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Searching for Self-Esteem?

How Do You Judge Your Worth?

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

    1736 views
  • March 1, 2010
  • |
  • 15 Adar 5770
  • Comment

Class Summary:

Searching for Self-Esteem? - How Do You Judge Your Worth?

Counting the Jews

The opening verses of this week’s Torah portion, Ki Sisa, convey G-d’s instruction to Moses on how to count the Jewish people. When it is necessary to conduct a census, Jews are to be counted not in an ordinary manner, person by person, but rather, every member of the community should contribute a coin for charity, and then the coins should be counted to determine how many people contributed.
What is the rationale behind this instruction? Why the need to count the community in such a round-about fashion, rather than simply counting the people directly?
Two messages, it seems, are being conveyed here.
What Are You Worth?
First, the Torah is suggesting that you are counted not based on who you are but on what you give. Your genuine value and worth spring forth from your contribution to another soul, from the love and kindness you impart to another heart.
Sir Moses Montefiore, a 19th century Jewish international diplomat and philanthropist, was once asked how much he was worth. The wealthy man thought for a while and named a figure. The other replied, “That can’t be right. By my calculation you must be worth many times that amount.”
Moses Montefiore’s reply was this: “You didn’t ask me how much I own. You asked me how much I’m worth. So I calculated the amount I have given to charity this year and that is the figure I gave you. You see,” he said, “we are worth what we are willing to share with others.”
Evaluating a people
Yet, there seems to be a one more vital message presented in this instruction, one that would reverberate throughout history.
To appreciate the value and greatness of a people, the Torah is suggesting, you must study not the number of its bodies, but the breadth of their contributions. What matters most is not the quantity of its adherents, but rather their commitment towards making a difference and their inspiration and readiness to make sacrifices for their values and ideals. Numbers can be deceiving. Large groups of people often barely leave a trace. On the other hand, there are times that small groups, when committed heart and soul to their mission statement, have left an enormous impact, totally disproportionate to their numbers.
To appreciate the significance of Jewish existence, the Bible is telling us, you must study not its numbers: Jews never constituted more than one percent of society. Rather, you must examine the impact this little monotheistic group has had on the world. Other nations, cultures and civilizations enjoyed far greater numbers, larger territories and mightier armies. But no other person or nation has left an impression on the very fabric of civilization as the relatively few and often hunted and persecuted descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
As the Irish writer Thomas Cahill wrote in his national bestseller The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels:
“Most of our best words in fact – new, adventure, surprise; unique individual, person, vocation; time, history, future; freedom, progress, spirit; faith, hope and justice—are the gifts of the Jews ... We can hardly get up in the morning or cross the street without being Jewish. We dream Jewish dreams and hope Jewish hopes.”  
Here is a passage by historian Paul Johnson in his bestseller “History of the Jews:”
"All the great conceptual discoveries of the intellect seem obvious and inescapable once they have been revealed, but it requires a special genius to formulate them for the first time. The Jew has this gift. To them we owe the idea of equality before the law, both divine and human; of the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person; of the individual conscience and so of personal redemption; of the collective conscience and so of social responsibility; of peace as an abstract ideal and love as the foundation of justice, and many other items which constitute the basic moral furniture of the human mind. Without the Jews, it might have been a much emptier place."
The Power to Love
Just as this is true concerning our national identity, it is true concerning every individual person. At times you may think to yourself, “I am worthless; I amount to nothing.”
Comes the Torah and says, that you on your own, cloistered in your vanity and egotism, detached from your true core of absolute dignity and majesty, may indeed amount to a small, futile creature, unworthy of counting (“If I am only for myself, what am I,” Hillel is quoted as saying in the Ethics of the Fathers). However, each of us, at our core, is a "spark of the Divine," a "fragment" of His light, a free, wholsome, confident and happy spirit. As such you have the power to contribute something to the world, to reach out to an individual in need. Each of us has the ability to touch a heart, to lift a spirit, to kindle a soul, to look a fellow human being in the eyes and say “I Love you.”
You may be small indeed, but the love and light you can bring to another life through a simple gesture, a sincere “good morning,” or an act of goodness and kindness, is immeasurable and cannot be counted.
And when you reach out to others, you will discover the depth of the love that G-d has for you. You are part of His light, thus you can share His light with so many others.

Please leave your comment below!

  • S

    Shneor -6 years ago

    I think we can also say some of those qoutes about you to a certain degree..

    But what is an Israeli without criticism..

    And so:

    I appreciate the toichen, the stories, the qoutes,
    I can almost here your heartbeat in the recitatation (and don't take this as a compliment..)

    However I would love to put in my three 'agurot', and I'll start with one,

    You are writing with the language of the heart..
    A little restraint on the passion, and more sensitive on the wording.

    I'll just give an example about the starting off of two consecutive paragraphs with ,'to appreciate', can be left for the pulpit, and sounds great.

    I have more but I think I'm using up my space, and I want to wish you a good shabbos,

    It is my hope that my little message, can contribute, and be valid,

    And so agen, shabat shalom!

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  • T

    Tzvi -6 years ago


    Wonderful.... great hashkafa lesson.. should be required read for all H.S. students



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  • A

    AS -6 years ago

    The famous words of Theodore Roosevelt. “By taking you make a living, by giving you make a life”. Good Shabbos! 

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • T

    Terry -6 years ago

    Searching for self-esteem

    Fabulous!...thank you.

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

  • M

    Malca -6 years ago

    Excellent message

    This article is excellent because it brings about the importance of every human being as a child of G-d  who can contribute another.  It enphasizes that is not the amount of money that you have that makes you, but the love that you give others with all your five senses.

     

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

Rabbi YY Jacobson
  • March 1, 2010
  • |
  • 15 Adar 5770
  • |
  • 1736 views
  • Comment

Class Summary:

Searching for Self-Esteem? - How Do You Judge Your Worth?

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