Rabbi Yitzhak opened [his discourse] with: "G‑d has been mindful of us; He will bless us; He will bless the house..." (Psalms 115:12) "G‑d has been mindful of us [in Hebrew, "Zecharanu"]; He will bless us," refers to the men ['Zecharanu' can also be interpreted as Zecharim Shelanu, meaning "our men"] who [alone] were included in the count of the desert, whom G‑d blesses and to whom He adds more each time.1

Come and see: he who speaks in praise of his friend, of his children, or of his money or wealth, must also bless Him and acknowledge those blessings. From where do we learn this? From Moses, since it is written: "Behold, you are this day like the stars of heaven for multitude." And afterwards, what does he say? "The L-rd, the G‑d of your fathers, shall make you a thousand times many more than you are..." (Deut. 1:10-11) There are two blessings here. One is the "The L-rd, the G‑d of your fathers shall add upon you..." That is one, and the one following that is, "and bless you, as He has promised you"; he promised to acknowledge them and add blessings, benedictions upon those benedictions!

And if he counts the praises of his friend but does not give thanks for these benedictions, he will be punished first [before his friend] because of this, from Above. And if he blesses him, he [who blesses] will be blessed from Above. And he should bless him with a good eye and not with an evil eye. And in all things, G‑d wishes to have the blessings given with a good heart. And since when one blesses his friend, G‑d wishes one to bless with a good eye and a good heart, when one gives grace to G‑d most certainly it must be in good eye, and with a good and loving heart. Therefore: "And you shall love the L-rd your G‑d with all your heart." (Deut. 6:5)

Come and see: it has been established that the blessing of Above does not rest on something that has been counted. You may question: how could they have counted Israel? Rather, they took ransom from them [each contributed a half shekel to the sanctuary] as it has been established, and the accounting did not take place until all the ransom was gathered and counted. At first they bless Israel and afterwards they would count the ransom, and they would then bless Israel again. So we find that Israel were blessed in the beginning and at the end, and there was no death amongst them.

Why does death result from counting? Rather, it is because blessing does not rest on what is counted and when the blessing departs [due to their having been counted], the Other Side rests upon it and one could be harmed. Therefore, they took a monetary ransom when counting and thereby remove the threat.

"He will bless the house of Israel..." (Psalms 115:12) These are the women, who were not included in the count. "He will bless the house of Aaron" because they bless the people with a benevolent eye, a good heart, and heartfelt love. "...the house of Aaron...." also the women [the wives of the kohanim] who are [also] blessed by their blessing.

"He will bless those who fear G‑d". These are the Levites, all of whom are blessed because they fear G‑d. It is written, "both small and great" - although they [those younger than 20] were not included in the census [but they were blessed together with their elders].

Come and see: we do not find another counting among Israel by which they received blessings from it as in this count, because this counting was purposely meant for a blessing, and it was meant to perfect the completeness of the worlds [by connecting and uniting the Israelites]. At the place from whence blessings emanate [yesod, and not below in malchut where external forces attach] they were counted, as it is written, "on the first day of the second month" (Num. 1:1), which is [the month called] Ziv [lit. 'brightness'] of the world's blessings, out of which emanates and radiates brightness to the world. Hence this month is called 'Ziv' because the brightness of everything radiates from it. And therefore it is written, "May G‑d...bless you out of Zion." (Psalms 134:3) And it all pertains to the same thing. It is also written, "for there G‑d has commanded the blessing, even life for evermore." (Psalms 133:3)

BeRahamim LeHayyim: What does the above mean to you, and why is it revealed now?

What of that peculiar Jewish folkway never to count people, whether one's children "I have NOT 5 kids" or minyan "NOT 1, NOT 2, NOT 3 or by using the 10-word verse: "Hoshiya et Amecha uVaraich et Nachaltecha , uRaim veNasaim Ad Olam" or the 10-word blessing on bread? All you ever needed to know is given above!

The Zohar emphasizes how blessing cannot rest on a counted thing. Why? Blessing/BaRaCha connotes a "doubling". According to the Nefesh HaHayyim this is hinted by the "doubled" trait of the numerical values of its root letters Beit (2) Reish (200) and Chaf (20). Blessings are about doubling and increase below. One draws from the supernal pond [lit. BeReiChaH] to get a blessing [BeRaChaH].

Counting, on the other hand, involves limitation and tzimtzum/contraction. We certainly do not want to limit and constrict and thus have a severe outlook on people. So a constricted eye glance can increase negativity in the world. We are to judge on the side of merit, not guilt. The take -home lesson is that by judging favorably we stem the power of the Ayin HaRah/Evil Eye {Kinnehora!}, and thus open supernal channels of Divine Flow to descend unimpeded from any external obstacle.

Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
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