Please feel free to print this out and read it on Shabbos Kodesh, just please not during Tefilah.
In the beginning of this week’s Parsha we learn about the census of the Jewish people. “Ki Sisa Es Rosh Bnei Yisrael LiFkudeihem” – When you tally up the Jewish people in accordance with their numbers… Everyone who passes through the count shall give a Machatzis HaShekel, one half of a Shekel coin. And who is obligated in the count? MiBen Esrim Shanah VaMala - all people over the age of twenty. And what is the result of such a tally? V’Lo Yihiyeh Bahem Negef - Plague will not come upon the Jewish people.
The command to calculate the census was in essence a command to solidify the Jewish people as a national entity. A whole unit whose parts were all accounted for. From this fact arises the possibility to learn about the fundamentals that make the Jewish people a nation and where that brings us. And if we fully transform the individuals into a living, breathing unit, then we can receive the blessing of V’Lo Yihiyeh Bahem Negef. Let’s try to understand how this is so.
The language used for the tally is ‘Ki Sisa’ When you tally, or count. It’s brought down that the root of this word comes from the root which means to lift up, or possibly is rooted in Si (pronounced See) which means a Record High. What emerges from this is that Ki Sisa Es Rosh Bnei Yisrael literally means “When you lift up the heads of the Jewish people.”
When do you tell someone to lift up his or her head? “Pick your chin up ; it’s going to be alright.” We lift someone’s head to give them Chizuk, give them inner-strength, an emotional boost, a sense of pride. Through what ever the goal of the census is – Hashem is commanding Moshe to inspire the people.
In his Sefer Binayahu, the Ben Ish Chai brings this concept the next step forward. He points out two connected references to an uplifted spiritual unity within the Jewish people within the Passuk.
The first is the word he analyzes is “Rosh” – meaning head (the head being a parable here for purpose and direction). Rosh, he says is the Roshei Teivos (acronym) for Shishim Rubah Osiyos - Six-Hundred-Thousand Letters. What are the six-hundred-thousand letters? Chazal tell us in many places that there are six-hundred-thousand root letters that make up the Torah. Thus the Shishim Rubah Osiyos - the Torah is the Rosh, the top priority, the head, the leading cause of Jewish unity.
The second reference to the same concept is in the word Yisrael. He brings from Chazal that Yisrael is also an acronym for the ‘full-version’ of the previously mentioned phrase, “Yesh Shishim Rubah Osiyos LaTorah” – ‘The Torah is comprised of Six-Hundred-Thousand letters.
But why is this fact contained in the word Yisrael? The answer is the famous line from the Zohar, that Yisrael V’Oraisa Kula Chad - The Torah and the Jewish people are one inseparable entity. And for that reason, the famous Kabalistic concept that there are Six-Hundred-Thousand root souls of the Jewish people is completely parallel to the letters of the Torah. Each Jewish soul is an expression of one letter in the Torah. Each Jew represents the coming into fruition of another detail in the larger picture of the Jewish goal – which is bringing Ratzon Hashem (the Torah) to the entire world - Tikkun Olam.
The goal of the census is to connect this concept of Rosh - the Torah, to Yisrael, the manifestation of the Torah’s message in the world. When the concept of the Shishim Rubah Osiyos finds it’s context with in the Roshei Teivos of Yisrael - when each Jew, finds his or her unique role, identifying with their unique place in the world which stems from their letter in the Torah – only then will the count be L’Fkudeihem, which comes from the word Tafkid, purpose, role, destiny.
And as we know, if a Torah is missing a single letter, the whole thing is invalidated, and so too with the Jewish people’s national mission. We each have our unique niche in Avodas Hashem, and we also share the common goal of spreading the Knowledge of God. This means that I am not only living on an island with my “Letter”, it means that I have my friends for inspiration and means that it’s my responsibility to awaken others to their calling as well.
And this itself is the encouragement of Ki Sisa Es Rosh Bnei Yisrael. The essence of the Jewish people’s inspiration comes from the fact that all of these Shishim Rubah Osiyos make up one whole and all these individuals together create a community which is designed to support all of it’s members.
The words of the Ba’al HaTurim will bring us to the next level. He points out that the Sofei Teivos (acronym from the final letters in a word) of the phrase Ben Esrim Shanah spell the word Haman, the antagonist of the Purim-story.
He explains that this is a reference to the Gemara in Messeches Megilah (13b) that tells us that Hashem knew full well that Haman would try to buy the destruction of the Jewish people by paying off Achashveirosh, so Hashem pre-empted Haman’s Shkalim with the Shkalim donated in this week’s Parsha (Tosfos does the equation to show that the two sums were in fact equal).
But we need to understand, what is the significance of the Machatzis HaShekel that it was able to over-power the force of Haman’s wicked decree?
The Sefer Amudei Hod explains that the answer comes from the essence of what the Machatzis HaShekel is all about. Each person was commanded to bring specifically a half of a Shekel, not a whole coin, to signify the dependence of each Jew on every other. No person alone was able to donate a full unit to the cause, rather each Jew was totally reliant on another Jew to fill his coin. The Machatzis HaShekel is the theme of Achdus - Jewish unity.
Amalek, the forbearer to Haman, is the opposite. They are power of Pirud - separation and disassociation. The Passuk says about them that they are the ones Asher Karcha BaDerech, They happened upon, they interrupted the Jewish people on the way. Derech, a path, is a complete route from A to B. Amalek seeks to break up that wholesomeness.
This was exactly how Haman convinced Achashveirosh (and the Heavenly Court) to lay down the decree to destroy the Jewish people. “Yeshno Am Echad Mifuzar U’Miphurad” There is a nation, a dispersed and scattered - they have no unity - divided and conquerable. And to bring ensure his control, Haman bribed Achashveirosh with money, but that power was over come by the money that we gave, in the form of the Machatzis HaShekel - the symbol and the expression of our Achdus. And through that we were saved from Haman, thereby fulfilling the Passuk in our Parsha, V’Lo Yihiyeh Bahem Negef - Plague will not come upon the Jewish people.
The Sfas Emes and Rebbe Shlomo Alkabetz explain that the turning point in the Megilah also comes from this same point. Ester. After Haman initiates and decrees doom over the Jews, Ester commands Mordechai, “Lech Knos Kol HaYehudim” Go an assemble all of the Jewish people. Bring them together. Unify them.
From that unity came the prayers which empowered Ester to go into see Achashverosh, which arranged the party, which led to Haman’s demise and the salvation of the Jewish people.
From the census of Am Yisrael and the MAchatzis HaShekel we learn that the Jewish people are only able to remain on this earth and carry out their mission if there is Achdus. Only when the Rosh is connected to Yisrael will we have the inspiration and the drive to energize the universe with Ratzon Hashem. And when there is Achdus, we receive the blessing of V’Lo Yihiyeh Bahem Negef - Plague will not come upon the Jewish people.
We should be Zocheh to live a life where we are constantly bringing all the Jewish within our reach closer to one another. We should be Zocheh to have the sensitivity to Daven for the individuals who make up Klal Yisrael. If we do there is no doubt that we will live lives of Shleimus and Simcha moving closer to HaKadosh Baruch Hu and ultimately to the Geulah Sheleimah!