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Browse Torah Articles: Sefer Shemot: Parashat Ki Tisa: Kofer Nafsho

Contributed by: R. Ezra Mizrahi

In this week's Parasha, we find the counting of Bnei Yisrael with the use of Mahasit HaShekel. We see that Bnei Yisrael are not simply counted, but rather they give Mahasit HaShekel, and all these Shekalim are counted to discover the true number of people in the nation. Each member of the nation had to give Mahasit Hashekel, the rich no more and the poor no less. The collected money was to be used for the Mishkan, to purchase the animals for the sacrifices throughout the year and to pay for parts of the Mishkan.

In this process, Hashem commands that each person must give Mahasit HaShekel, "Lechaper Al Nafshotechem," in "redemption of their souls." Why did Mahasit HaShekel need to be given as a redemption to Hashem for one's soul? And why does Hashem also say that if this is done, there will be no "Negef" or plague during the counting? Is there supposed to be a Negef, but the act of giving the Mahasit HaShekel as a redemption stops it from occurring?

Yes. As we learn from David Hamelech.

At the end of Shemuel Bet, David was commanded to count Bnei Yisrael. He appointed officers and counted the nation directly, without any use of the Shekel. 70,000 people died following this act.

We learn that the act of counting has in it, inherently, misfortune and Ayin Hara. What importance does the Shekel have as the "middle-man" of the counting, that it prevented people from dying in our Parasha?

The answer lies in truly understanding "Lechaper Al Nafshotechem." The Seforno explains that the giving of Mahasit Hashekel was no simple activity. Each person had to recognize a sin that he committed and give the Mahasit Hashekel as a redemption for that misdeed. We see that the giving of Mahasit HaShekel is actually a moment of introspection, when one looks at one's deeds and sees where one is lacking and where correction is needed. Without this redemptive quality that the Mahasit HaShekel adds to the counting Bnei Yisrael, the nation would be extremely vulnerable to misfortunate. As when one is counted, and singled out, the Satan has more power to harm this individual.

Yaacov Avinu did not want to send Binyamin to Egypt, his only son remaining alive from Rahel Emenu (for he believed Yosef was killed), because the Satan would be able to harm him on the way, because it would be a time of danger, as Binyamin would be alone- no Yosef, no Yaacov to protect him.

We can expand on this idea and apply it to our lives. One should always take the modest path and lead a quiet life, for being singled out causes one to be more vulnerable, as we see from this week's Parasha, as Bnei Yisrael needed to give "Kofer" (a redemption) during their time of being counted (singled out), to protect themselves.

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