Kenneth Cohen

The Individual and the Nation

The Mitzva of the donation of the half Shekel for Temple expenses, carried with it an important message.

Aside from it being a method of taking an annual census, and being a means towards covering Temple maintenance, it stressed the specialness of each individual.

There is a balance that we are to maintain between remaining humble, and not considering ourselves as insignificant. The Rabbis tell us that a person should say, בשבילי נברא העולם, that the world was created for me.

We have an obligation to contribute to the world with the G-d given faculties that we possess. The מחצית השקל, the half Shekel was given by every male Jew, whether rich or poor. Each Jew is significant in his own way.

We blend in such a way that we are a family-nation, but we must retain our unique individuality. Some complain that religious Jews are too standardized, and the masses are satisfied following what others may do. It may give a sense of security, but it also might hold back full self expression.

The Keli Yakar tells us that we were compared to the stars in the sky to point out that just as each star is special, each individual is special as well. We are also compared to the sand of the sea, to teach us that we must not remain separate, but we must blend in with the nation of Israel, and feel that we are part of this great people.

We should constantly strive to go higher and higher in our worship of Hashem and the Torah. We can best achieve this by maintaining balances. We must maintain humility but not stop trying to achieve all of our potential. And we must embrace our own individuality, just as we embrace and appreciate being part of Am Yisrael.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at