Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
  The Living Law
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Ki Sisa

Machatzis HaShekel: The Halfway Mark

The Mitzvah

Every Jew had to donate Machatzis HaShekel, "one half-shekel" for the daily, communal sacrifices brought up by the priests on the Altar on behalf of the whole nation (Shemos 30:13). This uniform annual rate was paid by rich and poor alike, during the month of Adar.

One size fits all in this mitzvah. Everyone was treated as equal. With no distinction made between individuals, the half-shekel levied on every communal member ensured that each Jew merited an equal share in this valuable endeavor (Sefer HaChinuch). The homogeneous price avoided embarrassment for the less affluent and assured no feeling of moral superiority for those that could have afford to give more.

Of the many beautiful allusions given of what the "half-shekel" symbolizes, the common motif is the incompleteness of the Jew both within himself and within his society.

Within himself, a person, like a game of soccer, is made up of two-halves. A human being is a combination of "soul" and "body". The "soul" emanates from the spiritual realm of Heaven; the "body" is the coarse, physical and earthly component.

What the "half-shekel" signifies is how each component within man is, at most, half the picture (See Rabbeinu Bachya). That Moshe beheld a vision of a heavenly coin of fire for this mitzvah (Bamidbar Rabbah 33:9) teaches how the half-shekel donated on Earth had a otherworldly parallel; how the "body" of every Jew here has its corresponding "source" in the spiritual "soul" above (Sefas Emes, Shekalim 5647). Where united into one whole, the body merges with the soul in the fulfillment of the Torah dictates. Only in their synthesis do they become "one whole unit". A compromise is only a half-measure; it lacks completion.

The mark of man reaching the "halfway point" is similarly echoed within the relationship he has to his society.

The half-shekel famously denotes the sentiment how every Jew, no matter how stupendous his accomplishments, is still deficient and only "half" an entity where he does not totally relate and identify with the community. He is an obligatory member of the Jewish nation; he needs them, and they need him.

In the scenario where he relates and sees the congregation as his "other- half", they end up nicely complementing each other. The ideal state of achdus, "unity" was memorably achieved at Sinai where every Jew stood "like one man, with one heart". (This completeness within each person himself is also connoted in how all physical defects were healed so they every Jew was whole and unblemished to receive the Torah). Where disputations fester, however, the Children of Israel are not united and dismally do not live up to their title "one nation in the land" (Amidah, Shabbos afternoon prayer).

Significantly, the money of the half-shekel collection went for the communal purchase of the daily tamid offering that was itself split into half: one lamb offered soon after daybreak at the beginning of the daily service, the second in the afternoon, towards the end (Bamidbar 28:4). It was the harmonious combination of two-halves that proved the ingredients for the constant elevation sacrifices to ascend from man up to Heaven.

Alone, neither "body" nor "soul" is complete. Alone, neither "individual" nor "community" are whole. They have only reached the "halfway mark".

But together, where united in one goal, they can go forward and onwards towards spirituality, service of G-d and perfection.


The course is presented by Osher Chaim Levene, author of SET IN STONE (2004: Targum) about the meaning of mitzvah observance and PEOPLE OF THE BOOK (2007: Targum) about the biblical personalities. A writer and educator whose website www.mitzva.org explores the wisdom of the commandments, he learned at the Gateshead and Mir Yeshivas, holds a Bachelor of Science (Honors) business degree from London.s City University, and is a Member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.


 
Sell Chometz Online







ARTICLES ON KEDOSHIM AND THE OMER:

View Complete List

Setting High Goals
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5760

A Sacred Appointment
Rabbi Label Lam - 5764

Motherhood & Shabbos Pie
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5759

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Orlah: Spiritual Barriers
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5767

Understand The Warning
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5774

Holy Pursuits - Mundane Paths
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5762

ArtScroll

Naturally! (Not)
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5766

Children of the King
Shlomo Katz - 5762

Good Salesman
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5764

> The Omer and Holiness
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5774

State of the Union
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5766

Prisms of Light - Reflections of Shattered Glass
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5772

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

It Is Easier To Overcome Physical Pain Than To Suppress The Human Psyche
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5772

The Joys of Animal Noise
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5773

Make Your Parents and Teachers Proud
Shlomo Katz - 5763

Holiness Applies to More than Bagel
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5757



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information