Parshat Shekalim teaches us about community and belonging.
This week, we read a special portion called Parshat Shekalim, where we learn about the half-coin contribution that each person would give toward communal funds and needs.
So many outstanding and inherent life messages about being a part of a community are embedded in this short reading. The parshat teaches that it is necessary to belong to a community even if it entails spending money.
The fact that each person, regardless of social standing or other contributions, was required to give the same amount, a half-shekel coin, tells us that each of us has equal responsibility toward our community. When we all come together, each of us with our own talents, perspective and individuality, we create an inclusive, harmonized community.
It is that harmony that I would like highlight. On one hand, I need to recognize the half-coin perspective and message, namely that of humility. Humility is not thinking less of oneself; rather it is thinking of oneself less. It is not viewing myself as less than or not good enough, that I am only worth half a coin; rather it is a message to me to spend less time focusing on my half of the coin and spend more time thinking about that other half, namely the community.
Second, there is no complete community without my half-coin. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 4:5) tells us, bishvili nivra Ha’olam, the world was created for me. Just as a puzzle is incomplete missing even a single piece, so, too, our community cannot be complete without you. No matter your level of skill, talent, financial contribution, social standing or anything else; we can’t do it without you. In the theme of Parshat Shekalim, we need your half-coin.
I think we need to take a step back and realize this is true about every one of us. Just as the community is dependent on each of us to complete the picture, it is incumbent upon each of us to identify which puzzle pieces are lacking or out of place within our community and help them find their fit. Not only for their sake, or for our responsibility to them, but for ourselves.
After all, it’s our picture, too, that is missing their light. Just as in a symphony, every instrument is lacking when one is off tune. When any one person in our community feels isolated and alone, our whole community experiences this.
This is why Parshat Shekalim is always read before we start the Jewish month of Adar. Adar is known as the month of happiness; but one of the key foundations of joy is that of community and belonging. Happiness is not a destination; rather it’s a way to live life. The way of life that is the foundation to happiness is one where everyone belongs.
Rabbi Yarden Blumstein is the teen director at Friendship Circle in West Bloomfield.