"Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting, on the first of the second month, in the second year after their exodus from the land of Egypt, saying. 'Take a census of the entire assembly of the Children of Israel according to their families, according to their fathers' household, by number of the names, every male according to their head count'" (Bemidbar 1:1-2).
Rashi brings the explanation of the Sages that because Hashem loves the Jewish Nation He counts them from time to time.
There are some people who would foolishly believe that Hashem actually hates us, G-d forbid. This, they think, is the reason that He restricted us from indulging in so many enjoyable things and instructed us to do so many things that are very difficult to perform.
The truth, of course, is just the opposite. If someone wants to eat something sweet which is harmful to his health and someone else prevents him from doing so, is that person friend or foe? Most children don't appreciate the compassion and concern their parents have for them and resent them instead.
But wise and understanding people will realize that their friends, parents and, most of all, Hashem, have only their best interests in mind and want them to be as happy as possible - in this world and in the World-to-Come.
In the midst of a Shabbos meal, one of my daughters suddenly declared, totally on her own, "The non-religious are pitiable." When I asked her why, she explained. "They don't know how beautiful Shabbos is. We sit together with the family, sing songs and listen to your wonderful stories. To them it's just another day of work. What a shame."
When I lived in Monsey, New York, I knew a Doctor Mendelson who suddenly declared that he is becoming religious. When I asked him why, he explained that as a boy he had decided that he wanted to be as happy as possible. In order to achieve this goal he had decided that he needed three things: a beautiful home; a large swimming pool and a very fancy car. He came to the conclusion that he would be best able to acquire these expensive items if he were to be a doctor. With this in mind, he attended medical school and got his proper degrees. Before long he had his home, his pool and his car. And, guess what - he was extremely happy! He had accomplished his goals at a young age and he totally enjoyed life.
Dr. Mendelson's office, in Rockland County, was situated in the midst of the Torah and Chassidic communities of Monsey, Vizhnitz and New Square. Many families in these communities dedicate their lives to Torah; having chosen to give preference to the comforts of the next world over those of this one. Consequently, many patients are eligible for Government help in the form of Medicade. Dr. Mendelson accepted Medicade and came into contact with many of these people daily. Before long, he began to feel very uncomfortable. Here were people who did not even own their own homes, had no cars and hardly ever saw a swimming pool; yet they were exceedingly happier than he was. Even when they were sick, they visited his office with their many children, all of whom were vibrant with joy and a happiness which he was not familiar with and was even jealous of.
At the beginning, Dr. Medelson thought that perhaps it was only a few of the group and that maybe they were the exceptions, not the rule. But as he met more of them, day by day, he realized that there was something that was blessing these poor people with the kind of happiness he had always wanted and thought he had achieved but, apparently, had not. He began to question each and every patient about his or her lifestyle. He ascertained that they did not have an abundance of wealth hidden away anywhere. Finally he asked them straight out, "If so, what is it, then, that makes you so happy?" To his amazement, every one of them had the same answers. Religion; Spirituality; Torah; being close to Hashem; looking forward to Moshiach and the World-to-Come; real "Yiddishe nachas" from their children and grandchildren. All of these filled them with a joy that was surreal; way and beyond the simple, materialistic, mundane type of happiness he was familiar with.
For the first time in his life, Dr. Mendelson had trouble sleeping at night. He had decided, long ago, that he would do whatever it takes to achieve the ultimate happiness. Now he realized that there were others who had what he had always wanted. He tossed and turned and wrestled with the Truth. But, in the end, the Truth triumphed. He knew that, for his own benefit, in order to really get that which he had always coveted, he had no choice. The next day he came to his office and told every one of his patients, including me, that he had decided to become religious. He began to keep Shabbos, to eat only kosher, to learn Torah and to observe mitzvahs to the best of his ability. Within a short period of time, Dr. Mendelson shared in the effervescent joy his religious patients had and he knew that, finally, he had accomplished what he had started out to achieve, so long ago.