Parashas Ki Sissa, Part 2

This week’s parashah begins with the contribution of half-shekels that was used as a mechanism for taking a census of the Jewish People. The Torah states (Shemos 30:2): “Every man shall give Hashem an atonement for his soul when [you] count them, so that there will not be a plague among them when [you] count them.” This directive raises an obvious question: Why does counting Jews put them at risk of a plague?
The Maggid explains that the answer lies in the distinction between the Jewish People as a nation and the Jews as individuals. He draws an analogy with the distinction between a city’s public assets and each citizen’s private assets. There are cases where a city as a public entity is wealthy, while its individual citizens are all poor. This was the situation with the Jewish People in the wilderness. As a unified nation, they were lofty. But as individuals, they were lowly, for they went out of Egypt barren of merit. (Thus, Hashem had to order them to circumcise themselves and swab the blood of the Pesach offering on their doorposts, so that they could merit being saved.)
The Maggid elaborates with another analogy. Suppose that a person buys some beams from two suppliers on credit, builds a magnificent building, and then defaults on payment. As long as the building is whole, the suppliers will refrain from taking back their beams. But if the person takes the building down in order to remodel it, the suppliers will not hesitate to take their beams back. Similarly, so long as we remain a unified people, we are relatively safe, but once we split up into individuals, we enter a state of peril. Thus, when Haman came to Ahachshveirosh with his plan to wipe out the Jews, he noted that they were “scattered and spread out.” The Jews’ disunity put them at risk.
We can now understand the danger that arises when Jews are counted. The act of counting the people, and generating a breakdown of the population according tribes, family clans, and family clan members, splits up the nation and causes each individual to be viewed separately. Since each person as an individual is lacking in merit, putting a spotlight on individuals places each one in peril. Hence, Hashem commanded that, in the process of the count, each man should give a half-shekel as atonement for his soul.
It will be different, however, in the end of days. Then, every single Jew, as an individual, will rise to a lofty level. And hence a count of Jews, rather than being a source of danger, will be a source of glory. We will be like a galaxy of stars, each brilliant in its own right, and all the more splendorous when enumerated. Thus is Hashem’s promise (Hoshea 2:1): “The number of the Children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which is beyond measure and beyond enumeration. And it shall be, that instead of it being said of them, ‘You are not My people,’ it will be said of them, ‘Children of the Living God!’”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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