Half shekel per person
Half shekel per personLevy family

“Hello darkness, my old friend

I’ve come to talk with you again

Because a vision softly creeping

Left its seeds while I was sleeping

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains

Within the sound of silence… (Simon and Garfunkel)

Darkness fills the evening sky. The jubilant sound of children returning from school has drifted away, faded from the merry sidewalk. A short while ago, the nursery school across the way was filled with voices of children playing. They are home now. I listen to the silence, and to the whir of cars passing by my window. They are going, somewhere.

As a child, I was on a swim team. Just before the whistle is blown, there is complete silence. A great silence. Of anticipation, of preparation, of imminent occurrence.

Sometimes, it is in the silence, that one pauses for a moment. To hear the true voice. The voice of the soul, which offers guidance and direction. Our consciousness, our awareness, enters our hearts.

And then we heard the words: ”Swimmers, take your mark…..”

I remember for a lifetime that feeling. As direction is set, the inner compass aligned, thoughts, heart, intent profoundly oriented towards one goal. As the spirit, the will, the concentration come to sharp focus.

The moment before we hear a whistle, which will be followed by take-off into the water.

The moment before our inner understanding and orientation will be expressed as outward action.

We are now in a hesitant process of reawakening. As if in a dream, the exuberant chatter of children is again heard on the streets. Schools and playgrounds are again filled with life and laughter.

And yet, there is a feeling of urease, of unquiet. As a turtle, after poking his head out from the shell, may pull it back in again. We are trodding upon ground which is not quite secure. It is soft and unsteady sand which greets us in the early morning, as sunshine's warmth meets the cool firmness implanted at night.

And I wonder. Where are we going, now? After such a long period of time when mere survival was, and in fact still is, a high priority. What are our goals, now? Have they changed during the past two years? Have we had a shift in direction, in priorities, in purpose? Is the inner compass aligned today differently?

We are tantalized by a vision. The idealized past, the envisioned future of our dreams. The gleam of sunlight shimmering behind the dark cloud. As the glimmer of a firefly in the night. As a sparkle which we hold gently in our hands, fearful that the light be extinguished. We have a glimpse of the possible. What could be, what should be.

Was it only a few weeks ago, that long lines of people waited patiently to be tested. Each alone, and yet united in appreciation of the value, of the sanctity, of life. Waiting to be set on today’s proper course of action.

We have the ability, the strength of will, to direct our hearts and minds towards a positive outcome. And then wait, patiently, to see if that outcome materializes.

And now, what goals do we have in mind? Can we do this for a higher calling? What are we willing to stand together for, to wait for hours for? Food for the poor? Education for the children? Understanding, compassion? Help for our brethren in foreign lands? Peace among nations?

What is our true, higher vision for ourselves, for our Nation?

This past week’s Parsha opens with a description of census- taking. God commands Moses: “…let each one give to the Lord an atonement for his soul when they are counted; then there will be no plague among them …This they shall give…half a shekel according to the holy shekel”. (Exodus 30:12-13)

Each man contributes exactly a half-shekel coin.

There are many interpretations of these passages, for the half-shekel is both physical, as well as spiritual and mystical. And the hidden is greater than the revealed.

The complete shekel represents the unity of Israel. It is the other half-shekel, contributed by another, which will make our personal contribution whole, meaningful. According to Yismach Moshe (Ki Tisa 4) the giving of the half-shekel unifies man. An individual is made whole by being united in a group.

“Rabbi Meir said: The Holy One, Blessed be He, removed from beneath His Throne of Glory a coin of fire and showed it to Moses saying, this shall they give“. (Midrash Tanchuma, Ki Tisa 9:5)

There are various interpretations as to what is the significance of the coin of fire which was shown to Moses. The spiritual significance of giving with fire, with passion. Or the significance of a spiritual half-coin, representing the soul of man. The half shekel may be a metaphor for our soul, as the gematria of ‘shekel’ and of ‘nefesh’ are the same.

As well as being a member of society, we are each a part of the Divine. Our soul a part of the Divine spirit.

The true source of our strength, the true ground upon which we walk, upon which we put our faith in the future, in the success of our endeavors.

May we be worthy.

“Purify our hearts to serve Thee in truth”

As we rejoin our personal fate, to that of a world of reawakening. As we reenter the stream of life. As we join our presence to the presence of our brethren in prayer for their wellbeing.

May we as individuals, may we as a nation, be guided by the inner core of our beings, to the actions which are blessed.

In the silence of the night, we hear a Voice.

Dr. Devorah Ungar is an American-born scientist and musician.who moved to Israel 30 years ago.