Photo Credit: Flash 90

This coming Shabbat, we will read the first of the four special readings, heralding the coming of Pesach. This week, we read what is known as Parashat Shekalim. This subject deals with the half shekel coin that was collected (generally speaking) from males over the age of 20. It is axiomatic to say that the reason one gave a HALF shekel coin and not a WHOLE shekel coin is to teach us a lesson: That individually we are not complete but that we are part of a whole–an entire nation.

I would like to suggest a very different approach. I believe that there is a different meaning in our having given a HALF shekel. If you look at the words in the Torah it says that the coins were to act as “atonement for one’s soul.” If that is the case, then perhaps the significance of the half shekel relates to the “atonement” aspect of the giving of the coins. (They were used also to count the Jewish people. This idea relates only to the atonement aspect).


At times, a person may be tempted to think that even if they try to right a wrong; they try to repent for mistakes; they try to do Teshuva–that unless they can do it all 100% then there is no benefit in the efforts that they might make. This all-or-nothing-feeling in many cases prevents a person from even beginning to make that effort to make changes!

Instead, the message of the half shekel coin can be understood to obviate that idea. Rather, we may say, that even if a person can only get there half-way; even if their efforts are only half efforts, nevertheless, the effort and the attempts themselves are quite worthy in the eyes of G-d.

So, we may not always get it right. We may not be successful in complete Teshuva or repairing damage that we may have done. BUT, the message of the half shekel is clear: You want to work towards כופר–towards atonement and forgiveness? Take those first steps and even if they are half measures. Eventually, those half measures will bear fruit and you will be on the road to a better relationship with Hashem and your fellow man.


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After living in Chicago for 50 years, the last 10 of which Zev Shandalov served as a shul Rav and teacher in local Orthodox schools, his family made Aliya to Maale Adumim in July 2009. Shandalov currently works as a teacher, mostly teaching private students and at AMIT Boys in Maale Adumim