Earlier this week, Sara and I had the opportunity to visit the Tenement Museum on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The museum showcases what life was like for immigrants who came to the United States, mostly during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We saw apartments, shops and items which belonged to immigrants, a German-Jewish family among them.

One of the things that stood out to me was the immense change for the better that a family could have undergone in a relatively short amount of time. They went from immigrant paupers living in a squalid apartment to successful people living throughout the country. It's truly inspiring to see stories like these played out right in front of you. What causes these amazing changes?

The route to success is much studied and debated, and I'm not about to add my opinion on managing economic growth - there are others who are far more knowledgable than I am!

What is clear, though, is that the dreams that we and those who came before us turned into reality were comprised of many small acts that seem insignificant when standing alone. But each one is a step in a long, arduous yet fruitful journey. Day after long tiring day, we try to improve our lives just a little, always aspiring to do better. As did our grandparents. It might have been standing for hours waiting to be interviewed for a job at a local factory, only to be denied. Or working 18 hour shifts as a porter, only to lose the job shortly after getting it. It was only after huge amounts of effort and a thousand failures, that success was achieved.

If we'd zoom in on any inspiring success story, we'd probably see nothing very inspiring at all. It's only when, nearly a century later, we can take an overarching look at years of hard work and persistence, that the greatness of what was achieved becomes clear.

Jewish philosophy teaches that true dedication will always surface and shine through in the end. It might take days, months or years, but true dedication to a great idea ultimately rises to the surface and achieves success. God created the world in a way where human beings have real power to control their destiny in this world. Our actions truly shape our lives and world history, not vice versa.

This week's Torah portion speaks of this idea - how every Jew was invaluably crucial to the existence of the Jewish people. We learn how a census was taken of the Jewish people in the form of small coins. Each Jew had to give a small half Shekel coin that would represent them in the count. The rich couldn't give more and the poor not less. For the value given to every Jew wasn't the amount they gave, but the uniqueness of the person who gave it.

Life is a compilation of many small acts which have tremendous impact. The power of one Mitzva, whether it be taking a minute every day to think about God and what we want in life, taking the time to put on Tefillin in the morning, giving a little extra charity or encouraging a friend to light Shabbat candles. Dwight Eisenhower said "What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight - it's the size of the fight in the dog." Well, it's not necessarily the "size" of the Mitzvah that counts, but the size and dedication of the "we" who do that Mitzvah, that makes all the difference.

Rabbi Avrohom