Moshe was told to take a census of the Bnei Israel. He was to do so in a strange manner. שְׂאוּ אֶת רֹאשׁ כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם, “Take a census of the entire assembly of Bnei Israel according to the families of their paternal household…”. (Num. 1,2) If the purpose of the census was to know how many men were available to constitute an army that would be able to fight and protect the people in their journeys towards the Promised Land, why was it necessary to identify them according to their families?
The answer may be very significant. True, the reason for counting the people was to know how big a force there was able to counter any and every conflict that may face them in the future. That does not mean, however, that the individuals constituting the army are just numbers.
Each individual must be identified according to his family. Each person is not just another peg in the army. Each individual is a person with family, with friends, with ambitions, with a past and hopefully with a bright future. The army is not only a fighting machine but consists of individuals with hopes and dreams and a determined ambition for the future.
That is why Moshe had to be involved and had to be made aware of the person’s family connection. It was to be a personal army where each individual was a personality, not merely a cog in the wheel.