The Rebbe says:
1. This week we begin the second book of the Five Books of Moses, the second book in the Torah. The second book in the Torah is called “Shemos – Names”.
2. In the beginning of this week’s Parshah the Torah enumerates for us the names of Ya’akov Avinu and his children which had gone down to Egypt earlier on.
[Earlier on when Yoseph made it known to his brothers that he was in fact their brother and not just an Egyptian ruler he told his family to come down to Egypt and live there. And so it was that Ya’akov (Yoseph’s father) and all his family went down to Egypt].
3. The Rebbe now asks a question (which is asked by many commentaries):
Question: Only two Parshah’s (weeks) earlier in Parshas Vayigash the Torah told us exactly which Jews went down to Egypt (Chapter 46, Verses 8 through 27). So if the Torah already told us the names of the Jews that went down to Egypt, why does the Torah again enumerate which Jews went down to Egypt?
We know that every single word and letter in the Torah is precious and exact. In fact our Sages learn out many Laws in Judaism from one letter! If so, why would the Torah repeat something it has already told us?
4. The Rebbe now begins to answer our question which is based on a Midrash (a major collection of homilies and commentaries on the Torah written by Rabbi Oshiah Rabah):
A) Jewish Law tells us that “something which is counted is never nullified or lost” (see Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De’ah Chapter 110, Law 1). This means that since certain things are special to you and therefore you count each one, they are never nullified or lost.
[Let’s take food as an example: If for example some non-Kosher rice fall into a huge pot of Kosher food, the non-Kosher rice is nullified to the amount of Kosher food and the whole pot is Kosher. This is because you do not count grains of rice obviously. However if for example a non-Kosher piece of steak fell into a Kosher pot, no matter how massive the Kosher pot may be, the non-Kosher steak is not nullified to the Kosher food and therefore the whole pot is not Kosher. This is because you do count each piece of steak].
B) There is also a law that something which has a specific name is never lost or forgotten (see Mishnayos Pe’ah, Chapter 7, Mishnah 1).
[The law is that when one is harvesting his field and takes away all his bundles but forgets a few bundles, he must leave the bundles there for the poor people. However if a certain tree has an unusual quality or characteristic and therefore the owner had a name for it, the bundles from that tree are never considered forgotten and therefore they are not the poor people’s property. (This is called Shik’chah)].
5. The Rebbe now concludes the answer:
Hashem counted and named each Jew because we are so precious to Him (like the Jewish law regarding something precious which is therefore counted). And once we are counted and named we become something which is never nullified or forgotten (like the Jewish law that something which is counted is never nullified or lost). Therefore even though a terrible exile was about to begin in Egypt the Jews could not be nullified or lost and Hashem would not forget about us.
Now we understand why Hashem counted us again in our Parshah:
1) Hashem wanted to make sure that even the horrible pain and suffering in exile could not break (nullify) the Jewish nation.
2) Hashem wanted us to know that He never forgets about us.
6. The powerful lessons for us:
1) Hashem never forgets about us. Sometimes it may look like we are (God forbid) forgotten, but this is only externally. Really Hashem has his eyes on us from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.
2) We have the power to overcome all hardships that exile throws at us. We are a nation which can never be nullified or lost!
Translated and adapted by Shalom Goldberg. Taken from Likutei Sichos Chelek Gimmel, 1st Sicha.