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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 ibid 17a).
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.