The fourth grade was having a contest to see who could study the most mishnayos by heart. The teacher, Rabbi Stern, divided the class into two teams. Every student could earn points for each mishnah that he memorized and win a prize at the end. And that wasn’t all, the more points each student earned, the higher the score for his team. Each student on the winning team would get an extra prize.

That morning, Moishey was in a bad mood. When Rabbi Stern announced who would be on each team, Moishey grumbled, “I don’t want to be on any team!” Rabbi Stern didn’t insist, and continued calling out the names.

The next day the fourth grade students spent every extra moment studying mishnayos. Rabbi Stern was especially pleased to overhear some boys encouraging others, “Come on, we need your points for the team to win.” Later, when the boys lined up to be tested, Moishey joined them. “Rabbi Stern, I want to earn some points too. Please test me.”

“I’m sorry, Moishey. If you want to earn points for the mishnayos you learned, you have to join your team.”

“But Rabbi Stern, I studied and I know a lot by heart. Can’t I just collect my own points?”

“Sorry, these are the contest rules. Your own points can count only when you join your team.

“You know, Moishey, we can see this idea in the names of the parshiyos Vayakhel and Pekudei. Vayakhel means ‘and he gathered.’ It tells us how Moshe Rabbeinu gathered the Jewish people together, and joined them into a single group Klal Yisrael. Klal Yisrael is made up of many different individuals. The Torah teaches us that this is not just a group of many people. It is one unit, bound together with achdus.

“The second parshah is Pekudei which means “counting.” Here, Moshe was taking inventory of the mishkan, counting every part, singling out each piece. This teaches us that each individual is special; every one of us counts.”

Vayakhel comes before Pekudei. To count as individuals, to show who we are and what we can do, we must first realize that we are part of the achdus which binds all Jews together.”

(Adapted from the Sichos of Shabbos Parshas Vayakhel-Pekudei, 5752)