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Audio: TTA for Parshat P'kudei & Shabbat Sh'kalim - The Shekel Vaccine

TTA for Parshat P'kudei & Shabbat Sh'kalim - The Shekel Vaccine.
2/28/2014, 2:00 PM

A7 Radio's "Torah Tidbits Audio" with Phil Chernofsky
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The Shekel Vaccine

In the beginning of P'kudei, we find an accounting of the quantities of gold, silver, and copper (bronze?) that were collected from the people. They were asked to contribute however much they were motivated to give. This was so for the gold and the copper, but not for the silver. The contribution of silver was required and was restricted to exactly a half-shekel per person, males from 20 years and up. The total for gold was 29 talents, 730 shekels (b'shekel hakodesh) - which translates to 1684.4 kilograms (54155 troy oz.) of gold. FYI: At today's gold price, the value of the gold collected for the Mishkan is over 72 million dollars. Remember - the gold came from voluntary contributions. Not so, the silver. The Torah is clear and detailed that the silver was from the obligatory half-silver-shekel collected from men from 20 years and up. The tally matches the census. The number of males from 20 and up who left Mitzrayim was 603,550. The amount of silver collected was 100 talents and 1775 shekels. A talent = 3000 shekels. The silver collected, then, was 301,775, which is 603,550 half- shekels. Again, FYI: At today's silver price, the value of the silver collected for the Mishkan is over $4,000,000. We'll leave the copper amount for another time, and we do not have quantities for the other materials collected. Let's move on the the collection of the MACHATZIT HASHEKEL, the topic of the maftir this Shabbat. The first time the command was acted upon, the entire amount of silver collected was used in the Mishkan. 100 talents, that's 300,000 shekel of silver was used for the ADANIM, the foundation blocks of the Mishkan. The extra 1775 shekel of silver was used for hooks and decorations of some of the posts (pillars). The "regular" use of the silver half- shekels collected, in all the years that the Mikdash stood, was for communal offerings (daily T'midim, Musafim of Shabbat, Rosh Chodesh, and Chag) and other communities needs in the Mikdash. Including...

Picture this: Time of the Beit HaMikdash - past or future (SHEYIBANEH BIMHEIRA B’YAMEINU, AMEN) - a very wealthy man in Israel has a major simcha in his family. He is so happy and thankful to HaShem for his simcha that he is inviting family and friends to join him in Jerusalem for a few days. He plans to celebrate in several different ways, but the most special event will be a barbecue one evening with the main dish being the meat of the Korban Sh'lamim that his is bringing to mark the simcha. He spares no expense, buying the highest quality bull for the korban. After suitable tahara processing for himself and his guests, he makes an appointment with those in charge of such things at the Mikdash, and arrives at the appointed time with his bull, wine for libation, finest flour and oil for the Menachot. He then hands the kohen in charge of his korban a small sandwich bag it salt. The kohen asks what it is, and the man - a bit surprised at the question, begins to quote the pasuk in the Torah that requires salt to be put on all sacrifices. The kohen assures the man that he knows the rules and regulations for korbanot quite well, but explains to the man that the salt of all korbanot - private as well as communal, comes from the Machatzit HaShekel fund. It may not be from a private individual. The man's first reaction is anger mixed with arrogance. He says: "This is MY korban. I have spent a small fortune to celebrate my simcha in grand style. I bought the best bull. I bought the finest wine for libation. I bought the best flour and finest olive oil to accompany the Sh'lamim. And I am providing my own salt. In soothing tones, the kohein explains to the man that in the Beit HaMikdash there is no "I", "me", "mine" only. There is also "we" and "us". And that "we" and "us" is all of Klal Yisrael. Yes, you have spent a lot for the best korban to celebrate your simcha. And at your festivities, there will be no party crashers. It is your simcha. But know - and know very well, that you are part of Klal Yisrael, and unlike in mathematics, the whole is greater than the some of its parts. Judaism does not negate the individual. But it values the TZIBUR very much. All of the korban is yours. But every member of Klal Yisrael (the ones who fulfilled their obligation and mitzva of Machatzit HaShekel) is a small part of your korban, a small part of your simcha. Machatzit HaShekel and that which is done with the collected funds makes a strong statement of Jewish Unity. Our Sh'kalim - which were (and will be) announced at the beginning of Adar, and in commemoration of which, we read Parshat Sh'kalim on the Shabbat of or right before Rosh Chodesh Adar (Sheni) are our vaccination to protect us from the sh'kalim that Haman and his ilk offered to Achashveirosh for royal permission to destroy us. He told the king that we were scattered and disjointed. Machatzit HaShekel declares our unity and our strength. Ponder all this and do not take it merely with a grain of salt.

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Phil Chernofsky is the educational director of the Orthodox Union's OU Israel Center in Jerusalem and editor of the Torah Tidbits parsha pamphlet. Since 1998, he has hosted Torah Tidbits Audio, a shiur on the weekly parsha with witty insights. It airs every Thursday from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Israel time and is downloadable as a podcast on Israel National Radio. Phil made Aliyah to Israel over 30 years ago. He is the author of the newly released book And Every Single One Was Someone, a tribute to victims of the Holocaust.
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