This week, in addition to the regular Torah reading, we read Parshas
Shkalim. At the time when the Holy Temple was actively functioning,
around this time of year, an announcement was made throughout the land about
the Shkalim. Each year, everyone was required to contribute half a Shekel, a
certain denomination of money, toward the purchase of the sacrifices offered
on behalf of the nation throughout the year. Therefore, although we don’t have
the actual Mitzvah (commandment) of Shkalim in practice nowadays, we still
read the section in the Torah about it.

Being that time we cannot perform
this Mitzvah, the Pri Tzadik (in the beginning of Parshas Shkalim) inquires as to
what significance this special reading actually holds for us in our times.
The Pri Tzadik prefaces his explanation with a quote from the Midrash.
The Midrash Tanchuma (Ki Sisa, 3) says that every year when we read Parshas
Shkalim, our heads are raised, just as the verse says in Parshas Shkalim that
Moses was commanded to raise the heads of the people through enacting the
Shkalim campaign.

How does issuing a fundraising campaign lift people up? And
how does reading about it do so? The Pri Tzadik explains that the Shkalim served
a dual purpose. Besides the benefit of the contributions, since everyone gave
the same uniform donation, the total produced a census of the Jewish
population. The lesson brought out by this is: everyone counts. Every single
person counts. The principle that everyone counts highlights the significance of
every individual, thereby lifting their heads up high with status. And so, while
we unfortunately cannot actually perform the Mitzvah of Shkalim, the lesson
remains ever so relevant to us. Every year, when we make a special point to read
the Parshas Shkalim, we are having our heads raised up high by instilling in
ourselves the appreciation that every single one of us counts. While each one of
us may be one among millions of Jews serving God as part of a nation as a whole,
every person has a unique role. Every person has his own set of talents and
virtues, and every person has his own personal contribution to make in the
service of God. God has great expectations from every single person to produce
certain achievements, and no one else can do it in his stead.

Dr. Melamed-Cohen served as Head of Curriculum for all government-run
schools in Israel, in addition to other prominent positions in education. At the
height of his career, he was diagnosed with ALS, and he no longer could continue
functioning in the same capacity. Eventually, all his limbs became paralyzed and
he needed a respirator to breathe. What could he accomplish already in such a
pitiful state? Dr. Melamed-Cohen says, “I have a task to encourage people and
give them strength!” Indeed, he receives emails from all over the world and he
answers them using a special computer which types by sensing his eye
movements. People all over the world gain much inspiration from his writings,
as they learn from him how to cope with their difficulties in life, and he continues
to offer advice. In addition, he maintains a vigorous schedule which includes
studying Torah, praying, etc. Dr. Melamed-Cohen recognizes that he may be
unique in his ability to accomplish so much in such a state. Nevertheless, he
maintains that everyone can fulfill his life in his own way.

It is not uncommon for feelings of discouragement to creep into our
minds. At times, we might feel, “What do I have to offer already? There are so
many people out there accomplishing so much more than I am. What
significance do I hold in this world?” We must realize this notion is as false as
can be. In the eyes of God, everyone is extremely important. Every person has a
unique role to play and his abilities were tailor-made specifically for him to
accomplish the goal designated for him. While some people may have a bigger
impact on the world than others, this does not detract from anyone’s
significance. No matter how limited one may be in any given situation, every
person has his own role to fulfill as long as he is alive. There is no one else in the
world who can accomplish what you are destined to achieve. We must
remember, that no matter what, in God’s eyes you count!

Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber (

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