by Hazzan Barbara Barnett
G-d spoke to Moses saying. When you take a census of the Israelites to determine their numbers, each one shall be counted…” (Exodus 30—the beginning of the maftir reading for Shabbat Shekalim)
This Shabbat marks the first of four special Shabbatot leading up to Passover (what, already?) It’s called Shabbat Shekalim, and We are forever counting. Counting years. Counting days. Counting down. Counting up. Counting the days until we can all find a sense of real “normal.”
In the daily life of NSS Beth El we count numbers too, and even one person can make the difference in the life of a mourner. In the lifeblood of our kahal (community). Ten adult Jews are needed to make a minyan and make it possible for someone in mourning or observing a Yahrzeit to say Kaddish.
To give them the comfort of saying the familiar words and being embraced by community. And in these days of COVID, of winter and bad weather, “getting to ten,” can be a challenge and has been a challenge, especially on those days when we are in person. You can, and must, be counted.
We all count. Our votes count on election days (I’ve been involved in enough tight political races to know that!); our commitment and presence count on Mitzvah days counts and can make the difference between someone in need getting help—or not. You may think one voice, one pair of hands, one vote, one person in the sanctuary can’t truly make a difference. But they all do. You do. We do. We count as we are counted.
There is a wonderful song called “G-d’s Counting on Me,” written by the legendary troubadour Pete Seeger (who, while not Jewish, had in his repertoire a great many Jewish songs, including his own take on Kohelet—Ecclesiastes, “Turn, Turn, Turn.” The refrain eloquently express the essence of community, of being counted.
“G-d’s counting on me; G-d’s counting on you…
“Hoping we’ll all pull through, me and you.”
The verses are changeable to the situation at hand, so I offer this original verse, with all props to Pete Seeger and Shabbat Shekalim:
We all need to lend a hand, every woman every man
G-d’s counting on me; G-d’s counting on you.
Minyan or Mitzvah Day; we know it’s the Jewish way
G-d’s counting on me; G-d’s counting on you!
Hoping we’ll all pull through, me and you.”