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by Daneal Weiner
May the zechus of this Rav Moshe & Rav Moshe d’var Torah be merit for the refua shelaima of Tamar Tema bas Leah Devorah, family and friends.
This Shabbos, in addition to the regular weekly Torah reading we read a special last aliyah about the contribution of the half shekel to the Mishkan- Sanctuary. To add to the excitement we have to incredible issue of Orchards featuring Rav Moshe Wolfson shlit’a and Rav Moshe Shapirah, shlit’a. Chazal- our Sages say when faced with a choice between something regular and something not, “Tadir v’she’aino tadir tadir kodem.” What’s regular takes precedence. We’ll start with Rav Wolfson who starts back in Ki Sisa.
Parshas Ki Sisa opened with, “Hashem spoke to Moses saying, ‘When you take a census of the Children of Israel… this shall they give- everyone who passes through the census- a half [silver] shekel…’ ” Who is this everyone? The Jerusalem Talmud says “Everyone who passed through the split sea.” The Zohar says, “Those who transgressed a mitsva.”
We explained that members of Israel caused themselves to be expelled from the Clouds of Glory. Those Jews were from the Tribe of Dan, the last in the procession of the tribes as they traveled through the desert. They had taken with them, out of Egypt, the idol micha! The Jerusalem Talmud and the Zohar are saying the Torah is pointing at those expelled Jews and saying even they will bring the half shekel. Expelled from the camp does not mean expelled for good. In addition to what was said then we’ll add now a Rashi that says Moshe inquired from Hashem what was is half shekel He asks for and Hashem shows him a motbeiah shel aish- a coin of fire!
Parshas Vayakhel – Shabbos Shekalim
opens with the laws of Shabbos. Six days we work and on Shabbos we don’t. Anyone who does will be put to death. (The death penalty is for one who breaks the Sabbath intentionally. One who does so accidentally needs only to bring an atonement offering.) We then read it is forbidden to kindle a fire on Shabbos.
The opening words of this parsha teach there are 39 melachos- creative actions forbidden on Shabbos and it is certainly a question why the Torah singles out the prohibition of kindling a fire. Rashi briefly mentions the dispute in the Gemorah on just this question. One opinion learns fire was singled out for severity sake. Just as it is a prohibition in and of itself, so too are all 39. Meaning, if someone accidentally did 4 melachos with one action, whereas we would have thought since only one act committed the 4 melachos only one offering was necessary, we now learn 4 atonement offering need be brought, one for each prohibition performed.
The other opinion feels fire was extracted from the general principle for leniency sake. Meaning, after having just been warned the penalty for an intentional infraction is death, fire was then singled out to say the penalty for it is only lashes. Rav Wolfson will guide us through a deeper understanding of this dispute.
Hashem created the world out of 4 basic elements. Fire, wind, water and dust. These four elements parallel the four letters of Hashem’s Name. The first of the 4, fire, corresponds to the first letter of Hashem’s Name, the yud. It is the reishis- the beginning. On Breishis- In the beginning, Rashi says it can be read B’reishis- for reishis. Who is reishis? Israel. Hashem first had an idea, so to speak, to create a nation called Israel. For them He created the heavens and earth. Reishis reflects the shoresh nishmas yiosroel- the root source of the unified soul of Israel. Where we all began.
The letter yud also contains a 5th element of the Name of Hashem. The kotso shel yud- the point of the yud, referring to either the upper or lower point of the concave head of an inscribed yud. The kotso shel yud represents the ratsone ha’elyon. The ratsone ha’elyon (lit. the Upper will) is the ratsone Hashem- Hashem’s will. What Hashem wills is not subject to our understanding. It’s not dependent on reason. It doesn’t have to be merited or fulfill obligations. It represents a spiritually pure place of the soul of Israel where no blemish from sin can reach and from there the 13 attributes of Hashem’s Mercy radiate down to the world.
This is the underlying force behind Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur two goats were brought before the Kohen Gadol. A lot was drawn over the two goats to determine which was to be for Hashem and which for Azazel. Why lots? Because they are beyond reasoning. They do not depend on merit or obligation. The ultimate forgiveness for all Israel comes from that place. Purim is balanced in the scales with Yom Kippur. The Zohar says Yom Kippurim can be read Yom ki-Purim, a contraction of Yom kimo Purim- A day like Purim. On Purim Haman used lots against Israel claiming we deserved destruction. Hashem used lots for Israel as if saying, “I’ll save them anyway.” It’s the ratsone ha’elyon. No reason or merit necessary.
The Shlah Hakodesh discusses the dispute as to which is more stringent, Yom Kippur or Shabbos. A greater stringency would reflect greater sanctity. According to judgement, Shabbos seems loftier because one who does melacha on Shabbos is killed by stoning while melacha on Yom Kippur will incur only careis- excommunication. The Shlah Hakodesh asserts, never the less, that Yom Kippur is really the greater day and the reason its punishment is more lenient is because the essence of the day is forgiveness! It sweetens the justice and lightens its own punishment.
Accordingly we can explain the debate regarding fire on Shabbos. One side says fire was singled out because it’s the reishis! The first and foremost! This means stringency! Every infraction needs atonement! The other opinion says, “Reishis means the kotso shel yud. The ratsone ha’elyon. It sweetens its own punishment. Only Lashes.”
Holy writings say the 4 special parshas to be read on the 4 special Shabboses parallel the 4 letters of Hashem’s Name. This Shabbos Shekalim is the first. It’s the yud. And where there’s a yud there’s a kotso shel yud and ratsone ha’elyon. Hashem commanded in Ki Sisa (30:16), "v’lakachta es kesef hakippurim mayais Bnei Yisrael”- You shall take the silver of the atonements from the Children of Israel. The shekel and Yom haKippurim come together! They both atone from the same place, the ratsone ha’elyone. And Hashem said rich and poor alike bring a half shekel. Because rich and poor means in Torah and mitsvos and in the place of the ratsone ha’elyone all souls are equally united.
Isaiah prophesies about the end of days when our light won’t be the sun but Hashem Himself and he says (60:21), “V’amaich kulam tsaddikim.”- Your Nation they are all righteous!” Because we were the reishis of the ratsone ha’elyone. That’s the yud, the reishis of Hashem’s Name and that the fire, the reishis of the four elements.
Moshe’s inquiry into the half shekel wasn’t regarding looks. It was regarding atonement. ‘When you take a census of the Children of Israel… this shall they give- everyone who passes through the census- ‘everyone’ refers to Jews expelled from the camp! They will be atoned with a half shekel?? Hashem showed him a Motbeiah shel eish. Now Moshe understood. Shekalim = 480 = amaich kulam tsaddikim.
When the Egyptian exile ended the Jews were on their way to the land of Israel and the building of the Temple was close at hand. At that time Amaleik came and attacked those Jews from the Tribe of Dan. The Jews at the back of the camp, who were expelled from the camp. On a deeper level the tribe of Dan not only represents a ‘space’ (their physical location at the end) but they also represent time, the end of time. Chazal call the end of time the ikvesah dimashicha- the footsteps of the Mashiach.
In the days of Mordechai and Esther, it was the end of the Babylonian exile and the building of the Second Temple was cloat hand. It was an ikvesah dimashicha!! Haman attacked that “back of the camp”. Those “sons of Dan,” figuratively speaking.
Now we are the descendants of Dan at the end of this exile of Edom! We’re the back of the camp. We have our Amaleikites who want to cut us off from our source, from the forefathers, but all Israel is equally connected, rich and poor alike, first generation to last generation. Shekalim = 480 = u’venai Dan Chushim- the son of Dan is Chushim. Chushim has the same letters as Mashiach. Chushim was the one at the end of the line of Yaakov’s funeral procession who saw some man preventing them from entering the Cave of the Patriarchs. He was cutting them off from their forefathers. Chushim took a sword and cut off that man’s head. That man was Eisav, the father of Edom!
Hashem appointed Betsalel ben Uri of the Tribe of Yehudah over the building of the Mishkan and A’haliav ben Achisamach of the Tribe of Dan. Yehuda, the father of the kings of Israel and Dan the father of the expelled from Israel. Both partners in building the edifice on which the presence of Hashem will rest, Israel! In Breishis, Yaakov blessed Yehudah saying “A lion cub is Yehudah.” In Devarim Moshe blessed Dan saying, “Dan is a lion cub.” Yehudah is the head of the lion and Dan is the tail. They are both connected! (Trust me!)
Bilaam was not Amaleik but he wished to see the extermination of Israel. He went with Balak to curse Israel but Hashem caused him to say (Bamidbar 23:9), “ki merosh Tsurim errenah.”- From its origins I see it rock like. From our rosh, our reishis, we are solid! The shoresh ha’elyone where we are united and untainted by sin. Balak took Bilaam to the keits- outskirts of the camp and said, “You will not see the whole nation. Only the outskirts.” Look at the Dan Jews, those weak in Torah and mitsvos. Can’t they be cursed? Won’t Hashem be angry at them? Bilaam looked and said, “lo hibit avone b’Yaakov.”- He perceived no iniquity in Yaakov.” Only the shoresh ha’elyone.
On these 4 special Shabbos many congregations say the additional prayers during the repetiton of the Shmoneh Esrai’s called the Yotseros. For Shabbos Shekalim, in mussaf, we’ll say, “My Beloved, [referring to Hashem as the Husband to Israel, the language of King Solomon’s Shir Hashirim] recall for my merit the shekels Avraham gave Ephron, that our forefather weighed for the Cave of the Patriarchs. Consider the Shekel David gave the Jebusite [to purchase the Temple Mount], whose sacrifices still the heavenly wrath. Recall, to the last generation.”
With these additions we remind Hashem [ourselves!] of our connection to our forefathers, our rock-solid foundations. And we connect to Kind David, also a reishis- the first king of the house of Yehudah. From them untill the last generation we are all one. Shekalim = 480 = dor ha’acharone- the last generation.
Incredible that Rav Wolfson closes with the purchase of the Ma’aras Hamachpelah- Cave of the Patriarchs because that is just what Rav Shapirah is going to bring up himself!
Rav Shapirah starts with the Gemorah Megillah. It brings in the name of Raish Lakish, “It was revealed and known to the Creator of the world that Haman will be weighing out shekels against Israel so Hashem preceded his shekels with our shekels. As it’s taught in a Mishna, ‘Every 1st day of Adar a proclamation was heard from the Sanhedrin- Jewish High Court for all Israel to bring their half shekel donations to the Temple.’ ” There is an inference from this Gemorah that the threat of Haman is constant and every year our shekel is needed to preempt his!?
Not even 10 lines later the Gemorah brings Rebbe Abbah bar Kahana, who says, “Greater was the hasaras hataba’as- removal of the [Achashveirosh’s] ring than the 48 prophets and 7 prophetesses of Israel. None of them were able to bring Israel to full tshuva- repentance but the hasaras hataba’as did.” Why do Chazal suddenly refer to the ‘eternal’ threat of Haman as the hasaras hataba’as- giving over of Achashveirosh’s ring?
The word for ring- taba’as, comes from the three letter root tes-beis-ayin which, itself, spells teva- nature. Remarkable as it seems, go through the Mishna and Gemorah, works which deal with every aspect of human teva and the teva of the universe, and you will not find the word teva even once!
The word motbei’ah- coin, also has the root teva. What is the relationship between teva, taba’as and motbeiah?
Teva- nature is…the laws of nature. (Brilliant!) In other words, nature is an all encompassing set of underlying principles which everything that exists is subject to. (Betchya didn’t think I’d pull that one off.) For simplicity sake we’ll call it a system. (Remember this word- system.)
Motbeiah- coin means economics. Economics is also a system. It is, likewise, a set of underlying principles by which everything within is subjectively evaluated.
Taba’as- ring, (the king’s ring) also represents a system. What the king says, goes and his ring is that which gets it going. Every person, place and thing within the kingdom is subject to the principles set forth and the signet ring is that which confirms and affirms the law.
Regarding world economics, Rav Shapirah heard from someone who heard from the mouth of the Chafets Chayim himself that money is very important because money saves time and the expression, “time is money” is backwards. A friend told me a story he heard around those words. When at his son-in-law’s house the Chafets Chayim noticed new curtains hanging over the windows. He asked, “How much did you pay for those curtains?” His son-in-law replied, “2 kopeks.” The Chofest Chayim gently reprimanded him saying, “You didn’t pay 2 kopeks. They say in America ‘time is money.’ The reality is, ‘money is time.’ The time it will take you to replace the 2 kopeks is what you paid. Time you could have spent learning. You paid 10 pages of Gemorah for those curtains.”
To follow this vort we will have to force ourselves not to think like the Chafets Chayim, which we know is truth, and think like the Americans. (Any western civilized mentality will do.) A general reference made to a system, to economics, to nature will be along their lines, backwards. False. Otherwise I will qualify it, i.e. ‘true nature,’ ‘Hashem’s nature’ and the like.
Haman said to Achasveirosh, “There is a people amongst the kingdom whose laws are different, who ignores the laws of the king, and it is not worth it to the king to tolerate them. If it pleases the king let it be written that they be destroyed and I will pay 10,000 silver talents into the hands of those who perform the kings duties, for deposit into the kings treasuries.” An Aramaic translation of the Megilah called Targum Sheini translates these words as, “the coin-makers”! Haman was not just paying compensatory price for the Jews. He asked to mint a new coin. He wanted to establish a new economic order.
When Esther begins to reveal her identity to the king she says (7:4), “We have been sold, I and my people, to be exterminated. Had we been sold as slaves I would have kept quiet.” Being sold as slaves is natural. Not nice, but natural. To be sold into servitude is an economical exchange of subjective values. But the purchase of an entire nation for the sake of total destruction is unnatural. Such a thing has never occurred before. Haman’s new coins were to render the Jews worthless. Less than worthless. There would be no place in nature for Jewish people. Achashveirosh ruled the entire world! When the decree went out from Haman, sealed with the taba’as of Achashveirosh, there literally was no place in the world for the Jew to exist. We were expelled from the world.
“It was revealed and known to the Creator of the world that Haman will be weighing out shekels against Israel so Hashem preceded his shekels with our shekels.” The counter-attack against Haman was preempting his coin with our coin. Moshe asked Hashem about the shekel to be collected. Hashem showed Moshe a motbeiah shel aish- coin of fire. We learned above Moshe was asking how the shekel worked. Some of Israel committed the gravest of sins and a half shekel coin will atone for their souls? How it be? Because it’s not a half shekel coin. It’s a motbeiah shel aish!
We said the motbeiah represents a system which creates worth. The nature of the world is for fire to nullify all worth. Anything with deemed economic value, after taking a match to it, becomes as valuable as the match. Beauty is turned into ashes. A motbeiah shel aish- coin of fire is an oxymoron! It’s more self contradictory than Nobel peace prize winners. The coin creates worth and fire destroys it!
Or maybe we should understand it this way. A motbeiah shel aish takes the power of the coin- creating a system- and the power of fire- consuming into itself- and defines a new system. A new nature. The underlying principle of the motbeiah shel aish is that all other systems become nullified to its system. Fire doesn’t destroy but transforms all else into itself. And since this is Hashem’s system, you know it’s the true system!
Let’s look into the matter as our forefather Avraham did. The Midrash Rabbah on Parshas Lech Lecha- when Hashem first speaks to Avraham- says that Avraham was like a traveler who saw a well kept illuminated mansion. He said, “If there are signs of care and activity than there must be someone directing those activities.” The owner looking out at the traveler said, “I am he, the owner of the mansion.” Avraham looked at the world and said, “It must be Someone is caring for and directing its actvities.” Hashem said, “I am He, the Owner. Go forth from your father house.” Avraham recognized there were underlying principles which the entire universe was subject to.
Shabbos morning we say in the prayers, “There is nothing that compares to You, Hashem, in this world and there will be nothing but You in the world to come.” The Hebrew word for ‘compare,’ however, is not from a root word denoting ‘similarity’ but rather ‘value’. There is nothing in this world that could be evaluated against Hashem. The system of this false world and the system of His true world (the higher spiritual realms) are… worlds apart! Incomparable! But in the world to come it will all be Hashem’s system. Everything will be nullified before Hashem or will transform itself to be part of Him. What we can apply to our world now? Any true value that does exist now is only in how much that thing reveals Hashem is the Owner and Director of the world.
Avraham ‘minted’ for his descendants this true economic system in his recognition of Hashem. The Gemorah Bava Kama asks what was the coin of Avraham? It answer it had and old couple on one side and a young couple on other. Sounds pretty natural to me. The Maharsha explains the older couple WAS Avraham and Sarah and the younger couple IS Avraham and Sarah! Older, THEN younger! Not natural at all unless we’re talking Hashem’s nature. An old and barren couple who suddenly find their bodies fertile and functioning as if they were 70 years younger! Rashi on that Gemorah says the older couple is Avraham and Sarah and the younger couple is Yitschak and Rivka. If you think about it you will agree it is not a contradiction to the Maharshah. The motbeiah of Avraham shows Hashem is running the world.
Avraham’s motbeiah, was minted outside of nature and was therefore able to make purchases beyond the natural. Like the purchase of the Ma’aras Hamachpelah from Efron. Avraham paid Efron 400 silver coins described as over lasocher. For lack of better words, ArtScroll translates over lasocher as ‘negotiable currency’. Do we think Avraham wanted to pay the Arab his price with pesos? Of course he used negotiable currency! What the Torah is telling us by over lasocher is that Avraham’s currency was negotiable anywhere in the world! Anyone anywhere would take his coins! Avraham’s coins nullified any other economy’s coins. And our point, again, is they were able to purchase that which was beyond the realm of nature. But land is always being purchased! What was so unnatural about Avraham’s purchase?
The proof, Rav Shapirah says, is that from the ‘acquisition’ of the Ma’aras Hamachpelah we learn kiddushin of a wife! A bad translation is marriage. Kiddushin is actually from the root word kodesh- holy! Sanctified! For some reason the language of falsehood lacks a translation for kiddushin. No wonder divorce rates are over 50%. No marketplace in the world that you offer any amount of money to can remotely duplicate kiddushin. And if we learn that from the ‘acquisition’ of the Ma’aras Hamachpelah than it was an ‘acquisition’ no realtor could duplicate either.
The Gemorah may argue if the motbeiah for kiddushin should be a prutah or a dinar, but don’t let it fool you. It’s not a regular motbeiah. It’s a motbeiah shel aish. The word for husband is Ish. The word for wife is Isha. They both come from the root word aish- fire. The husband has a letter yud added. The wife has a hey added. Yud and hey is a Name of Hashem. When the awareness of the Owner and Director is in the relationship then the motbeiah shel aish takes the man and the woman from their old systems and transforms them into a true system. Without Hashem between them they are two separate flames, each one struggling to nullify the other.
Another application of the shekel was to purchase a share in the public offerings. Again something not found in the marketplace. Back a Shemos 30:12 it said, “Take a census of the heads of Israel v’nasnu ish kofer nafsho- and each will give for atonement of his soul. With a motbeiah shel aish one can purchase himself!
Relative to every world economy, we need to realize we are expelled from them all. Many a Jewish fool have tried “minting a new coin for Israel,” saying, “This will put the Jews on the map!” or “This will bring us respect from the nations!” Hashem has reminded us the truth is just the opposite. To them we are worthless. As we will be saying again in the Hagadah, “It wasn’t one, alone, who stood against us to destroy us, rather in every generation many stand against us to destroy us. And Hashem saves us from their hands!” How? With the motbeiah shel Avraham. The motbeiah shel aish. By miracles.
The Megillah says regarding the month of Adar(9:22), “The month which has been transformed from them from one of sorrow to one of gladness, from mourning to celebration.” Adar, from its inception, stood against Israel as a time of potential evil. When Haman’s lots fell in Adar he rejoiced because Adar was the month in which Moshe died. It is specifically at this the proclamation is heard to bring the half shekel to the Temple. That reversal of fortune only became possible by the hasaras hataba’as- removal of the ring. Hashem shows us this message time and time again untill we will understand it well.
The Gemorah Sanhedrin quotes Rebbe Eliezer saying, “If Israel does tshuva we will be redeemed and if we don’t do tshuva we won’t be redeemed.” Rebbe Yehoshua said to him, “If we don’t do tshuva we won’t be redeemed rather Hashem will set up against us a king with proclamations like Haman and then Israel will do tshuva.” We need to hear that message. We need to advance our shekels before their shekels. In our time, with no Temple, we need to listen to the special reading of Shabbos Shekalim and hear it as it needs to be heard. And may this year we see the rebuilding of Hashem’s Temple and the re-minting of the motbeiah shel Avraham.
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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