In the summer of 1944, the Nazis were already on the defensive, as Allied forces led by the United States, Great Britain, and Russia continued their push into Europe, liberating countries one by one. As a result, the Germans were constantly disbanding satellite work and concentration camps and shipping the inmates off to larger camps like Auschwitz, Majdanek, and Mauthausen. Reb Yosef Friedenson z”l was then a young man interned in the Starachowitz slave labor camp, and when the camp was shut down, he was shipped to Auschwitz-Birkenau. He arrived on the morning of Tisha B’av 1944, and was thrown into the garish existence and nightmare that defined Auschwitz.

Rashi writes: “Our Rabbis said (in the Sifrei) that the people cried in the desert over the matter of families, over the relationships that had become forbidden to them.” In the desert, there occurred a general breakdown in morality that became pervasive throughout the camp of B’nei Yisrael. Although the pasuk states that the people complained about a lack of meat to consume, many commentators infer that their real grievance was of a much more sinister and promiscuous variety, to which “the anger of Hashem flared greatly, and in the eyes of Moshe it was bad.”

A religious Jew by the name of David Gellis was on a business trip to Chicago. He spent an entire week involved in business and upon its conclusion, he grabbed an afternoon flight on Friday back to New York. Shabbos was late and he figured he had enough time to make it home once he landed in New York before the z’man. Unfortunately, right from the start, he realized there was a problem with the flight. Although all the passengers had boarded, the plane had still not budged from the terminal. A half hour went by and suddenly the plane began to move. David relaxed a bit as he wasn’t too far behind schedule. But then, he looked out the window and saw that his plane, which had begun to taxi toward the runway, was now headed right back to the terminal, right back to where it had started. The minutes ticked by and soon, the flight was a full hour behind schedule. David was beginning to sweat as he realized he might not make it back home in time for Shabbos.

The following story was brought to light by Rabbi Yerachmiel Tilles, associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, who received it from Chaim Berkowitz of Tzefas, who heard it from Yosef Hurwitz of Miami, who got it from the protagonist’s family. A young man named Avremel Greenbaum was a youth during the Holocaust, and although he managed to survive, he lost his entire family in the conflagration. Soon after the war, he immigrated to the United States and renounced his religion. He wanted nothing more to do with Judaism. He was no longer Avremel Greenbaum; he now called himself Aaron Green. Following opportunity, he moved to Alabama and happened to marry a Jewish woman there. They started a family and named their oldest son Jeffrey. They raised him devoid of religion and Jewish observance.

The Gemara cites the Biblical source for the requirement of ten men to complete a minyan. Moshe Rabbeinu sent spies to scout out the Land of Canaan. Ten of them returned and issued a report concluding that it was not a conquerable land. Hashem was disappointed with their lack of faith in His abilities and tells Moshe and Aharon: “How long will this evil ‘assembly’ provoke to complain against Me?” From here it is deduced that an “assembly” is comprised of ten men. In Parshas Kedoshim, the posuk states: “I shall be sanctified among the children of Israel.” We explain the word ‘among’ here by reference to its use in another place: “Separate yourselves from ‘among’ this assembly.” Since the term “assembly” in our posuk refers to the ten spies, so too, the former posuk, “You shall be holy,” refers to an “assembly” -  in other words, a “minyan” of ten.

Sefer BaMidbar begins with Hashem commanding Moshe Rabbeinu to count the Jewish people: in essence, to conduct a census of the entire nation. For this reason, as well, Sefer BaMidbar is also referred to as “Sefer HaP’kudim” or “Numbers” as it is known in English. Rashi comments that Hashem counts the Jewish people many times in the Torah, but not because He does not know their full amount, chas v’shalom. Obviously, Hashem does not demand a census because He requires an exact count. Rather, the act of counting is demanded because of the incredible love Hashem has for us and He wishes to display this love by continuously enumerating our ranks. The Ibn Ezra adds a short yet poignant comment: Hashem only counts B’nei Yisrael, to the exclusion of the Eirev Rav, those people who joined our nation after the Exodus from Egypt, since only B’nei Yisrael are beloved in His eyes – not those rabble rousers who bring His people to sin.