The Book of Genesis is the book of the creation of the world and the stories of our Forefathers. The Book of Names is the book of the exodus from Egypt, the giving of the Torah and the Tabernacle. The Book of Leviticus is the book of the laws of the sacrifices and of holiness. And the Book of Deuteronomy is the book of Moses’ review of the Torah and the preparations to enter the Land of Israel.
The Book of Numbers may look less central. It relates what happened in-between – the tales of the journey in the desert between the exodus from Egypt and the planes of Moab. But there is something very important specifically in these stories of the journey. Throughout the generations, we have been on a journey. The stories of the Book of Numbers and their rectifications repeat themselves time and again.
An allusion to the centrality of the Book of Numbers is in the Hebrew names of the Five Books of the Torah: Numbers (Bamidbar) = 248, the same numerical value as Abraham. The names of all five books: Breishit Shmot Vayikra Bamidbar Devarim = 10 times Bamidbar !
In Hebrew, The Book of Numbers is called Bamidbar, ‘In the Desert”. It has an additional name: The Book of Counting, because it relates to the counting of the Children of Israel. The Hebrew word for counting, pekidah, also alludes to the intimate relationship between husband and wife (as in the Jewish law, “a man must intimately relate to his wife”). The entire book tells of the tension in the intimate relationship between God and Israel. This tension must be rectified and sweetened to become pekidah (intimate relations), a rectified relationship between God and Israel.