``When you take the count of the B`nei
Yisrael to determine their numbers, each man shall give an atonement pledge for
his soul to Ad-noy, when you count them.`
`Everyone passing by to be counted must give this---
half a shekel based on the shekel of the Holy [Sanctuary,]``
census of the Israelite men was taken, each man was required to contribute the
coin of one-half shekel. The coins were then counted, and the total indicated
how many men had been numbered.
process raises several questions. Why weren`t the men counted by heads? Why was
each one required to donate a coin instead? Our Sages have replied that the
method of counting by means of coins signifies the fact that every single
person numbered has his own individual worth. However, this leads to a
different question. If so, why did each man have to donate only half a shekel,
rather than a whole one? Why not have each individual
show that he is whole and complete?
this is just the point, to emphasize the fact that no individual is complete
when alone. No man, and certainly no Jew, is an island. He can reach the
ultimate heights of Jewish spirituality and brotherhood only when he associates
and cooperates with other Jews. If he goes out of his way to help others, to learn
from others, and to join others in positive group efforts, then he is a true
member of the Jewish nation. On the other hand, if he remains aloof from
others, then he stands alone and is truly lacking in character (Rambam, Perek 4 Hilchos Teshuvah Halacha 1).
importance of working together with others is shown in the tale of a man who
lost his way while in a huge, dense forest and kept on walking around in
circles. Eventually, he came upon a second person, also thrashing his way
through the forest. Can you show me the way out of the woods? he
not yet, said the second man. However, through my travels I have
already found out which roads not to take. Maybe together we can find the right
And so it
was. Each one offered his own knowledge of the forest`s roads, and with their
pooled information they soon found the right way. Had each remained alone, each
would have wandered for much longer.
This shall they give ... A half shekel
(30:13). This parshah speaks of the contributions
that were made to the Mishkan. The use of the word `zeh`, this, implies that something was actually shown to the listener.
Rabbi Meir explained that Hashem removed a coin of
fire from beneath His holy throne and said to Moses, Let the people give
a coin such as this.
Why was it
necessary to show Moshe the half-shekel coin, he didnít knoe what the currency of the time looked like? Moreover,
why was he shown a coin of fire?
Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin ztíl (in Oznayim letorah) comments that money is like fire. Hence, Moshe was shown a
coin of fire. If fire is misused, it can destroy, but it can also be used
constructively, to prepare food and sustenance for the needy or to provide
warmth. And the reason why he was shown the coin in the first place, was not because he didnít know what it looked
like, but, rather, Moshe wanted to understand how money can be used ďto
make an atonement for your souls?Ē Is money not the root of all evil?
How can it be used as an atonement? This was the
message Hashem wished to convey; money has a double potential: If used for mitzvos, it can be a conduit of great blessings. Such money can be ďan atonement for the soulĒ. But
if a person keeps his mon≠ey exclusively for himself and spends it
foolishly and wrongly, it can cause great destruction.
us utilize Hashemís blessings for the good. Let our efforts be beneficial
to the world and not hoarded selfishly.