April 10, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

In Tanach, there are various sources from which we can learn that we shouldn’t count people. We are Hashem’s creations and are more than just a number, so Hashem does not want us to be counted. However, in Parshat Ki Tisa, Hashem tells Moshe, that when He counts Bnei Yisrael, no plague will harm the Jewish people. Not only will no plague occur, but this counting is going to be an atonement for the Jewish people. Well, why is this counting allowed?

Firstly, Bnei Yisrael were not counted by pointing a finger and saying: one, two, three, etc. Bnei Yisrael were counted by their donations of half a shekel. This half shekel allowed Bnei Yisrael to know that they are not just a number. We can understand this idea by asking, What is a shekel? A shekel is money, meaning it has value. Then why half a shekel? It is to show Bnei Yisrael that they are not being counted for the sake of counting, but because they are each a part of something bigger. Each person is part of a whole nation and is a valuable part of that nation.

To take this idea one step further, we are told הֶֽעָשִׁ֣יר לֹֽא־יַרְבֶּ֗ה וְהַדַּל֙ לֹ֣א יַמְעִ֔יט מִמַּֽחֲצִ֖ית הַשָּׁ֑קֶל (“The rich won’t give more and the poor won’t give less than a half shekel). Why can’t one give more? Wouldn’t that be a good thing? If giving is hard for me, why can’t I give a quarter of a shekel? No you can’t, and it’s not because Hashem doesn’t love donations or doesn’t see the struggle some might have in giving. It is because Hashem wants to show Bnei Yisrael that each one of them is equally special to Him. Each person is valuable and will help to complete Am Yisrael. No mission that anyone has is bigger or smaller than another’s mission. Hashem is telling us that to improve the world and for the Jewish people to be complete, Ineed every one of you!

I wish you all to recognize your special value in Am Yisrael and to realize that you are a part of something bigger, the Jewish people.


Shira Sedek is a passionate educator currently working toward a master’s degree at Azrieli Graduate School of Jewish Education and Administration.

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