We live in an age when everyone wants to count, everyone wants to feel that they matter and are important. Even small children want to be included. “Me too” is their common refrain. As we get older we want our ideas and our contributions to be valued, our advice to be sought after and followed. Do we need to accomplish something great to be counted or do we have innate value that makes our inclusion automatic?
Before the Super Bowl there was some controversy regarding the Green Bay Packers’ team picture. Initially only players who were healthy and ready to play the big game were to be included in the photo. Players who were injured were to be excluded. After some negative publicity, the team officials changed their minds and all who played during the season posed for the picture. The underlying issue is: Is everyone on the team included, regardless of their specific contributions to the championship, or are only those who actively helped secure the victory counted?
The highlight of the Jewish world in days of old was the service in the Holy Temple. God wanted every Jew to have a share in the daily worship. Every single Jew counted. Every Jew, therefore, was instructed to contribute a half-shekel — no more and no less — for the next year’s offerings. Regardless of personal and communal accomplishments, everyone gave an equal share. In this way, all Jews were shown they have innate value and are an integral part of the nation.
The Jewish month of Adar is when the collection of the coins began for the coming year’s Temple services. Therefore this week, in addition to Pekudei, we read parshat Shekalim, the portion of the Torah that concerns this commandment. Although we have no Temple and no offerings and we don’t contribute actual shekalim, we still read about this practice to convey the vital lesson of the importance of each individual’s infinite value.
I think the Packers made the right call in the end. It wasn’t their stars and starters that won the title but rather the many lesser known players, all of them working together as a team to beat the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers. Let us value each person and see each and every one’s infinite worth.