TeamworkFebruary 11, 2014 - 5:00 am
Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the LORD.—Exodus 30:13
The Torah portion for this week is Ki Tisa, which means “when you raise up,” from Exodus 30:11—34:35, and the Haftorah is from 1 Kings 18:20–39.
The Sages teach that if God had not given us the Bible, we would have been expected to learn all we need to know in order to live moral, ethical, and meaningful lives by observing other creatures. For example, we could learn diligence from ants or modesty from a cat. Recently, I discovered that we can learn much from geese by studying the amazing way they fly.
Maybe you have looked up at the autumn sky and seen a flock of geese in migration, flying in their characteristic V-formation. But have you ever wondered why they fly that way?
The reason is because in flying this way, members of the flock create an upward air current for one another. Each goose creates an uplift for the bird behind it. Together, the geese fly about seventy-one percent faster than flying alone. If one goose starts to slide out of position, it immediately experiences the drag of being separated from its community and gets back into position. When the lead goose tires, it slides back and another goose immediately fills that position. Amazingly, God created these creatures to work together as a team, and by doing so, they are able to reach their destination in the most effective way.
In this week’s Torah portion, Moses was commanded to count the children of Israel. Since in Judaism it is forbidden to count heads, each person was required to give a half shekel. By counting the half shekels, Moses would know how many people there were. Interestingly, the verse also provides us with this information: “the sanctuary shekel . . . weighs twenty gerahs.” Why do we need to know how much the shekel is worth?
By giving us this information, the Sages explain that Scripture is teaching us an important lesson about individuals, community, and teamwork. If one shekel is worth twenty gerahs, than half a shekel is worth ten. Ten is a whole number and represents totality, as we often say, “On a scale of one to ten.” So even if every person gives “ten,” meaning they do their best and give their whole effort, it’s still only half a shekel. We need teamwork, individuals working together, in order to make a whole.
Like the geese instinctively know, we need to learn to work together in order to maximize our achievements – as families, companies, communities, and even humanity as a whole. This week, let’s focus on working together. Maybe as a family or with friends, you can set a goal together, such as contributing to a charity or collecting bags of food for the local food pantry. Whatever it may be, remember that as we fall into formation, lifting each other up, there is no place that we can’t fly.