This week with the reading of parashat Bechukotai we come to the end of the book of Vayikra. Towards the end of the book, the Israelites are asked to pledge their value in silver to the sanctuary. The Torah then provides a handy scale by which a person’s value could be determined: for a male from 20-60 years of age, 50 shekels of silver, a female 30 shekels of silver. A male child from one month to 5 years, five shekels, a female three. A male over 60 pays 15 shekels, a female 10. And if a person could not afford the pledged amount there was a system in place to enable them to pledge a lesser amount which was within their means. (Leviticus 27:1-8).
So what is the value of the person which was being assessed? In the Torah it was the value of productivity that person could offer to the community. The difference in value for gender probably also relates to that time period, where women earned less than men. (Sadly research today shows despite gender equality, women are still often paid less than men for doing the same work) So the value of a person for the Temple pledges was connected to productivity and earning capacity.
If we look at our world today how often is this still the case? How often do we judge ourselves and others and our worth by our ability to earn, our relative wealth, our possessions? And how often do we, despite recognizing the futility and fraught nature of this assessment, live our lives with money and its acquisition as a central goal and purpose? Our Torah reading this Shabbat inspires us to take a few moments to reflect upon our values and our lives; to pause and recognize the ways in which we place the value of money and wealth above family, community and time for ourselves. We are currently in the period of the counting of the Omer, the time when we count each day from Pesach to Shavuot.
We are coming close to the end of our counting journey and we are reminded of the passing of time, the value of each day, what we can do to make our time count. Time is a precious commodity, placed in our hands, a gift to do with as we choose. As we decide how to live our days we are inspired to reflect upon our value, what are we worth? What do we value? What do we place at the center of our world and what really matters? As we do so, we may come to a consciousness that we need to shift our priorities, to adjust our values to reflect what we know in our hearts: a person’s value is not measured by the material but rather by the goodness within and the blessings they bring to themselves and others.