Rabbi Isaac Herzog wrote the following in an essay published in 1929:
We have always been a numerically small people....When we bear this fact in mind, it may be relatively easy for us to establish that Jews have contributed as much to the sum total of scientific knowledge as could reasonably be expected from one, numerically small, people. Yet when all has been said, there can be but little doubt that, under more favorable conditions and circumstances, the total Jewish contribution would have been far richer in content and far higher in value than it actually has been. (Judaism: Law and Ethics, Pages 150-151)The last half-century has proved Rabbi Herzog quite correct in his assessment. Under favorable conditions and circumstances, both in Israel and in the West, Jews have written books without end. But can we do better?
Earlier this month, the United Nations revised its world population projections with some surprising results. If fertility rates remain constant, by the end of this century "Little Israel" may end up with a population of over 24 million! According to one analyst, by 2100, Israel may in fact have more young people ages 15-24 than neighboring countries such as Iran, Turkey, Spain, Italy or Germany. Moreover,"among the military powers in the Middle East, Israel will be the only one with a viable population structure by the middle of this century."
But we of all people should know that numbers are not everything. A motivated few can be more efficient than a listless thousand. This lesson is illustrated by a story in the Book of Samuel.
Towards the end of his life, King David, despite the peace of his realm, decided to conduct a census of the nation in order to create a standing army. 'Strength in numbers," as the saying goes. For this, he was chided by his general, Joab, and later punished by God:
In the words of Joab, 'Let the Lord, your God, add unto the people a hundredfold...but why should my lord, the king, delight in such a thing?' (2 Samuel 24, 3)
To delight in accomplishments, yes! To delight in weddings and births, this we shall do too! But to delight in numbers alone, this we do not do.