The Power of a [Half-]Shekel

Shabbat Candle Lighting Times for Moscow, Russia Friday, February 19th Light Candles at 17:22 Shabbat, February 20th, Shabbat Ends 18:39 Torah Portion: Tetzaveh

The Power of a [Half-]Shekel Money is an incredible tool. It gives you power; it broadens your horizon of possibilities. At some level, the money in your pocket can buy you pleasure and prestige. It can give you peace of mind and security for the future. The dollar is so mighty because it represents so much of what you want, so much of what you’d like. Your life, and maybe even your self-image, is rolled up in that dollar. Now let’s back it up a bit. How did you get that money? Imagine that you’ve worked very hard, taking risks, beating off threats, putting in long hours to earn the money you now possess. In this sense, the money represents your hard work, the lifeblood you’ve invested in earning a living. In truth, these dollars are more than currency: They embody yesterday’s struggle and tomorrow’s pleasure. With that in mind, we can appreciate the immense beauty of giving charity. When someone gives money - THEIR money - to a greater need, they are parting with something very deep, with an embodiment of their toil and their pleasure. They are giving of themselves to a greater need, and by doing so they elevate their entire lives as represented by the money. But why? Why would anyone willingly give their money away to someone else? The answer is that charitable people recognize that they are part of a greater whole. When someone realizes “what I need is only half the picture, and the other half is what I’m needed FOR”, life’s equation changes. My assets don’t only represent my pursuits in life; they represent my responsibility to life. That’s why we call charitable giving ‘Tzedakah’ in Hebrew. ‘Tzedaka’ means justice, because generosity reflects a mindset of responsibility to the world. In the Torah, G-d tells each person to give a ‘half-Shekel’ to the communal fund. The Shekel was silver coinage, each weighing 20 ‘gerahs’ (a Biblical weight measurement) of silver; if you do the math, a ‘half-shekel’ was obviously 10 ‘gerahs’. Why couldn’t the Torah just tell each person to give 10 ‘gerahs’? Why the emphasis on ‘halfness’? The Torah is driving home our point. When we recognize our own ‘halfness’, we’ll be ready to give ourselves whole-heartedly to our neighbors’ needs. The half-Shekel makes the giver whole. Tzedaka. What a concept. Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Yanky Klein

This email is In Loving memory of my dear father R' Yerachmiel Binyamin Halevi ben R, Menachem Klein OBM