The Olympic motto is "Citius, Altius, Fortius," which means Faster, Higher, Stronger. In the Olympics, a country's greatness is measured by its devotion to the Olympic motto and its performance, not by the size of its population. At this point, the relatively small Scandinavian country of Norway, with its 5 million citizens (a population smaller than that of South Florida), leads all countries in the medal count at the Winter Olympics.
In the beginning of this week's parsha, the Torah gives very specific instructions for taking a population census of the Jewish nation. We should not count each individual Jew but rather ask each Jew to donate a half-shekel so that we can count the Jews by counting the coins. The Torah warns that only by doing the census this way do we avoid a plague. Why would counting each individual cause a plague? Rabbi Jonathan Sacks offers a beautiful interpretation. The usual reason for taking a census is to measure strength, whether in economic terms, military might, or simply demographics. The assumption underlying every census is that there is strength in numbers. Says Rabbi Sacks, "The danger in counting Jews is that if they believed even for a moment that there is strength in numbers, the Jewish people would long ago have given way to despair." Instead of counting people, the Torah instructs that we should ask Jews to give and then calculate their contributions. Although we are small in number, our contributions to the world stand out as extraordinary.
What is true for the Jewish people as a whole is also true for our yeshiva. Our outsize "medal count" -- achieved through excellence in sports and extraordinary acts of chesed -- is a source of pride to all of us. I hope you enjoy this version of Highlites and are inspired by our heroes.
Rabbi Jonathan Kroll
Head of School
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