watch over and protect the land of Israel.
Shabbat morning we bless the second month of Adar, the month of Purim,
and we read from two Torah scrolls. In the first scroll we read the
weekly portion, Pekudei, which is the conclusion of the book of Shemot
(Exodus). When we conclude a book of the Torah, it is called Shabbat
Chazak, which means strength This imbues every aspect of Shabbat with
might. For the Maftir, we use a second Torah scroll and read a special
portion, the portion of Shekalim.
portion of Shekalim describes the Mitzvah of the annual contribution to
the Temple in Yerushalayim for the public offerings. In order for
everyone to have an equal share in the public offerings, they were
purchased with communal funds. The Torah commands that a collection be
made and that everyone give a half Shekel. It was forbidden to give more
or less. The collection was made during the month of Adar in order that
the offerings from the beginning of Nissan (the month of Pesach) could
be purchased from the new funds.
also a special connection between the portion of Shekalim and the
festival of Purim. Haman promised King Achashverosh ten thousand
Shekalim as a bribe if he would agree to annihilate the Jewish people.
The Gemarrah teaches that the Shekalim that were donated to the Temple
canceled the effect of his bribe. This is alluded to in the verse
(Exodus 30:12) “and they shall give… and there will be no destruction.”
Midrash teaches that when Hashem gave Moshe the Mitzvah of Machatzit
Hashekel (the half Shekel,) he was puzzled until Hashem showed him a
half Shekel of fire. Seemingly, this Midrash is very difficult to
comprehend. What was so difficult to understand? The Shekel was a known
coin at the time, and once a year everyone was to give a half Shekel.
perplexed Moshe was that we only give a half Shekel. Every Mitzvah is
done in a full and complete manner. Sacrifices that were incomplete were
invalid. When it came to the annual participation in the communal
sacrifices, surely we should give a full Shekel!
to answer this, Hashem showed Moshe a half Shekel of fire. The half
Shekel of fire is the half Shekel of Hashem, which completes our half
Shekel. Hashem reminds us that whatever we do is only through His grace.
When we do a Mitzvah, particularly Tzedakah, it is often accompanied
with ego. I am the giver, you are the recipient and I give up my hard
earned money. Hashem reminds us that it is His blessing that allows us
to succeed and have all that we possess. Our half Shekel only exists
thanks to His half Shekel of fire.
a deeper meaning to the half Shekel of fire. When we perform the Mitzvah
of Tzedakah, Hashem send us a half Shekel of fire: renewed warmth in
prayer, Torah study, and all of the Mitzvot that we perform. This
relates to the portion of Pekudei which concludes the construction of
the Tabernacle. The fire on the altar was a flame from Heaven that came
as a response to the flame of man.
also comes from the Hebrew word of remembrance. When Hashem redeemed us
from Egypt, He said Pakod Pakadti Etchem (I have remembered you.) May
Hashem grant that this Shabbat will be a true Shabbat Chazak when we
conclude the exile and rejoice in the redemption.
Shalom and Chodesh Tov,
Dedicated to Yitzchak Jemal on the occasion of his Brit. May he be
imbued with the passion and joy of the Torah.
the 19th of March! With Purim coming up, please think of ways
to see that as many Jews as possible can participate in the Mitzvot of
hearing the Megillah, giving Mishloach Manot (gifts of food), gifts to
the poor, and the Purim feast. Haman referred to the Jewish people as a
divided people who don’t follow the Kings commandments. By helping
others perform the Mitzvot of Purim, we negate his words and demonstrate
Talmud teaches that increasing Torah study brings Hashem's protection to
the Jewish people and particularly to the people of Israel. If you know
of anyone who might enjoy Torah e mail, please send me their addresses.
mail is part of a worldwide program of Jewish awareness by Chabad of
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There is a
great Purim Website at