Shabbat Message: Half a Shekel

March 16, 2020
By Beth Mordecai
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Shabbat Message: Half a Shekel

In this week’s parsha, Ki Tisa, we learn that each adult male was required to contribute the same amount, a half-shekel towards the building of the Mishkan, the portable Tabernacle in the desert.

This mitzvah or commandment served two primary functions: it was a census, counting all the adult males potentially eligible for battle, and it helped to build up a fund to pay for the construction of Mishkan.

The nature of each contribution being the same amount suggests the importance of each person. Each person has equal value to this world and God. Yet the amount that was given was only half a shekel from each adult male.

Each person matters. This tax was only required by the adult males, yet each person has the potential to enrich our community, “rich and poor alike.”

I would also add to the list: “male and female alike,” “young and old alike,” “analytical or creative alike,” “single or coupled alike,” “gay or straight alike,” and “everyone who is not described by these binary systems.”

We all have something of great and equal value to contribute to the community. In God’s eyes, we are all immeasurably different, yet we are all created in the image of God, we are all equal and deserving of that distinction. The amount people were asked to give was 1/2 of a shekel. Perhaps that was an amount that most anyone could pay.

I believe the half-shekel amount is a statement on the human condition. When we are alone, we are not whole. God created people to crave connection, and we thrive when we are amongst others. Judaism requires a minyan to recite several prayers to ensure that we do not live a solitary existence.

Even these days, when health concerns require people to be separate physically, we can join together in many ways with the help of technology. On this Shabbat, connect with another person, on the phone, FaceTime, or in person, just connect.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Metz

Category : Rabbi Rabbi's Journal Shabbat