One of the challenges of reading or listening to parshat bamidbar is that the endless lists of numbers seem boring and repetitive. What can we do to change our experience?
Rashi at the beginning of the Parsha says: “Because of His love for them He counts them repeatedly. When they left Egypt — He counted them. When they fell to the golden calf — He counted them to know the remnant. When He came to rest the Shechina among them — He counted them. On the first of Nisan the Mishkan was raised and on the first of Iyar He counted them”
We are enjoined to imitate God’s ways. God is described as loving the Jewish people in order to teach us to also love the Jewish people. Paying attention to these numbers can be a method to instill the love of the Jewish people in our hearts. We enjoy paying attention to the details of things we value, endlessly reviewing them (for example, my son and his Pokemon cards). By reading this Parsha attentively we practice spending time with the ‘boring’ facts of the Jewish people. And with practice we can hopefully transfer the same attitude to the details of the joys and sadnesses of the Jewish people in our own time. Acting like a lover can bring us to actually love.