Simcha's Torah Stories - Ki Sisa
Parshas Ki Sisa
Do we have a minyan yet, Chaim? Let's count. One, two, three . . .
We shouldn't do that, Avi.
Count Jews like that. It is customary to count Jews with the words of a verse, or using objects.
I'm confused, Chaim. Can you explain what you're talking about?
Look in this week's parsha, Avi. Moshe Rabbeinu, our teacher Moses, counted the Jews using half-shekel coins. Each person gave a half-shekel. Moshe counted all of the half-shekels, multiplied by two, and came up with the number of Jews.
That's a little clearer, Chaim, but I have another question.
Why did Moshe Rabbeinu use half-shekel coins and multiply by two? Wouldn't it have been simpler to use one shekel coins and count them to get the number directly?
Avi, that's a famous question asked by many of our great sages. Each one has his own answer to the question. I will tell you the answer given by the Kesav Sofer, the great Rav of Pressburgh. We are all composed of two parts, body and soul. Each part is represented by half a shekel. The two halves together make a whole. The only half that we can count, however, is the body. It is limited and can be counted. The body can only eat or drink so much. Then it must stop. It can only work so long. It can only live so long. It eventually reaches its limits. The soul, however, is unlimited. The soul is the part of us that comes from the heavenly realm. We cannot begin to count it. There is no limit to what the soul can accomplish. It is eternal.
That's a pretty deep concept, Chaim. Can you give me an example of what you're talking about?
Take for example the great Rav who lived about 250 years ago, Rav Aryeh Leib MiMitz, who is known to us as the Shaagas Aryeh. He learned through the entire Talmud 1000 times in his life! The Talmud is 2700 pages long. He lived 90 years. If he knew the Talmud by the time he was 10, he had to review the entire Talmud once each month, or about 100 pages each day! That's a pretty mind-boggling feat. Rebbe Akiva Eiger who lived a little later also learned 100 pages of Talmud each day.
But perhaps the most famous example of phenomenal accomplishment is Rebbe Akiva, the leader of the Jewish people who lived almost 2000 years ago during the time of the Romans. He did not begin learning Torah until he was forty. When he began, he could not even read aleph-beis. He studied diligently for twenty-four solid years and became the greatest talmid-chacham of his generation and indeed one of the greatest of all time. Avi, these people accomplished things far beyond the realm of natural attainment. They showed us the unlimited potential of the soul. The soul cannot be counted. It is unlimited.
Chaim, those are very encouraging words. There are many times when I feel tired or frustrated or too discouraged to continue. Now that I see what a person is capable of doing, I'll try a little harder. Who knows what hidden potential is inside of me, or you, or Yitzy, or Shmuelik.
Look at that Avi, as we're talking, a minyan of men has arrived. Lets all pray to G-d that we soar with our souls to great achievements.
Use the digits 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 once only, in this multiplication sum to make it correct.
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