Parshat Ki Tisa: What the census teaches us

Hailey Cohen
Hailey Cohen (Courtesy of Krieger Schechter Day School)

By Hailey Cohen

My Torah portion is about the census of the Jewish people. Instead of doing the census the way we do it today, God orders the Israelites to give Him a half-shekel each. Only men who were 20 years old and older were allowed to participate. Moses then counted the shekalim to determine how many people were in the Jewish population.

God asked Moses to count money instead of actual people for multiple reasons.

One reason is that the money collected went into building the Mishkan, the tabernacle where the Israelites worshipped in the desert. God was teaching everyone that it is important to give to your community. Back then it was important that everyone could gather in one place together to worship and be closer to God. Today, it is also important to give back to our community. All people deserve to have the food, water and clothes they need, and it is a problem in our community today that some people don’t have these things.

Another reason God asked for shekalim from the Jewish people was to show that people should not be treated as objects. Objects get counted — not people. People should not be treated as objects because they have feelings and emotions, and each person is different from the next.

In the Torah, the census only referred to people, but I think that animals should also be respected and cared about, since they also have emotions. For my mitzvah project, I had a drive for the Baltimore Humane Society. The Baltimore Humane Society is a no-kill animal shelter. It gives homeless and neglected animals a place to live and makes sure the animals are healthy until they find their forever home. If places like the Humane Society don’t take in dogs and other animals, the animals might be killed or starve. The Humane Society makes sure that all animals get the training that they need and are treated with love.

Both the census and the Humane Society remind us to support each other and treat everyone with respect.

Hailey Cohen is a seventh grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School.

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