This fourth book of the Torah starts with the instructions to count the Children of Israel. The strange language the Torah uses to instruct to request this count is SE’U ET ROSH KOL ADAT BNEI YISRAEL. (Num. 1,2) Translated literally it means, “Count the heads of the Children of Israel.” Why does it not simply say “Count the bodies of the Children of Israel”?
An answer could be that when counting other people the main purpose is to see how many individuals there are. If that is the reason for counting then one counts bodies. In counting Jews, however, the purpose is not merely to see how many Jewish individuals there are. We know Jews have never been great in numbers. As a matter of fact the Torah itself says that we were chosen, not because of our numbers, LO MERUBCHEM, “…not because you are numerous…”. (Deut. 7,7)
In counting Jews the main intention is to see how much intellectual ability there is among them. Jews have always maintained their existence, not by might but because of their ability intellectually to ride the wave of civilization and be one step ahead of the rest of the world. That is why the counting refers to the head, the mind – intellectual ability and strength.