“The book of Bamidbar begins with a census of the Israelites… what is the significance of this act of counting?
…In any census, count or roll-call there is a tendency to focus on the total – the crowd, the multitude, the mass… Counting devalues the individual and tends to make him or her replaceable. If one soldier dies in battle, another will take their place. If one person leaves the organisation, someone else can be hired to do their job.
…Hence the significance of one remarkable feature of Judaism: its principled insistence – like no other civilisation before – on the dignity and integrity of the individual. We believe that every human being was created in the image and likeness of God. The Sages said that every life is like an entire universe. Maimonides wrote that each of us should see ourselves as if our next act could change the fate of the world… No voice, no view, is silenced. Judaism never allows us to lose our individuality in the mass.”