiar with the “survival of the fittest” theory which is the mechanism of “natural selection” whereby only the strongest of mankind (or any species for that matter) survive, and the weakest will perish.
For a nation to survive in this competitive world, one of the most important elements is to have a large population. The more people, the greater opportunity to survive and succeed. The better the chances to lift up the nation, as with more people around, the greater the chance to have more talented and powerful individuals to advance the cause.
Moreover, the greater the population, the greater the army which in turn makes the nation more powerful and likely to win battles and conquer land, bring home slaves, and loot other nations when on the offense, and be able to defend their own land and people from the enemy’s attacks.
Now when a nation wants to know its strength–which is probably the most effective element of all–many countries would conduct a census once every so often, offering them some idea of their capabilities, (i.e. whether they should go on the defense or offense) and how to plan out their future.
This obviously doesn’t play out very well for our Jewish Nation, as we are very few, as the Pasuk testifies: (דברים ז,ז) ״כי אתם המעט מכל העמים״. Thus, when we come to conduct a census and find out how few we are, we may get very discouraged; therefore, the Torah says that the population, which is normally such an important factor, does not apply to the Jewish Nation, and the Jewish Nation shouldn’t look at the number of the people. Rather they should look at the contributions they have made to the world, and that is the meaning of the Pesukim: ״כי תשא את ראש בני ישראל״ – When you want to count the amount of people, ״ונתנו איש כפר נפשו״ – look at their “giving”, their contributions.
Let’s examine this amazing and unbelievable phenomenon that we already got so accustomed to that we seldom take the time to think about.
The entire population of the Jewish people around the globe as of now, stands at 15.2 million, which is 0.19% of the 7.89 billion worldwide population.
According to the above, the achievements of the Jews should have been accordingly. But when we take a closer look, we find it is way and above that ratio. First, it’s interesting to note that the Nobel Prizes have been awarded to over 900 individuals throughout the years, of whom at least 20% were Jews. This is way disproportionate with the 0.19 percent of the Jewish population.
In almost every field, Jewish people are excelling. From science, art, and innovations to technology, to genetic engineering and many other advances.
Let us take a look at the small Jewish country which has less than 1/1000 of the world’s population. According to the analysis report company US News and World Report from 2 years ago, the small country of Israel with a Jewish population of only 6.8 million people which was established just over 70 years ago, was graded the eighth most powerful country in the world. How was that done?
Just a few examples of the country’s achievements:
Excluding only the US, Israel has the largest number of startup companies in the world.
Israel has the leading number of scientists and technicians in the workforce, with 145 per 10,000 people. Over 25% of the country’s work force is employed in technical professions.
Israel’s $100 billion economy is larger than all its immediate neighbors combined.
But most importantly: ראו מה בין בני לבין חמי, while all the other nations of the world were busy worshiping idols, killing and stealing (and even worse), the Jewish Nation brought down to the world the belief in one G-d, living a moral life, the practice of marriage, according honor and respect to one other, thrive to achieve a better world by changing oneself and giving charity and help to the needy.
Jews are not asked to voluntarily conduct a very high standard of moral and spiritual life but rather they are commanded to do so without any compromise. Jews must find the time to advance in their Torah learning daily, and strain themselves to understand very challenging topics in very complicated sets of Gemara. A non-Jew can’t fathom how Gemara works, a book with a bunch of words in Hebrew and Aramaic without any punctuation and boxes on the right and the left of the page.
Jews are asked to maintain these lofty levels not only when they become adults, but this type of high standard is already practiced at a very young age–as soon as the child begins to understand.
While other nations choose their spiritual leaders by popularity, the Jewish Nation’s leaders have to raise above and beyond the thousands of other spiritual leaders and Rashei Yeshivot who’ve dedicated their whole lives to learning the holy Torah every available second of their day. But not only have those leaders done so, but their students too, who sit all day toiling in their learning, putting all their strength into it with endless devotion.
The results of this elevated lifestyle can be seen with the brilliant minds of G-d’s people, their exalted moral standards, and endless books written on a regular basis and much, much more.
When our boys and girls walk in the street, they stand out like royalty; the boys look like kings and the girls look like queens, nothing less.
After looking at a glimpse, a drop in the sea of achievements we can indeed be very proud of who we are.
That is what the Pasuk above says, when you’ll come to count the people of our nation, don’t count the amount of people, but count the endless amount of our contributions of our people and remember that we aren’t counted for our quantity but quality.