A man gets on a train with his children and settles down in a seat, his head bowed. The rowdy youngsters begin running about the carriage, climbing up on the seats, and making quite a ruckus.

Turning to the seemingly oblivious father, a fellow passenger finally says frustratedly, “Sir, are you aware that your children are making quite a stir around here?”

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“Yeah…” the father begins, raising his head to look up, “we’re on our way back from the hospital–their mom just passed away. Seems we’re all trying to get over it…”

What a poignant story–and what a powerful lesson! Imagine how genuinely we could live our lives if we faced each moment with a finer sensitivity, and a non-judgmental approach to the people we meet.

Indeed, our sages teach us the incredible importance of giving another human being the benefit of the doubt. Though we naturally perceive situations based on our own assumptions and preconceived notions, if we took a moment to view the world with a gentler eye, and judge our fellow favorably, our relationships and our lives at large would truly be enriched.

Where, you may ask, does such an approach come from? How can we develop such a sensitivity to others?

The answer lies in this week’s Parsha: The Torah discusses different kinds of donations that were accepted for the building of the Mishkan. One donation stands out; it was called the half a shekel donation. Each and every Jew donated a mere half a shekel.

You might think this was a last minute fundraising campaign to cover the deficit…well in fact Moshe was receiving so much money that he actually asked the Jews to stop bringing their valuables. “We have more than enough!” This raises the question–why the need for the half a shekel campaign?

Here we find an emphasis on involving every single Jew in the donations collected towards the building of the Mishkan. There was no dedication allowed from one individual, there was no mentioning of any specific individual, there was an emphasis on demonstrating the unique quality of each and every one of us, so unique that when combined together it creates a force and energy that is unparalleled; that was supposed to be the energy in the Mishkan!

That was the message in the building of the Mishkan. We need to view each and every one of us as a piece in the jigsaw puzzle. A piece that, without it, the puzzle as a whole is incomplete.

When we develop an awareness to others and start appreciating everyone’s unique role, that is when we create a sensitivity to others. That is how we are able to go out of our bubble and connect with others!

Let’s remember the man on the train; let us truly seek to be in tune to the people who step into our lives.

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