As a rule, nothing counted or measured attracts blessing. This rule applies, however, only when the numbering or measurement is intrinsically physical, meaning part of this material world. Such numbers do not bode well, since by their very definition, they stress individuality and separateness, each item being counted separately.

A number also suggests limitation. Even if we say, "The number of the children of Israel will be as the sands of the beaches of the sea" (Gen. 22:17), an apparent blessing, the presumption still is that ultimately, this is a limitation, since the number is finite. In the World to Come, numbering does not entail finitude…

However, in the context of the spiritual world, a number does not imply limitation. On the contrary, once something is numbered it will have an infinite existence, usually on an ascending level; an object that is numbered advances towards ever-greater achievements.

This is why the prophet predicts of the Jewish people, "The number of the people of Israel will be like the sand of the sea that can be neither measured nor counted" (Hosea 2:1). We understand this verse as pointing out the difference between numbering something in this world, and that of numbering something in the World to Come. In the World to Come, numbering does not entail finitude. This is true even though the enumeration does take place, as is evident from the words "cannot be counted", which suggest that somebody is indeed attempting to count.

The message, though, is that the count cannot be completed - it cannot be finalized. This is also what the Rabbis may have meant when they said that the Hebrew word "to count", "mispar", refers to a time when Israel performs the will of G‑d, while "cannot be counted", in Hebrew "lo yisofer", refers to a time when Israel fails to do so (Yoma 22). When Israel does not perform the will of G‑d, their cleaving to this physical material world is the reason. When they do perform the will of their Maker, however, even their enumeration does not constitute something finite, something that imposes limitations on their development. Then it is not something negative. On the contrary, the counting is very beneficial.

[Adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]