The passuk states שאו את ראש כל עדת בני ישראל. Onkelos translates “accept the calculation of the entire gathering of Bnei Yisrael.” Rashi explains in Parshas Ki Sisa: this means when you want to know the total sum of the counting, count each individual with the machatzis hashekel.
The Ramban brings b’shem Rashi, שאו means raise up this head as is said to the executioner, “Raise up the head of this murderer.” The Ramban is bothered, why should the counting of twenty and up reflect disgrace? The Ramban suggests that because the males from twenty and up who were counted all died in the desert, it hints to something bad. The Ramban also brings b’shem the Midrash a different explanation: שאו reflects greatness as it states ישא פרעה את ראשך והשיבך על כנך which Onkelos translates “Pharaoh will remember you, the master butler, and he will return you to your service.” And שאו also reflects death as it states ישא פרעה את ראשך מעליך ותלה אותך על עץ which Onkelos translates “Pharaoh will remove your head from upon you, the master baker, and hang you on the gallows.” Hashem said to Yisrael, “If you merit, you will elevate yourselves with greatness, and I will put you on top of all the nations. However if you do not merit, you will all die; it is your choice.”
The following passuk states תפקדו אתם which Onkelos translates as “count them.” The Ramban explains the lashon פקידה refers to remembering and paying attention to someone or something. A deposit is called פקדון since it is something given to a watchman to guard. He pays attention to it that it shouldn’t get stolen, lost, or ruined, and he protects it. So too here, each individual male of Bnei Yisrael was paid attention to and uniquely recognized to be counted from age twenty and up.
The Mishnah teaches that on Rosh Hashanah everyone passes before Hashem as בני מרון. The Gemara explains בני מרון means as sheep which pass through an entrance, one after another, and colored with red dye. We see Hashem checks into each and every person’s mitzvos and aveiros individually, and rewards and punishes accordingly.
The Sefer Derech Hashem brings b’shem kadmonim: every neshama of a person is rooted in the Torah. For each of the 600,000 people of Yisrael there are 600,000 different possible explanations of the same topic, and each one understands in their own unique way. The passuk states ובתורתו יהגה יומם ולילה and in his Torah toil day and night. The Gemara brings a Talmid Chachom can be mochel his honor. Since when one toils to understand the Torah, it is called his Torah, therefore he has the option to forego his honor. On the Yom Tov of Shavuos Rav Yosef requested from his family to prepare special calf meat. He said, “If not for this day, there would be many Yosefs in the marketplace.” Rashi explains Rav Yosef meant, now that I learned Torah I have become uplifted. Although now that the Torah was given many Yosefs learn Torah, each Yosef has his own personal connection and relationship with the Torah. Therefore Rav Yosef said, “The Torah that I learned raised me to my personal elevated level, different than anyone else.”
May we recognize our uniqueness and celebrate Shavuos with our own relationship with the Torah!