Shekalim: A Spiritually Enriching Experience
By Rabbi Pinchas Winston
The first of the four parshios that are read in advance of Purim and Pesach
is called Parashas Shekalim, because the maftir is read from Parashas Ki
Sisa, which discusses the obligatory helf-shekel offering. While the
Temples stood, there was a positive mitzvah upon every Jew to contribute a
half-shekel yearly for the purchase of communal offerings to be brought in
the Temple, due in the Temple by Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Therefore, on Rosh
Chodesh Nissan, public proclamations were made to help the people to bring
their half-shekel on time. However, on the 15th of Adar (Purim in walled
cities), collectors sat in each city requesting the voluntary advance
bringing in of the half-shekal.
The rabbis went one step further by instituting the public reading of
Parashas Shekalim on the Shabbos immediately preceding Rosh Chodesh Adar,
which was to also act as a call to bring the half-shekel on time. And even
though the Temples no longer stand in our day, and communal sacrifices are
a memory of the past, the following excerpt from "Redemption to Redemption"
will show how the concept of the half-shekel is very much relevant to us as
"...It is this threshold that Amalek stands before, and which Haman
tried to block to the Jewish people forever. And he was willing to pay
handsomely for the right to do so, Megillos Esther records, ten thousand
kikar kesef in total.
How much money was that equal to? One half-shekel per male Jew above the
age of twenty who left Egypt. However, what Haman hadn't counted on was
that the half-shekel given in the desert was what the Talmud refers to as
"the cure before the sickness," which explains the following numerical
the tree = the rock = the money
(ha-aitz; 165 = ha-selah; 165 = ha-kesef; 165)
The tree that overcame Adam (at which there is an allusion to Haman), and
the rock that "smote" Moshe (there is also an allusion to Haman there), and
the money that was meant to annihilate the Jewish people, all emanated from
the same source: doubt. However, as we learn from the story of Purim, each
can also be turned around against doubt, against Amalek, and used to draw
down the Divine light to dispel the dreadful darkness of an apparently
It was the merit of giving the half-shekel that pre-empted Haman's strike
against the Jews of his time. For, inherent in the concept of the
half-shekel is the understanding necessary to counteract the Haman...
It also hints at the unity of k'ish echad b'leiv echad (an expression used
to describe the unity of the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai, who camped "like a
single person with a single heart"), that Haman tried to uproot. For, as
the rabbis point out, since every Jew can only give one-half shekel, no
matter how rich or how poor, this serves to emphasize the fact that a
single Jew is always only part of a whole..."
Hence, even in our day, the spiritual reality created by the concept of the
half-shekel is one that enables us to overcome the Amalek's of our time.