PEKUDEI (Exodus, 38:21‑40:38)/Parshas Shekalim — “Four-tenths of an Ounce of Prevention…”

This Shabbos will be a very busy one in the synagogues of the world.

As is done every regular Saturday, we will read the weekly Torah Portion.  Then, from a second Torah, we will read about the special offerings that were to be brought in the Temple every Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of the month.  This Saturday is the first day of Adar the Second.  (There are two months of Adar during a leap year.  The second one is the “main” Adar.  That’s why Purim is in two weeks, rather than two weeks ago.)  Finally, we will read from a third Torah about the Mitzvah of the Half-Shekel.

Every year a census was taken by the Israelites donating a half-shekel to the Temple treasury.  The population of army-worthy Israelites was determined by counting the half-shekels that had been donated.

G-d spoke to Moses saying: “When you take a census… each one shall be counted by giving an atonement offering for his life…This is what they must give …a half-shekel…a shekel is 20 gerahs (.8 ounces, according to Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan ) It is half of such a shekel that must be given as an offering to G-d…It is an offering to G-d to atone for your lives. (Exodus, 30:11-13, 15)

There was to be an annual collection of .4 ounce silver coins.  The first year the silver was melted down into sockets to support the wooden beams of the Tabernacle.  In subsequent years this silver was used for the purchase of communal offerings to be brought in the Temple.

The half-shekel tax was due on the first day of Nissan, two weeks before Passover.  The Talmud (Shekalim, Mishnah 1) tells us that on the first of Adar, the announcement was made that the half-shekels would be due in one month.  Hence, our custom of reading about this Mitzvah on the first Shabbos of the month of Adar.  (Or, in a leap year, the first Shabbos of Adar#2)

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Haman hated Jews.  He wanted, more than anything, to destroy them.  Being a superstitious man, he decided to draw lots (“Purim” in Hebrew) to see when would be a good time to wipe out his enemies.  He drew the month of Adar.  Haman was thrilled.  Well-versed in Jewish history as he was, he knew that Adar was the month during which Moses died.  Obviously, Adar must be a bad month for Jews.  His mistake was that Moses was also BORN during Adar, a particularly auspicious event for the People of Israel.

He approached the king with a proposal:

“…There is a certain nation…Their laws are different… they don’t obey the king’s laws; it is not befitting of the king to tolerate them.   If it pleases the king, let it be recorded that they be destroyed, and I will weigh out ten thousand silver talents into the hands of those who do the action, to deposit in the kings treasuries…”  (Esther, 8-9)

Haman hated us so much that he was even willing to pay the bill for our slaughter.  And the king, no lover of Jews himself, told Haman he could keep the money.  The extermination would be “on the house.”

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Miscalculating the significance of the month of Adar was not Haman’s only mistake:

Reish Lakish said, “It was well known to He who said ‘Let the world exist’ that Haman would one day weigh out shekels against Israel.  Therefore, He preceded their (Israel’s) shekels to his shekels, and that’s what we learned in the Mishnah: ‘On the first of Adar, we announce the shekel tax… (Megillah, 13b)

You fight fire with fire, and you fight silver with silver.  We are not capable of understanding the full significance of the fulfillment of G-d’s commandments.  Our Nation’s fulfillment of the Mitzvah to donate silver coins to the Tabernacle all those years before somehow pre-empted the ability of Haman’s silver coins to destroy us.

We need to redouble our efforts to serve G-d with our money and our deeds.  Only He knows how much we will gain thorough our actions.

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Two weeks from now, we will celebrate the holiday of Purim.  It will be a bitter-sweet holiday for several families in Israel who just lost loved ones to a modern-day Haman.

Yes, the Hamans of the world are alive and well.  Let us hope and pray that the month of Adar, which begins this Shabbos, will be, for those mourning families, and for all of Israel, “As the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and the month which was transformed for them from one of sorrow to gladness, and from mourning to festivity.”  (Esther, 9:22)

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

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FROM THE ARCHIVES

Some years the two Torah Portions of Vayakheil and Pekudei are  read together, and some years they are read on two separate Sabbaths.  For your convenience.  For your convenience, I present both Portions:

 

Links to this week’s first Torah Portion:

“Mirror, Mirror In The Sink…” (2010)

 … Moses had a dilemma.

Donations were coming in for the Tabernacle…The problem was that women had donated their polished copper mirrors.  They wanted to have their mirrors melted down and made into a copper sink.

Moses was repulsed.  How could he accept these mirrors?  The Tabernacle was to be a holy place filled with holy vessels! These mirrors represented vanity.  Women would sit in front of these mirrors for hours on end preening and painting and brushing themselves…What could be more secular and unG-dly than a woman trying to make herself beautiful? How could Moses permit such vanity in G-d’s house? …

Read more.

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“The Architect” (2008) 

The donations were pouring in.  Moses had put out the word that he was accepting contributions of precious items for the construction of the Tabernacle…

It was a massive project.  There were plenty of good-hearted people willing to help.  What was still needed was someone to pull it all together…

Now the Tabernacle crew had a foreman.  Bezalel, the head architect and his assistant Oholiav, were given their mandate:  Coordinate the volunteers into a cohesive, organized work force, and build the House of G-d.

… the Torah uses a very unusual terminology:  “Observe that G-d has selected Bezalel…”

What did Moses mean by “Observe…”?  What is there to observe?  …

Rabbi Feinstein answered that Bezalel’s assignment should have been obvious…

Read more.

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 “The King’s Day Off” (2006) 

What’s wrong with driving on Saturday?  If G-d doesn’t want me to work, fine, I’ll take off from work.  I’ll spend a pleasant day with the family.  We’ll drive to the local orchard and pick apples.  Then go to the park and have a barbeque, maybe take in a movie.  Then we’ll go home and I’ll help my son build a tree house.  What could be more relaxing?

Read more.

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 “(Madison Square) Garden of Eden” (2005)

… Lublin, Poland.  Once a center of Jewish life, it was one of the first Polish cities that the Nazis succeeded in declaring Judenrein… The Nazis derived great pleasure in burning the library of Yeshiva Chachmei Lublin in 1939.  There were so many books that the dastardly deed took twenty hours to complete.  But in their perverted sense of values, twenty hours were a small investment to pay for the dividend of destroying Rabbi Shapiro’s work and silencing the voice of Torah study.  Jewish Lublin was dead.  The Rabbi of Lublin’s dream was crushed and destroyed, never to rise again.

Or, perhaps not…

Read more.

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“Missing Yud = Missing YID!” (2003)

… the High Priest… wore an Ephod, a type of apron that had two jewels on the shoulder strap, and a breastplate that had twelve stones.  These 14 stones were donated by the Nesi’im, the Princes of each tribe.

… there was something lacking in their donation.  When Moses let the word out that he was accepting contributions for building the Tabernacle, the twelve Tribal Princes, men of great wealth, offered to underwrite the project.  They committed themselves to make up whatever shortfall there might be in communal donations.  There was no shortfall.  The Nation of Israel responded to the call, and in two days, Moses had more than he needed.  There was nothing left for the Princes to donate except for the 14 stones.

Why are the Nesi’im criticized?  Shouldn’t they be praised for taking the initiative to insure that everything would be provided? …

Read more.

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Links to this week’s second Torah Portion:

“Four-tenths of an Ounce of Prevention…” (2008)

…Haman hated Jews.  He wanted, more than anything, to destroy them.  Being a superstitious man, he decided to draw lots (“Purim” in Hebrew) to see when would be a good time to wipe out his enemies.  He drew the month of Adar.  Haman was thrilled.  Well-versed in Jewish history as he was, he knew that Adar was the month during which Moses died.  Obviously, Adar must be a bad month for Jews.  His mistake was that Moses was also BORN during Adar, a particularly auspicious event for the People of Israel.

…Haman hated us so much that he was even willing to pay the bill for our slaughter.  And the king, no lover of Jews himself, told Haman he could keep the money.  The extermination would be “on the house.”

Miscalculating the significance of the month of Adar was not Haman’s only mistake…

Read more.

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 “Wasting Shekels and Wasting TALENTS” (2005)

Beware the Ides of April!

With tax time little more than a month away, we must to remember to do it right.  Make sure you have receipts for all your donations and business expenses.  After all, what will happen if the IRS calls you in for an audit?

On the Jewish calendar, this week is tax time AND audit time. …

Moses feared the appearance of impropriety.  First, he collects precious stones, metals and other materials for the Tabernacle.  Suddenly, he’s driving a Lexus!  Now, how does that look?  He ordered an audit in order to demonstrate that everything collected was used for the Tabernacle.  Nothing was “skimmed off the top.”…

“That’s it?!” I asked out loud in my passenger-less car.  THAT eyesore is what two intelligent people spent twenty-one million dollars of their own money on?! …

Read more.

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 “I Saw the Face of G-d!” (2004) 

…”The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and G-d’s glory filled the Tabernacle.”  (Ibid. 40:34)

G-d allowed the Shechina, His Divine Presence, to be apparent for all the world to see.  The Tabernacle, and later, the Temple in Jerusalem, was a place where miracles were a daily event.  One could not spend the day in this place and deny the existence of G-d.

Sadly, this Divine Presence is much harder to perceive than it used to be.  Even in the Second Temple, many of the blatantly obvious miracles no longer took place.  G-d is no longer so easy to find.

Or is He?…

Read more.

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“You have to PRAY Attention!” (2003)

… IF YOU PUT ON TEFILLIN WHILE THINKING ABOUT TREES FALLING IN THE FOREST WHERE NO ONE CAN HEAR THEM FALL, DID YOU PUT ON TEFILLIN???

… Every family has its own private jokes. One of ours is “Delicious Soup.”…

Read more.

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“Sure, You’ve Got the Keys, But Who’s Really Driving?”  (2001)

…The entire Nation of Israel worked together — weavers, embroiderers, silversmiths — craftsmen of many disciplines performed this labor of love to build a House of G-d… the people brought all the parts to Moses because they weren’t able to put it all together due to the weight of the beams.  Now Moses was expected to do it for them!

How, wondered Moses, would any human be able to put those massive timbers together?!  …

Read more.

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 This is the weekly message at www.torahtalk.org.   Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (www.Brisrabbi.com)  and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on March 7, 2008 at 10:41 am  Leave a Comment  

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