(c) 2000 Dr Hendel; 1st appeared in Torah Forum (c) Project Genesis

Date: Sun, 7 May 2000 21:39:25 -0400 (EDT)
From: Russell Hendel <  rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu>
Subject: Re: Counting

Why is there a prohibition of counting people? Why is it preferred to
count"not one not two not three". Isn't this the same as counting one,
two, three?

The REASON for the law is that G-d sends blessings in things that are not
counted. This is plausible if your business or field is fixed then eg if
you only expect 5% per year you are less likely to pray for 6% (and 'mean
it'); you are less likely to try harder etc.  Thus avoiding counting is a
SYMBOLIC AFFIRMATION that we prefer NOT to count things (so that G-d can
send a blessing).

But given that all we want is a SYMBOLIC AFFIRMATION it follows that it
**is** better to say "not one, not two, not three" then "one two three".
Indeed, since this is an unconventional form, we symbolically create
distance with counting. This also affirms what Michael Hamm said: "One
two/Uno Dos" are numbers while "Not one Not two" or "Hoshaya eth amechah"
is not. While meaning-wise there isn't much difference, symbolically to use
non conventional words to count creates the desired symbolic affirmation.

Finally I should mention the famous story in Samuel 2, Chapter 24 in which
there was a severe punishment for obtaining a census. Such activities seeks
to PRESERVE what we have and leave room for newness.

Russell Hendel; RHendel@Towson.edu
Moderator Rashi is Simple, http://www.shamash.org/rashi/