This past week, after the weekly Torah portion read on Shabbos, we add an additional reading from Parshas Kee Seesa that talks about the Machtzis haShekel, the half coin that the Jews donated.
Some history: Jews get Torah. They then do golden calf mistake. They are slated for huge punishment, but Moshe pleads their cause and they get saved. They are given the commandment to build a Tabernacle. And they get counted, via the donation of a half coin, which is then used for the Tabernacle. Thereafter, any time they are to be counted, they get counted through the half-coin method. And in future years, when the Temple is built, the half coin donation is mandatory each year and is used for the payment for the Karbanos/sacrifies.
Now back to the matter at hand, the reading of this portion of the half-shekel this week. It is being read as this Shabbos precedes the new month of Adar. Why do we read this now and why was the order given to donate at this time of year? G-d always provides the “refuah” the healing before the ‘makka’ before the punishment. When Haman was willing to pay money to get rid of the Jews, G-d said, “Wicked man, your money has been preceded by the Jews’ money that they gave willingly for good deeds.” G-d specifically referred to the half-coin donation.
Each year, Rosh Chodesh Adar, the first day of the month of Adar, there would be public announcements to the Jews to remember to contribute their half Shekel. By the 25th of Adar, if someone hadn’t yet paid, he was forced to pay. EVERYONE had to pay the Machtzis HaShekel. No one could get away with less. No one could give more. Only Machtzis Hashekel – no one should think himself whole – we need each other, so we only each gave a half. Kinda cutting us all down to size. No man is whole alone. We’re just half the equation. We need other’s contribution to make our contribution whole.
When G-d originally told Moshe that everyone should give a Machtzis HaShekel and that was the way Moshe was to count the Jews and that was the way the Jews would be forgiven for the golden calf, Moshe wasn’t sure of what they had to contribute. He heard the concept alright, but he didn’t think he heard right. Was that a half-coin so powerful? So G-d showed him the coin in fiery image. What wasn’t Moshe sure about here? He couldn’t understand how a Machtzis HaShekel, such a small little insignificant amount, could save Jews from death. So G-d showed him the coin in fiery form. That is the way we should be giving – with our hearts ablaze – fired up with enthusiasm. G-d wants our hearts – we have to have enthusiasm for doing the the right thing.
Notice that it says Kee Seesah, which means when you lift up, (when referring to the count) and it doesn’t say any word about just counting. Moshe was being taught that each Jew matters, that no one is just another number in Judaism. Each small contribution we make to G-d in our lives, if done with a willing heart, is special. Never say, I’m just another person, another speck of foam in the ocean of humanity. But balance that out, knowing we are only a Machtzis – only a half, needing others to make a whole.