Parashas Mishpatim - Shekalim
Kings II, 12
By Rabbi Dovid Siegel
This week's haftorah, read in conjunction with Parshas Sh'kalim, focuses on
King Yehoash's successful campaign to repair the Bais Hamikdash. Prior to
his reign, the Bais Hamikdash saw serious neglect and necessitated
extensive renovations to restore it to its splendor. When Yehoash came to
power he responded to the problem and instructed the kohanim to collect the
necessary funds. After their unsuccessful attempt Yehoash personally
spearheaded the appeal and elicited an overwhelming response.
The background for this neglect is explained in Divrei Hayamim wherein
Scriptures severely blame the wicked Queen Atalya and her family. (ibid
2:23) Her royal family disgraced the holiest structure on earth by
carelessly roaming inside it, bringing much damage to its interior and
structure. The Jewish people realized the problem and consistently donated
funds towards the Bais Hamikdash's repair. However, the wicked sovereign
constantly misappropriated the funds and channeled them towards her
idolatrous practices. Once King Yehoash assumed the throne he removed
idolatry from the royal family and faithfully directed the funds to the
Bais Hamikdash. After years of neglect the holy structure finally returned
to its physical beauty.
This development reminds us of the Jewish people's experience during its
formative years. We read in the maftir portion of Parshas Shkalim about
the half shekel contributions. This collection was dedicated to the
Sanctuary and served in part for the Jewish people's atonement from making
their most shameful plunge in history. (see Daas Z'kainim S'hmos 30:13)
This came after Hashem showered His people with abundant wealth while
leaving Egypt. In addition to all these Egyptian gifts (loans) Hashem
presented His people at the Sea of Reeds all of Egypt's wealth. This
additional wealth proved too much for the Jewish people to absorb who
viewed it as a heavy surplus. During their severest moment of despair they
succumbed to Egyptian influence and applied these precious gifts towards
the infamous Golden Calf. Hashem responded harshly to this offense and the
Jewish people sincerely repented for their inexcusable behavior. Hashem
accepted their repentance and invited them to participate in the erection
of the Sanctuary. They learned their lesson well and immediately dedicated
their wealth towards Hashem's magnificent sanctuary. This comeback
displayed their true approach to wealth and deemed them worthy of Hashem's
Divine Presence for the next thousand years.
Parshas Sh'kalim's maftir reading and its accompanying haftorah are a most
befitting introduction to the month of Adar. We read in Megillas Esther
(3:9) that the wicked Haman offered the foolish, wicked King Achasveirosh
ten thousand silver blocks in exchange for the Jewish people. Haman
intended to use this manneuver to destroy the entire Jewish nation. The
Sages teach us that Haman's efforts were preempted by the Jewish people's
annual Adar donation to the Bais Hamikdash. By no coincidence, Hashem
instructed the Jewish nation to annually donate this exact sum of ten
thousand silver blocks to the Bais Hamikdash. Hashem said, "Let the Jewish
nation's (funding of) ten thousand blocks preempt Haman's (influence on the
king with his) ten thousand blocks". (see Mesichta Megilla 13b and Tosfos
The apparent message here is that the Jewish people's annual donation
reflected their attitude towards wealth and power. They consistently
allocated their funds to the worthiest of all causes by contributing ten
thousand silver blocks to the Sanctuary/Bais Hamikdash. This pure approach
to wealth and power shielded the Jewish people from Haman's financial
influence. Because they truly understood the value of wealth and did not
become adversely effected by it Hashem placed them outside of Haman's
financial power. Eventually, the king would and did see through Haman's
madness and was not blinded by this financial influence.
These valuable lessons are a perfect introduction to the month Adar and
Purim. They remind us of the benefits of money when allocated in the
proper ways. During King Yehoash's reign sincere financial funds restored
the Bais Hamikdash to its original splendor. During earlier times
donations helped atone for the Jewish people's worst plunge in history.
And during the days of Purim in the month of Adar our annual charitable
donations helped spare us from our worst enemy in history.
This timely insight sheds colorful light on Purim's unique mitzvos. Unlike
all Yomim Tovim, Purim revolves around acts of generosity. It calls upon
us to direct our funds to the constructive causes of half shekel
donations, alms to the paupers and food to our friends. Our eagerness and
zeal to fulfill these mitzvos reflect our true approach towards wealth and
display our generosity as a very noble trait. Our understanding of money's
true value places us outside of our enemies' hostile financial influence.
In addition, it unites us as a people and qualifies us to reunite with
Hashem and merit His return to the Bais Hamikdash and His cherished people.
Text Copyright © 2002 Rabbi Dovid Siegel and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rosh Kollel of Kollel Toras Chaim of
Kiryat Sefer, Israel.