Make Yourself Count

Posted on February 15, 2023

By Rabbi Michael Schwab.


Believe it or not this Shabbat we mark Shabbat Shekalim, the first of four special Shabbatot as we prepare for Passover.   Based on a law in the Mishnah, as we enter the month before Passover occurs, we are each asked to make donations to the synagogue and other Jewish institutions to ensure their health and vitality so that Passover (Biblically the first holiday of the year) can be celebrated properly, as well as all of the subsequent festivals to follow.  In Torah times, each male over 20 was to give a half-shekel to contribute to this cause.  While there are other times when those with more were asked to give more, at this moment, when we are celebrating our freedom as a people and our formation as a nation, everyone was to be seen as equal contributors and of equal importance  In fact, Rambam takes this notion of unity one step further by noting that the reason everyone gave a half shekel was to teach us that no person is complete on their own – we can only attain full spiritual completeness when we are in relationship with others, when we are in a community of shared interest.  This practice reminds us that every one of us has something to offer the community, every one of us counts, and only together can we reach our potential.

Though we don’t follow this custom per se in our own times, the lesson it teaches is still critically important.  Each of us must contribute, for each of us count.  And when we value ourselves, as well as value the contributions of others, we can achieve greatness and more fully fulfill the commandments given to us by Gd.