In this week's Parsha we are reading about a very special Mitzvah: the Half Shekel donation (Machatzit Hashekel).
“This shall they give – everyone who passes through the census – a half of the sacred shekel” (Sh’mos 30:13)
The half-shekel was used to count the people and to create the fund for the purchase of communal offerings throughout the year, as well as other spiritual needs of the community.
The half-shekel was required of males from age 20 and up. It was optional for women.
But why is Hashem asking the Jewish people only for half? Why not a full Shekel ?
I want to share three answers:
1. No one is perfect - Hashem is teaching us that in order to fulfill our mission,we can not do it by ourselves, we are only half! It is only when we are connected to other Jews that we can succeed, the Gemara in Taanit (23) says just this in the most beautiful way:
“This explains the folk saying that people say: Either friendship or death, as one who has no friends is better off dead."
2. Hashem will complete the other half. Our Talmud begins with page two, page one is a blank piece of paper, nothing is written on it. When you learn with the deepest depths of your heart and soul, you kiss the blank paper. You can do only half, the other half is in the hands of Hashem to complete.
3. Divide your day-it also is showing us that there are two sides to life, the material and the spiritual. Half the day was for material pursuits, the other half for spiritual striving.
God gave the example that he was both immanent and transcendent, both within and beyond the physical world. Human beings have to devote themselves to tilling and tending the earthly world, but not to the exclusion of spiritual concern and vice-versa. No one has the right to disdain the earthly realm and seek spirituality without material concerns
Rabbi Ariel Koriat
High School Judaic Studies Teacher