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02.03.2014 19:13    Comments: 0    Categories: Weekly Parashah      Tags: torah shabbat parashah parashat pekude  shekalim  
The Book of Shemot concludes with this Parasha. After completing all the different sections, vessels and ceremonial garments used in the Mishkan, Moshe gives a complete accounting of all the contributions and of the various clothing and vessels which had been fashioned. The People of Isreal bring everything to Moshe. He inspects the handiwork and notes that everything was made according to HaShem’s detailed instructions. Moshe blesses the people. Hashem speaks to Moshe and tells him that the Mishkan should be set up on the first day of the first month, the month of Nissan. He also instructs Moshe of the order of assembling the Mishkan and its components. Moshe does everything in the prescribed manner. When the Mishkan is finally finished with every vessel in its place, a Cloud of Glory descends upon it, indicating that HaShem’'s glory was resting there. When the Cloud moved away from the Mishkan, it was an indication that the Nation of Israel must follow it. At night the cloud was replaced by a pillar of fire.

Points to Ponder this Week:
A. As we conclude Sefer Shemot tomorrow, we recognize that there is a new beginning next week with Sefer Vayikra. It is a momentous ending of the Sefer HaGeulah, and the inauguration of the aftermath of Geulah--the Torat Kohanim--service of Hashem on a higher plane in a Mikdash. We are even ending the month and beginning anew early next week. Most definitely, this should be a Shabbat of real reflection--what am I concluding--and what will I be beginning? How will I utilize the opportunity? Will I realize that when Purim arrives the year will be half over--and that it would truly be an accomplishment to Improve in Avodat Hashem before the second half of the Year--with a concrete improvement that I have been meaning to make --especially in Torah or Tefillah? As we see the great work product of the Mishkan come to final fruition in Parashat Pekudei--let us practically and meaningfully take the lesson of its building to the meaningful next step--real and actual growth in Avodat Hashem.
This Shabbat is Shabbat Shekalim, the Sabbath of Shekels. The Torah portion that speaks of Shekalim (Exodus 30:11-16) is read as the Maftir portion after the regular weekly Torah reading has concluded. It refers to God's commandment that  a census of the Jewish people be taken by the donation of a half-shekel, rather than by a head count.

The most significant aspect of this half-shekel census was that it was blind to wealth. Rich or poor, each man* above the age of 20 was required to give a half-shekel coin. Exodus 30:15 states: "The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less..."

The half-shekel collection was specifically designed to be egalitarian, so that no person would stand out as an individual. Every person was (and still is) an equal part of the whole.

Parashat Shekalim is always read on Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Adar (the first day of the month of Adar) or on the Shabbat immediately preceding Rosh Chodesh. (This year, Rosh Chodesh is celebrated on Sunday and Monday.) In the time of the Temple, the half-shekel was contributed by the people during the month of Adar, and the reading of Shekalim served as an announcement of the upcoming obligation.

Additionally, the section of Shekalim reminds us that Purim is soon at hand (Adar 14-this year, February 23/24). The wicked Haman offered Achashverosh 10,000 silver pieces for the right to destroy the Jews, assuming that his silver pieces would off-set the sum total of the Jews' half-shekel donations in the wilderness. Thankfully, he was wrong!

*The census counted every male over the age of 20, under the assumption that every male over the age of 20 had already established a household. Thus, the census, in effect, counted all Jewish households.

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