Our Parsha describes the detailed census of the Jewish people in the desert. Indeed, for this reason the English name for the sefer Bamidbar is "numbers". Actually counting Jews directly is forbidden, and for this reason the Ramban suggests that the census for this Parsha was carried out by counting half-shekels donated by each man. The Torah first hints at the problem -"When you take the sum of the children of Israel according to their counting, then each man will give atonement for his soul when you count them; then there will be no plague as you count them." (Shemos 30:12)
And even counting indirectly is permitted only for the purpose of a mitzvah. For no purpose at all, counting is forbidden, and for this reason King David was punished for arranging a census merely "so that I may know the number of people" (Shmuel II 24:2) - although he had not been punished for numbering his soldiers, which is necessary for making war (Shmuel II 18:1).
This idea makes its way into every day Halacha in the prohibition of counting men for a Minyan. This prohibition emphasizes the uniqueness of each human being. A persons unique qualities can never be reduced to some numerical quantity. So two human beings is not in any way meaningful sense "twice as much" as one. There is a bit of a paradox involved, because ultimately we are interested in the number of people. No matter how unique each individual is, it takes a certain number of men to man a tank, and ten adult Jewish men constitute a Minyan. Counting people directly fails to take account of each persons uniqueness: refraining altogether from counting fails to acknowledge the importance of sheer numbers. The indirect counting which we affirm for a mitzvah perfectly balances the two aspects.
The most common way of calculating a Minyan is to count according to the words in scriptural verse (usually Tehillim 28:9). This is a very beautiful way, because each word in a sentence is unique and without it the sentence would lose its meaning.

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