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Parshas Pekudei – Shekalim: Forge On

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The Gemara[7] rules that if a sanctified rooster[8] “rebels” by acting erratically it forfeits its holy status. The commentaries question how a status of holiness can be lost. Rashba explains that if an object’s holiness is based on its value, it is tantamount to a monetary lien on the object.[9] But once the object ceases to function as it should – in this case when the rooster began acting erratically – the Temple treasurer “gives up” on his ability to collect the value of that rooster. Once that occurs, the rooster has no market value, and it no longer possesses any holy status.

With this in mind, Chavatzeles HaSharon[10] offers a fascinating explanation of why the culpability of Achashveirosh and Balshatzar depended on whether the seventy years of Yirmiyahu’s prophecy had indeed passed or not. If the seventy years had concluded with the Temple not being rebuilt, Bnei Yisrael would have despaired. Once that occurred, the bigadim of the Kohen Gadol would have lost their sanctified status, no different than the rooster which loses its sanctified status when the Temple treasurer “gives-up” on its possessing any value.[11]

It is an intriguing concept. If the Jews had reached a level of despair, it would have had halachic ramifications vis-à-vis the status of the holy clothing of the High Priest! The very feeling of forfeiture would have transformed the holiest articles of clothing into commonplace (though expensive) garments.[12]

 

When the Torah recounts Amalek’s virulent attack against Klal Yisroel in the desert the verse states,[13] “He ambushed (vay’zanev) all the stragglers (hanecheshalim) behind you, and you were tired and weary, and did not fear G-d.”

The commentaries explain that, although the Divine Clouds enveloped and protected the nation, it did not harbor sinners. There were malfeasant members from the tribe of Dan who were guilty of idolatry and therefore did not merit the protection of the Ananei HaKavod. It was those individuals that the Torah refers to as “the tired and weary.” Their weariness was not physical but rather a spiritual fatigue which precluded them from the Cloud’s protection. Amalek reasoned that as these Jews were rejected by the Clouds, G-d had rejected them completely. They were sure that the nation would never go to battle in defense of such sinners. Yet it was in their defense that Moshe led the nation to war against Amalek.

It is noteworthy that the eternal battle between Klal Yisrael and Amalek began in defense of blatant sinners. The battle against Amalek symbolized that no Jew is ever scorned and rejected by G-d. Even if he has committed sins that warrant his rejection from the community, he is never rejected by G-d. G-d never gives up on His Children no matter how far they stray. The holy spark within them is innate and eternal.

 

The Gemara[14] states that G-d commanded every Jew to contribute a half-shekel tax in the desert in order to proactively ward off the effect of the shekalim that Haman would offer Achashveirosh as compensation for the genocide of the Jews during the unfolding of the Purim story. Tosafos explains that Haman gave Achashveirosh 10,000 kikar kesef, which is equal to all of the half-shekel given by the 600,000 Jews who left Mitzrayim.[15]

When the Torah gives a reckoning of the contributions to the Mishkan it says that the total amount collected from the mandatory half-shekel tax was one hundred talents of silver. That silver was used to construct the ninety-six silver sockets upon which the forty-eight wooden boards surrounding the Mishkan rested.

About the Author: Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW is the Rabbi of Kehillat New Hempstead, as well as Guidance Counselor and fifth grade Rebbe in ASHAR, and Principal at Mesivta Ohr Naftoli of New Windsor. He can be reached at stamtorah@gmail.com. Visit him on the web at www.stamtorah.info.


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