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24 Shevat 5762 - February 6, 2002 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
Shekolim -- A Half To Create A Whole

by S. Bilgrei

If it suits the king, then let us proclaim to destroy them and ten thousand measures of silver . . . (Esther 3,9). Resh Lokish said: It was clear to the Creator of the World that in the future Homon would weigh shekolim against Yisroel, therefore He preceded their shekolim to his shekolim. Hence, the mishna says that on the first of Adar there is a proclamation about the shekolim and kilayim (Megilloh 13b).

There is a very clear calculation figuring that 600,000 Jews who came out of Egypt, times 40 years of giving the Half Shekel, which is the amount of years a person was required to pay (from age 20 until 60 which is 40 years) totals the equivalent of 10,000 kikar kesef, talents of silver. Therefore, when Homon bribed Achashverosh to murder all the Jews and offered 10,000 kikar kesef, Am Yisroel had already preceded him with the same amount of money for tzedokoh through the Machatsis Hashekel to redeem themselves, and it eventually saved their lives.

What is the depth and underlying message of the Machatsis Hashekel? The Half Shekel was a token for tzedokoh and the means of counting the Jews.

Charity, which is the rich giving to the poor, creates sholom, or peace, since all become complete and none are lacking. This unifies all. When Am Yisroel is unified, there is a spiritual occurrence of the tzaddik giving of his merits to the rosho to balance each other and create the shleimus.

This idea of unity among Am Yisroel can only be created from the concept of the Machatsis Hashekel, where each Jew realizes that he is part of a whole. There is no existence for an individual Jew independent of his affiliation with Am Yisroel, just as there is no existence for a hand independent of the rest of its body. Hashem created Yisroel as one neshomoh with each individual representing different fragments of the same body.

To illustrate this point, Hashem showed Moshe Rabbenu the symbolic coin of fire which He took from beneath the Heavenly throne where nishmas Yisroel lies. Fire represents achdus because of its nature to spread till all are affected. Fire does not isolate itself, just as a Jew is not an isolated entity. The depth of this reality stems from our origin, the single source. Therefore, "shekel" is the numerical equivalent of "nefesh" which symbolizes achdus, referring to all the offspring of Yaakov Ovinu in the single tense, as in shiv'im nefesh (70 "soul"), whereas the offspring of Eisov are enumerated in the plural.

We see a beautiful hint to this theme from the gift Eliezer gave Rivka Imeinu. The Torah says he gave her "nezem zohov bekka mishkolo" (a gold nose ring, weighing one bekka), the exact weight of the Machatsis Hashekel which was bekka lagulgoles -- a bekka for each person.

He also gave her "shnei tsemiddim al yodeha asoroh zohov mishkolom -- two bracelets on her hand weighing ten measures of gold." This alludes to the two Luchos with the Ten Commandments, to show that the condition for receiving the Torah was the message of the Shekel, which is achdus.

The depth of achdus of Am Yisroel is signified by the structure of the Luchos, which had on one side five commandments of bein odom laMokom, and facing it were the other five commandments pertaining to bein odom lechavero. Hashem said the mitzvos of bein odom lechavero, which make the Jews unified, are what reflects yichud Shomayim, the oneness of Hashem. As much as one invests in getting to love his fellow Jew, he succeeds simultaneously in coming closer to Hashem.

The underlying reason why one should love any Jew unconditionally is because of his realization that it is Hashem's will. Think for a moment, when you see an unsympathetic-looking Jew, how his mother would relate to him and what his mother would feel if he were insulted. Hashem, who created each individual with an exalted purpose and continuously invests thousands of intricate miracles to keep him alive with love, is severely pained by His child's abuse.

Our emunah and love of Hashem is the true source of our relationship with each other. To believe that no one can help or harm us without it being decreed from above, allows us to be forgiving of our fellow man who was just a messenger in hurting us, and instead to reflect more inwardly when pain is inflicted upon us about how to modify our own behavior to relieve us from this decree.

Giving others the benefit of the doubt, the basis of bein odom lechavero, reflects our level of bitochon in Hashem that He carries out true justice, but wants us to free our brethren from guilt, just as a father, while punishing his wayward son, appreciates those who tolerate him and attempt to minimize his misdeeds. Our loving relationship with each other is an acknowledgment of Hashem as our common, supreme Father.

A major factor in our intolerance of each other is our differences. It is very hard to appreciate those who are different from us, either in background, minhogim, dress, or language.

Let us try to picture our true purpose in this world using the analogy of a car. Am Yisroel is a vehicle, or merkovoh, for the Shechina. A car has many parts, an engine, carburetor, steering wheel, windows and seats. No two parts are alike, nor would we want all the parts to resemble each other because each one has its specific design and function in the vehicle. Just as a rainbow's beauty depends on its array of color, and a garden's magnificence depends on its varied flowers, so too, our variety of ethnic groups and approaches and emphases to avodas Hashem reflects Hashem's endless greatness. If we appreciate each other because of our differences, that is what makes us complete.

True achdus has a very important condition that we learn from the posuk in Parshas Shekolim: "Ki siso es rosh Bnei Yisroel." Am Yisroel is only unified when they are headed by a Rosh, a leader, and are totally under his guidance. As in our bodies, unity is not achieved when all limbs are equal, but only when all components carry out their proper function as dictated by the brain. If for a moment our organs would decide to be independent of our brain, we would cease to function, or at best, be "brain damaged." Our talmidei chachomim are our "heads," and in order to attain the achdus necessary to achieve our purpose of representing Hashem's Oneness, we must relinquish our will to do as they dictate.

The one who knew this best was Homon Horosho. He, as the instrument of the Soton himself, came with tremendous accusations against Am Yisroel to destroy the love and connection of Hashem to His nation in order to annihilate them. He said to the Melech Achashverosh -- while directing his words to the Melech Malchei Hamelochim -- "Yeshno am mefozor umeforod bein ho'amim."

His accusation was that they are scattered and not unified because they don't listen to their head, namely Mordechai. The moment Am Yisroel become disjoined because of their failure to subjugate themselves to the "head," they automatically become detached from Hashem, as a disabled vehicle is abandoned by its driver. The further we distance ourselves from each other, the further the distance Hashem is from Am Yisroel as well.

Homon carried on with his accusations, "Am echod hein they are one nation," alluding to the shortcoming of the Jews in failing to humble themselves properly before their leaders. He said, "They are all equal." When it comes to making decisions they pasken for themselves as if they were on an equal level as the rov.

Therefore, Esther Hamalkoh replied with the appropriate message, "Leich kenos es kol haYehudim lehikohel vela'amod al nafshom -- Go bring together all the Jews to gather and stand in order to save their lives." How did they actually unite?

The key was on Purim when all the Jews accepted upon themselves the yoke of the Oral Torah transmitted by talmidei chachomim: "kiyemu vekiblu aleihem," and thereby merited having the evil decree annulled, leading to eternal celebration and joy. The way to unite and annul the worst decrees in history, is to dedicate ourselves to accepting the instructions of our gedolim.

The Rebbe from Orzhorov, author of Beer Moshe, reveals that "rosh" equals in numerical value (when every letter is spelled out and summed up), the exact amount as the posuk, "Ve'atem hadeveikim baHashem Elokeicham, chaim kulchem hayom." The way to reach the unity where all will enjoy life -- the tzaddik and the rosho together - - is when all hearken to the words of our Rosh. Then the unity created allows the merits of the Righteous to disperse among the weaker Jews to create a complete healthy body.

The word "Machatsis" hints to this message with the letter tzaddik in the center, referring to the rov, and the letters closest to it on either side spelling "chai," as in those who cleave to the guidance of their rabbonim, while the remaining letters further away spell "meis," as in those who distance themselves from daas Torah.

The tzaddik in the center of the word Machatsis also stands for "tzedokoh," to emphasize that when we give to each other, it makes the evil decree of meis turn into chai, as Chazal say, "Tzedokoh tatzil mimoves."

So, when we hear Parshas Shekolim this week, we should remember our battle plan to give charity to each other and to emphasize unity, by abiding by the guidance of our rabbonim. Internalizing the message of the Machatsis Hashekel will, undoubtedly, lead us all to a miraculous Purim and a Nisan of Geulah.

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