Photo Credit: Jewish Press

I was in my twenties the first time I went to Israel. Although I was an adult and theoretically knew otherwise, in my mind’s eye I was going to the country that I learned about in Chumash class, the land of camels and unpaved roads and grapes as big as my head. I was shocked when I got off the plane, shocked at the cars and the modern buildings, shocked that such a holy land could also contain such unholy mundanity.

In Parshas Ki Sisa, after Hashem told Moshe to collect half a shekel from the men, He had to show Moshe a fiery image of this coin so that Moshe could comprehend the commandment. Now of course Moshe knew what a shekel was, but he had trouble understanding how something as unspiritual as money could atone for our sins. Hashem had to therefore show him that when a Jew uses money in a fiery, positive way, the money becomes a conduit for spirituality.


It took me a week to reconcile theoretical Israel with actual Israel, but by that time I was home. I kept a handful of shekalim in my purse, allowing them to jingle with my loose change and my subway tokens, a reminder that the potential for holiness is everywhere.


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Dr. Chani Miller is an optometrist and writer who lives in Highland Park, N.J., with her family. She is a frequent contributor to The Jewish Press.