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Why is it forbidden to count Jewish people?

  

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Rabbi Jacobson: Welcome to askmoses. How can I be of help today?

Jason23: Why is it forbidden to count Jewish people? Can you explain me. Thanks in advance

Rabbi Jacobson: The Talmud relates1 "R. Eleazar said: Whosoever counts Israel, transgresses a [biblical] prohibition, as it is said: 'Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured.'2 R. Nahman b. Isaac said: He would transgress two prohibitions, for it is written: 'Which cannot be measured nor numbered'"

Rabbi Jacobson: the way to count is by counting something else, like by Saul, he told the ppl to bring each one a sheep, they counted the sheep & that way they knew the number--- or as in the Torah, the census was taken by the each one giving half shekel - then counting the coins.

Rabbi Jacobson: when we count ppl for a Minyan we count by using a verse that has 10 words, e.g.3  "hoshiah et amecha..." "Save your people..."

Jason23: Thanks Rabbi

Rabbi Jacobson: You're welcome, come again if you have any more questions

All names, places, and identifying information have been changed or deleted in order to protect the privacy of the questioners. In order to preserve authenticity, the chat sessions have been posted with a minimum of editing. Please excuse typographical errors, missing punctuation, and/or grammatical mistakes which naturally occur in the course of informal chat sessions.

Footnotes

  • 1. Yoma 22b.
  • 2. Hosea II, 1. "Cannot be numbered" is interpreted-and grammatically there is no solid objection as "should not, must not be numbered", thus a positive statement becomes a prohibition. The assumption is justified that here again the ultimate basis of the prohibition is not this passage, but the passage is a peg on which to hang the idea. There are more obvious sources of the prohibition known to the disputants.
  • 3. Psalms 28:9.

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Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Isaac
Second of the three Jewish Patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah. Lived in Canaan (Israel); b. 1712 BCE, d. 1532 BCE.
Saul
First king of Israel, anointed by the prophet Samuel in 878 BCE. Was dethroned because he failed to carry out G-d's command, and the royal crown was transferred to King David and his descendents.
shekel
(pl. Shekalim) Currency used in ancient Israel. [Modern Israeli currency also carries the same name.]
Minyan
A quorum consisting of ten adult male Jews. A minyan is necessary to recite the kaddish or to publicly read from the Torah scroll.