Money: What Do YOU Do With It
This is the accounting of the Mishkan . . . (Shemos 38:21)
In a normal Jewish leap year we would have read the Haftarah for this week’s
parshah about the dedication of the Temple in Shlomo HaMelech’s time,
connected to the parshah in an obvious way. And, even though Motzei Shabbos
is Rosh Chodesh, which usually would have meant that we read the Haftarah
from I Shmuel 20:18-42, since it mentions Erev Rosh Chodesh, we don’t read
that Haftarah either. This is because Shabbos itself is Parashas Shekalim,
the first of the four special Maftirs that we read either before or after
Purim, so instead we read the Haftarah for this special parshah found in II
First a summary of the parshah. We begin with an accounting of all of the
materials donated and used in the construction of the Mishkan. As the Talmud
states, even Moshe Rabbeinu was not above suspicion, though obviously that
had more to do with the people who suspected him than Moshe himself.
Accountability is necessary even, or especially, when doing the work of God.
After that, Moshe Rabbeinu inspected the quality of the work to make sure
everything was according to specification. After all, it was God they had to
please not just any flesh-and-blood leader. The Shechinah was meant to dwell
in the Mishkan but only if it was spiritually perfect, which it was, and
therefore Moshe Rabbeinu approved. There is very little room for fudging, if
any at all, when it comes to building a house for God, including within us.
Finally, the parshah concludes with the highlight, not just of the parshah,
not just of the entire Torah, but of history itself. By the end of the
parshahGod’s glory fills the Mishkan, vindicating the Jewish nation in the
ultimate way possible from the episode of the golden calf. Happy is the
person upon whom the Divine Presence dwells.
That was the parshah. As for the special Maftir for Parashas Shekalim, we
read the section from Parashas Ki Sisa about the mitzvah of the Half-Shekel
piece that every Jew was supposed to give to the Temple once a year. It was
given in advance of the month of Adar for the sake of purchasing community
sacrifices as part of the Temple service.
Thus, though it is not actually connected to this week’s parshah, it is a
fitting end to it. Pekuday itself is an accounting of how the donations
given in Ki Sisa were used for the construction of the Mishkan, a good
lead-in to the special Haftarah for Parashas Shekalim.
The Haftarah is about Yehoash HaMelech, who became king of the Kingdom of
Yehudah at the age of seven years and ruled for 40 years before being struck
down by rebellious servants. However, what we read only covers how he was a
righteous king who saw to the upkeep of the Temple, which had fallen into
disrepair. He made sure that the monies donated to the Temple were used to
pay the craftsman hired to make the repairs.
So, everything has to do with money for either the Mishkan or the Temple,
and the appropriation of the funds. This might seem to have little to do
with Purim coming up, except for the fact that the giving of the Half-Shekel
was considered to be the “cure in advance of the illness.” As the Talmud
explains, Haman bought the right from Achashveros to destroy the Jewish
people, and he might have been successful had the Jewish people not already
given their Half-Shekel in Moshe Rabbeinu’s time.
Money is a major theme of Purim. It is one of the few holidays that
specifically has a mitzvah of giving tzedakah, Metanos L’Evyonim. After all,
Purim is about getting back to the real you, about stripping away the layers
of facade and personna that may have been built up over the years covering
up the essence of you are. As mentioned in the past, we drink wine to
neutralize our bodies so that we can act more like the souls we are in
essence, at least on Purim.
As the Talmud states, there are three ways that a person reveals his true
nature: his cup, his money, and his temper. Being drunk is not an excuse to
lose oneself and what one says and does when he has had something to lift
his spirit says a lot about what is actually going on inside of him.
You don’t have to be rich to have a charitable nature, and you don’t have to
give a lot to be considered generous. The quality of one’s giving is not
determined by how much he gives but by how much he wants to give. There are
people who can only afford to give small amounts but it is clear by the way
they give it that, if they could, they would give very generously.
Likewise, how quickly one gets angry in a situation and how angrily he
responds to it is also a tell-tale sign of more than just his temperament.
It is, more importantly, a sign of how a person reads situations, and
specifically, the Divine Providence of a situation. Even a person with a
propensity to become angry does not when he realizes that what is happening
to him is a function of the will of God.
In this case something is definitely lost in the translation. The Hebrew
words for each of the three are identical except for their middle letters.
In other words, each word begins with a Chof and ends with a Samech, but the
middle letter of each is different, being Yud-Vav-Ayin, whose gematria is
10+6+70, or 86. This just happens to be the gematria of Elokim (with the
Heh), the Name of God that refers to His hidden hand.
The point? Whether we’re talking about a person and his money, how he deals
with strong drink or difficult situations, there is a common denominator to
all of them: Elokim. When a person finds himself in a situation that is
financially taxing, inebriating, or emotionally stressful, is he blinded to
the hand of God or made more acutely aware of it? Does he become more
spiritually sensitive or less so?
How can one tell?
There is a great story in Tanach that most people are aware of though they
probably do not look at it in this way. It is such an important lesson about
life, which is probably why so many people overlook it. The Satan lost the
battle in this one and he sure is not going to let others build on his
failure to achieve spiritual success.
The story is about Iyov, or Job, the righteous man who went from riches to
rags overnight. He had everything and everything going for him until God
wagered a bet that Iyov would stand strong in his faith even should he lose
it all. After that, the Satan preceded to bring calamity after calamity to
Iyov until he lost everything he held dear, including his wife and family.
What made it even more difficult for Iyov, and everyone else who knew him,
was that he had been fully righteous. If anyone had been deserving of God’s
blessing it had been Iyov, and yet God seemed to treat him like he was the
worst of the worse, inflicting personal tragedy upon personal tragedy.
And he said, “From my mother’s womb I emerged naked, and I will return
there naked. God gave and God took; may the Name of God be blessed.” (Iyov
Iyov’s brave statement was more than simply an affirmation of his faith in
his Father-in-Heaven, and His just approach to life. It was a reminder to
everyone, probably including himself, of our relationship to our blessings
in life, as if to say, no matter how hard we work to accomplish what we do
in life, we are entitled to nothing. Everything in life is a gift from God,
a loan that can be recalled at any time for reasons we may or may not
understand. There is no such thing as entitlement.
From Iyov, that may have been obvious. But from looking at the rest of the
world throughout the rest of history, it is much less so. History is filled
with terrible conflict and bloody wars that have resulted, all in the name
of entitlement. The basis of all of it has usually been someone’s belief
that he had something coming to him, and he became angry at another who
denied it to him.
That was certainly Kayin’s belief, though God did try and straighten him out:
God said to Kayin, “Why are you annoyed, and why has your countenance
fallen? Is it not so that if you improve, it will be forgiven you? If you do
not improve, however, at the entrance, sin is lying, and to you is its
longing, but you can rule over it.” (Bereishis 4:6-7)
The message? Hevel could not take anything from Kayin that was meant for him
because nothing is ever really “meant” for anyone of us. Rather, we can
“earn” something by showing God that we are worthy of the blessing He wants
to give to us. Even then other factors may play a role in whether or not we
get the object of our desires, though we may not be aware of them.
The Maharal points out in Nesivas HaTorah that Torah, like water, only flows
to the lowest point, which in this case means to the humblest of people. He
explains that if a person assumes his own greatness then God will bring him
down in some way. After that he can rebuild himself with humility and
becoming worthy of Torah greatness.
This is really true in all aspects of life, not just with respect to Torah.
Our money may seem to be ours. We may feel justified in saying what we do
while in a state of inebriation. We might think that we are perfectly in our
right to get angry when things do not go as we planned. But that is only
when one comes from a sense of entitlement, and with such an attitude one
does not build Mishkans, one destroys them. We are given what we have to
better serve God, not our own self-interests.
Text Copyright © 2014 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.