Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Ki Tisa - 5776

My friends,

Ki Tisa, this week's Parasha, begins with instructions to Moses on the method to use when taking a census of the Israelites. Rather than counting heads, Moses is told to collect one-half Shekel from each man age twenty years and over. When the Shekalim are counted, he will have the number of men who will be available when organizing an army to conquer the Promised Land.

Here are two questions:

  1. Why not take a census by counting the people?
  2. If that is a way to raise some money, why not ask for a full Shekel? Since it's only once a year, if we assume that everyone can afford 1/2 a Shekel, they probably can also afford a full Shekel.

The traditional answer is that we do not count heads because that can lead to 'Ayin Harah', the evil eye, like someone saying, "Wow! There are so many Jews!" Another answer can be that counting heads does not demand anything from the person being counted. However, when you ask that person to contribute, even a half-Shekel, that person is active in the census, and it shows that he can be counted on, as he brought his half-shekel as if to say, "Count me in."

The reason we only ask for a half-shekel is to show our dependency on others. Our contribution will never be sufficient, and will always need the other half from another person to make it whole.

This is an important time in our history. In order to be counted, we need to make our voices heard and we need to help financially wherever possible. Our efforts have meaning and make an impact when we join with others.

Whenever you can, fight the BDS movement. These are people who want to boycott and isolate Israel, another form of antisemitism. Let us raise our voices and be heard wherever and whenever such groups bring their hateful actions to our community.

Shabbat Shalom,