Torah Portion Ki Tisa

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It’s the day after Purim and erev Shabbos, a beautiful intersection of a holiday and Shabbos. The week kind of got away from me so, before sitting down to pen my weekly blog, I really didn’t know what I was going to write about.

As I was perusing the Internet, checking out sites about the parsha, an article caught my eye in Forward.  The title does not do it justice: How A Hasidic Woman Changed My Life in a Hospital Waiting Room. After reading the article, I remembered that, when I cleaned out the papers in my ‘office,’ a small section of my kitchen, I came across an article from a few years ago by Rabbi Yossi Jacobson. (As an aside, my friend Tzippy, in Rosh Pina near Tzfat in Israel, really does call her kitchen her office.)

As I keep reminding myself, there is no such thing as ‘it just happened.’ So, the fact that the article was about this week’s Torah portion made me shake my head. G-d just knows when I need to hear something, and He finds a way of ensuring it happens.

In essence, a modern Orthodox woman, the wife of a doctor on call on Shabbos, went to meet her husband to walk home with him. She bundled her two children into her double stroller and walked the forty blocks to the hospital. The weather changed en route, and she was caught in a storm. By the time she reached the hospital, ‘bad mood’ would describe her state of mind. Read the article to find out the rest.

After I finished that article, I read Jacobson’s piece, Searching for Self-Esteem. And then it hit me: just as Purim is intertwined with Shabbos, so too was the article in Forward intertwined with Jacobson’s article. Both deal with self-esteem, something with which I’m pretty sure we all, at least sometimes, struggle.

Rabbi Jacobson summed it up well. On our own, as individuals, we sometimes think to ourselves: in the grand scheme of things, who am I? Along comes the Torah, in this week’s portion, and tells us something completely different.

This week we read how G-d told Moses how to count the Jewish people. Jews are not counted person by person. Rather, every member of the community contributes a coin for charity. The coins are then counted to determine how many people contributed. Why is the counting done this way?

First, the Torah is submitting that we are not only counted based on who we are. (It is well known that as Jews we constitute less than one percent of society.) Our value and worth are also measured by how we interact with others – by the impact we make in our four cubits.

That is our collective. Individually, as Jews, we each have a spark of the Divine in our soul. We have, therefore, been literally empowered to contribute something of our own to the world –something that no one else can do – a notion that certainly boosts one’s self-esteem. Reaching out to someone, even if it’s just to say hello with a smile, cannot be ‘counted.’  It stands above counting.

Which brings me back to the story in Forward. Read it. The lessons the author took from her experience speak to everyone – especially the second, that human-to-human connections are irreplaceable.

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