One of the most significant teachings of our Torah is found in way that the census, reported in our weekly Torah portion of Ki Tissa, is described. In Hebrew, the words Ki Tissa may be translated as: “When you count [the children of Israel]” or as: “When you raise up [the children of Israel].”
The census in our Torah portion was based on the giving of a half shekel – a small sum, symbolic in nature. Each person who gave a half shekel was counted. Rich and poor alike – everyone who felt connected brought a half shekel in order to be counted.
When we give something, no matter how small an amount, we are declaring that we count. When we each give a half shekel, we are noting that our presence is incomplete without the other half! We are acknowledging that we benefit from listening to and from learning from others who are equally passionate about being counted. And, we are maximizing our communal strength by including all those who would like to be a part of our holy community!
It is this kind of inclusive communal mindset that allows us not only to count how many we are numerically, but also to be raised up spiritually to new levels of awareness and of holiness!