A student of mine recently gave me a book about the great sage, Rabbi Yitzchok Scheiner, zt”l— rosh yeshiva of Kamenitz in Eretz Yisrael—who passed away two years ago. The book quotes a conversation Rabbi Scheiner had with a student of his learning in a yeshiva in America who was struggling with shidduchim (dating). Rabbi Scheiner told him, “Chin up, no moping, be happy!”
Rabbi Scheiner sensed that the boy’s source of unhappiness was his lack of self-confidence. He needed an attitude adjustment to achieve success. Rabbi Scheiner’s advice was to keep your head up, have a healthy sense of self-esteem and, then, you won’t let occasional rejections get you down.
This Shabbos has a special maftir reading known as “Parshas Shekalim”—found in Parshas Ki Sisa—which recounts a one-time campaign to collect a half-shekel from each of Bnei Yisrael. These were utilized to form the silver adanim (sockets) which were used for the base of the Mishkan. Reading the parsha of Shekalim expresses our hope and desire for the Beis Hamikdash to be rebuilt. Yet, how is Parshas Shekalim necessary and relevant in our time?
There is a fascinating midrash which relates that Moshe told Hashem he’s worried that the Jewish nation will not remember him. Hashem responds, “I promise you that every time they read Parshas Shekalim, you will be present to lift their heads.” This is indicated by the words “ki sisa—when you will raise,” i.e., in the future.
But, is it possible that Moshe—who taught the Torah to klal Yisrael—could be forgotten? Every time someone learns a pasuk in Chumash, or any bit of Torah, it’s all due to Moshe Rabbeinu. “Moshe emes v’toraso emes—Moshe is true and his Torah is true.” So, what’s this midrash about Moshe only being remembered by his “lifting up” of their heads?
A typical teacher can teach, but a truly effective teacher has to give his students the feeling that he believes in them and that they are special.
Moshe is referred to as “Moshe Rabbeinu”—Moshe, our teacher. Moshe’s greatness wasn’t just that he was the conduit for the Torah given from Hashem to klal Yisrael. Moshe was every Jew’s rebbi, as he made each Jew feel special, with a personal connection to the Torah.
Rav Gedalia Schorr explains that Moshe was not worried that klal Yisrael would forget that he taught the Torah. His concern was that they would forget that Moshe believed that each person had their own unique role with regard to the Torah—both in terms of learning and teaching Torah—and in connecting and causing others to connect to Hashem through the Torah. Losing this belief in the Torah’s centrality in one’s life could cause a person’s self-confidence to plummet.
The word “Yisrael” is an acronym for: “Yesh shishim ribo osiyos l’Torah—there are 600,000 letters in the Torah,” corresponding to the number of Jews at Har Sinai. Each person had a letter in the Torah representing their unique portion in the Torah. As such, Hashem was promising that when klal Yisrael reads Parshas Shekalim, Moshe’s spirit will descend to lift each person’s chin. Each person, then, would be imbued with a sense of importance and uniqueness.
This message is specifically brought out with Parshas Shekalim. Each Jew had to donate half a shekel. The rich person could not give a larger amount, nor could the poor individual donate less. Each person was critical and important in providing his donation; everyone had an equal role. As the Chiddushei HaRim says, each Jew was lifted in this donation process—making everyone feel important.
Each morning, we recite a bracha in Shacharis, “Zokef kefufim—Hashem straightens the bent.” We thank Hashem for granting us a physically healthy posture. This also includes thanking Hashem for giving us an emotionally healthy posture. Moshe’s lesson lives on when a rebbi makes his students believe in themselves. And we—as parents, teachers and members of a Jewish community—have to convey that sense of self-importance when relating to our children, students and friends.
Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch, where he leads a multi-level Gemara learning program. PTI has attracted adult Jews of all ages from all over northern New Jersey for its learning programs. Fees are not charged, but contributions are always welcome. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and its Torah classes, visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.