Valuable as an individual or part of a community?
To the common question asked as to why everyone aged 20-60 gave half a shekel, the most common answers given is either to show unity or to show that each person by himself is not enough and needs to join with someone else to be a full shekel/contributor.
But why would the Torah then write “Twenty gerahs equal one shekel“. Rashi states that the Torah is specifying how much a shekel is worth. Was Hashem worried about ongoing inflation and wanted to lock down its rate of 20 to 1? Obviously not. So why provide us with the breakdown of what a shekel is worth?
A possible reason as to providing the value of a shekel (and subsequently half a shekel) may be to show us the inner value of the shekel and that each shekel is comprised of parts that are valuable, irrespective as to whether they end up becoming a shekel or not. So, while everyone should give half a shekel and only when you join with another half a shekel, are you a complete shekel … do you have any worth as a half a shekel? Yes, you do. You have 10 gerahs worth.
To complement the answers as to why everyone gave half a shekel – to show unity or that one isn’t complete until they join with someone else’s half shekel – I think the additional add-on of the value of the shekel is to show us, that while unity is amazing, it should never take away from the innate priceless value of each individual half shekel.
Each person on his own is a gem, brought into this world as a gift from Hashem and we each have a purpose and a goal in our lifetime to make the world into a better place and that can only be done in our own unique way.
Each person has his own personal roadmap of doing good. And while yes, we often have to join with others to set up a group to make that happen, but often we don’t.
Let us appreciate ourselves for ourselves and not only for the value that we bring to a group or community.
We each are highly capable and valuable in our own right and we can never forget that Hashem gave us the gift of life because he believes in our capabilities.