1. This Shabbos is both Shabbos Mevorchim Adar and Shabbos parshas Shekalim. When Rosh Chodesh Adar falls out on Shabbos, parshas Shekalim is read then. This year however (as in most years), since Rosh Chodesh Adar is not on Shabbos, parshas Shekalim is read on Shabbos Mevorchim Adar. But in both cases there is a connection between the month of Adar and parshas Shekalim — for it is always read on either Rosh Chodesh Adar,
or (as this year) on Shabbos Mevorchim Adar.
The connection between parshas Shekalim and the month of Adar is as follows. The essence of Adar is the festival of Purim, as explained in Talmud Yerushalmi, that the whole of the month of Adar is fit for the reading of the Megillah. In the Megillah it states: “the month which was converted for them (Jews) from sorrow to joy and from mourning to holiday.” In other words, the entire month of Adar (not Just the days of Purim) have an association with the joy and concept of Purim.
The reason why Haman’s evil decree was annulled and the festival of Purim occurred was because of the giving of the half-shekel — which is the concept of parshas Shekalim. Our Sages state (Megillah 13b) “It was revealed and known before Him at Whose word the world came into being, that Haman would one day pay shekels for the destruction of Israel. Therefore He anticipated his shekels with those of Israel.” That is, the half-shekel which every Jew paid as his contribution to the congregational sacrifices was the counterbalance to the shekels Haman paid to destroy the Jews. This then is the connection between the month of Adar and parshas Shekalim: The miracle of Purim (which is the content of Adar) was effected through the mitzvah of the half-shekel (about which we read on parshas Shekalim).
The reading of parshas Shekalim. substitutes for the actual giving of the half-shekel in the times of the Bais HaMikdash. For although the Bais HaMikdash no longer exists, our Sages said “whosoever occupies himself in (learning) the Torah of the sacrifices it is counted as if he actually offered the sacrifices:’ Hence, parshas Shekalim began to be read when the mitzvah of giving the half-shekel could no longer be observed — at the beginning of the Babylonian exile. This was years before the story and miracle of Purim happened. If so, what is the connection between parshas Shekalim and the month of Adar (if it was already read before the miracle of Purim happened)?
The payment of the half-shekel was for the purpose of buying the congregational sacrifices that would be offered during the year. The Talmud learns from various verses in Scripture that from the first day of the month of Nissan only sacrifices from the new contributions were to be offered. So that the Jews would have enough time to bring their half-shekel for that year (which were the new contributions to be used for the offerings), “Proclamation is made on the first day of Adar regarding the Shekalim” — proclamations were made then to remind people to bring their half-shekel in time, before the first of Nissan, from which date only new contributions were used to purchase sacrifices. Thus the connection between parshas Shekalim. and Adar existed even before the miracle of Purim — when they proclaimed about the Shekalim in the month of Adar.
We see that the concept of parshas Shekalim had two effects: on the present — the proclamation which enabled the sacrifices to be bought from the new contributions; and on the future — the annulment of Haman’s decree which would occur in the future. In addition, the concept of the Shekalim has an effect on the past. Scripture states that the giving of the half-shekel was “to atone for your souls.” The Talmud Yerushalmi (Shekalim 2:3) explains that the half-shekel atoned for the sin of the golden calf; and the sin of the golden calf is the root of all sin. Hence the atonement procured by the giving of the half-shekel is applicable to all times and all sins. Thus, the concept of the half-shekel has an effect on the past, present and future. Past — forgiveness and correction of sin; present — the proclamation to enable the sacrifices to be bought from new contributions; future — the annulment of Haman’s decree.
2. The lesson from this in man’s service to G-d is as follows. Today, the general concept of the half-shekel corresponds to the giving of tzedakah. Since the half-shekel was given in connection to the Bais HaMikdash, in today’s times this is expressed in giving tzedakah to synagogues and Yeshivahs, etc. Scripture, on the giving of the half-shekel, says: “this they shall give ... a half-shekel [as a] contribution to G-d.” Furthermore, our Sages state: “whosoever gives, gives with pleasure.” The greatness of giving tzedakah is, as explained in Tanya (ch. 37), that “since a person could have purchased necessities of life with this money, then, [when he gives it instead to tzedakah], he is giving his soul’s life to G-d” — similar to the half-shekel which was a “contribution to G-d.”
In greater clarification, a person’s service is to make a sanctuary, a dwelling place for G-d in all his matters. Everything should be dedicated to G-d, sanctified, “for the sake of heaven.” This is expressed in the giving of the half-shekel, which is “a contribution to G-d,” and the idea of tzedakah which is “giving his soul’s life to G-d.” A Jew must engage in worldly matters to make a living to be able to support his family. But even then emphasis must be made that such things are also holy matters. The way to do this is giving “a half-shekel [as a] contribution to G-d” — half his money is to G-d. In simple terms, a person doesn’t take for himself more than he gives to G-d (tzedakah), which emphasizes that his engaging in worldly matters is also a holy, sanctified thing. And his giving is not in a begrudging manner, as if he were forced, but the reverse: “whosoever gives, gives with pleasure.”
Just as the giving of the half-shekel had an effect on the past, present and future, so too the giving of the half-shekel as it is reflected in man’s service to G-d. One of the uses of the half-shekel was to “purchase the yearly congregational sacrifices.” Just as in the Mishkan and Bais HaMikdash the main service was the sacrificial offering, so too in a Jew’s service to G-d. It states: “They shall make for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell within them (“them,” not “within it”) — within each and every one.” That is, the sacrificial service corresponds to the general service of a person to his Creator. In addition, one of the three contributions made for the building of the Mishkan was a half-shekel for the “adonim,” silver supports for the Mishkan. The supports were the basis of the entire Mishkan; and this teaches us that the half-shekel is the general basis of man’s service to G-d.
Hence, the idea of the half-shekel has an effect in the present. For man’s service, as explained above, corresponds to the sacrificial offerings and “on the first day of the month of Adar proclamations are made regarding the shekalim” — enabling the sacrifices to be purchased from the new contributions (i.e. the new yearly half-shekel contribution brought before the first of Nissan). In other words, man’s service must be constantly renewed.
The same applies to a Jew Is service in the past. Even if a person’s service was whole, he realizes that since there is no limit to matters of holiness, he can always rise higher. Indeed, even if a person has utilized all his capabilities to their utmost, nevertheless, the resolutions made in the appropriate manner to rise higher than his capabilities brings him new avenues from above to fulfill those resolutions. Since this new strength comes from above, it is beyond all limits, and a person need but have the appropriately determined resolution. Hence, even if a person’s service has been perfect in the past, he can effect new avenues from above to enable his service to be beyond all limits. The past has therefore now become less than perfect and needs rectification — which is effected through the service of the half-shekel.
The service of the half-shekel also affects the future, which, as explained, was the annulment of Haman’s decree and the resultant miracle of Purim. Purim is the concept of the conversion of bad to good — “the month which was converted for them from sorrow to joy and from mourning to holiday.” This, in man’s service to G-d, refers to the service of converting darkness to light — the annihilation and conversion of the darkness of exile into the light of the future redemption. Through the service of the half-shekel (which is the general service of Jews), we effect that “they shall make for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell within them,” which service leads us to merit to see the building of the third Bais HaMikdash. Then the Mishkan that Moshe built will also be revealed, for the work of the hands of Moshe is eternal. The Mishkan which Moshe built exists even now but it is concealed; in the future it will be revealed.
Since all the above is dependent upon deeds, then, through the service of Jews in a revealed fashion, we merit to see the revelation of the Mishkan built by Moshe Rabbeinu in the third Bais HaMikdash. Then the promise “Our eyes shall behold Your return to Zion in mercy” will be fulfilled, “with our youth and our elders, our sons and our daughters”, “together with Moshe and Aharon,” in the true and complete redemption through our righteous Mashiach, speedily in our times.
3. The above applies to every Shabbos Mevorchim Adar (and parshas Shekalim). In addition, there are special lessons to be learned from the day of the month on which Shabbos Mevorchim falls out on. This year, Shabbos Mevorchim Adar is on the 27th of Shevat, and thus the first day of Rosh Chodesh Adar is on Tuesday, the third day of the week, on which “it was good” was said twice. Likewise, Purim is also on Tuesday, and there is a connection between all three.
Every day, a daily portion of Tehillim is recited (together with Chumash and Tanya — Chitas); and all the fifteen chapters of Tehillim recited in the portion of the 27th day start with the words “A song of Ascents.” “Ascents,” steps, are the means by which a person rises to a higher place than he is presently on. When Torah prepares steps for a person, the purpose is to ascend to an extremely high level. A “Song of Ascents” means that although this special service of rising is an arduous one, it must still be done with joy — a “Song of Ascents.”
But a person may question why he must work so hard to ascend, when it seems to him to be enough to continue on evenly. A person’s soul, he contends, is extremely holy and lofty of itself, and he sees no need to try so hard to rise even higher.
The answer to this question is that the service of the “Song of Ascents” is the service of Yaakov our father, and therefore is relevant to all Jews.
The Midrash states: “During the 20 years that Yaakov was in Lavan’s house ... what did he say? ... the fifteen Songs of Ascent that are in the Book of Tehillim . . . “ The service of Yaakov was an extremely arduous one, yet nevertheless, his service was still in the manner of the Songs of Ascent” — with joy, stemming from the loftiness of the service. Through it, he ascended all the steps — which is a wondrously great ascent. This is the lesson to all Jews — that their service must be similar to Yaakov’s: not to just continue evenly, but to ascend.
In greater clarification: The question of the Midrash, “What did Yaakov say?,” does not mean merely how did he spend his time, for the service of Yaakov, the “choicest of the forefathers,” was certainly such that “all your deeds should be for the sake of heaven.” The question is rather how did Yaakov manage to carry out his service in the required manner while in Lavan’s house, and had dealings with worldly matters. The answer to this question is that he said “‘the fifteen Songs of Ascent’ that are in the Book of Tehillim.”
Before Yaakov came to Lavan’s house, he was in Eretz Yisrael, on the loftiest plane. In Lavan’s house he had to deal with worldly matters, the “sheep of Lavan,” the “ox, donkey, sheep, servant and maidservant.” Dealing with all these worldly things was a descent for Yaakov in comparison to his previous standing and level. Such dealings have nothing to do with Yaakov intrinsically, but belong more to Lavan. Yaakov’s work is Torah, study and prayer, not the “sheep of Lavan.”
Nevertheless, while he was in Lavan’s house, Yaakov’s service was with Lavan’s sheep, and his goal was to convert these things to holiness — to sanctify them. And in this work he put all his effort and strength, exhausting his body physically.
Although Yaakov’s service in Lavan’s house in worldly things was (seemingly) a descent in comparison to his previous level, it was precisely then that his service was in the manner of a “Song of Ascents.” It was specifically through this descent that he was able to reach the highest level of converting Lavan’s matters to holiness, converting the darkness into light. Such a service has the immeasurably high distinction — the loftiness of “ascents.” Thus, despite Yaakov having been in Lavan’s house, and having dealings with worldly matters, it was specifically Yaakov, and not Avraham or Yitzchok, whose sons were all righteous.
Yaakov’s service in Lavan’s house is similar to the general service of “good to heaven and good to creatures.” Yaakov was a vehicle for G-dliness — “good to heaven;” simultaneously, his service dealt with worldly things — “good to creatures.” This then is the connection between Shabbos Mevorchim Adar and Purim falling out on Tuesday, the day when “it was good” was said twice — “good to heaven and good to creatures.” The concept of the “Song of Ascents” (the portions of Tehillim said on the 27th of the month), which is the service of Yaakov, emphasizes the idea of “good to heaven and good to creatures” occurring simultaneously — i.e. Yaakov, even while in Lavan’s house, was a vehicle for G-dliness.
The Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya concerning the forefathers, that “all their lives they never ceased for a moment to bind their minds [to G-d].” That is, they were a vehicle for G-d continually. Hence, Yaakov, during the entire twenty years he was in Lavan’s house, was a vehicle for G-dliness — the idea of “good to heaven.” Simultaneously, he carried out the service of “good to creatures” — dealing with worldly matters. This is the greatness of Yaakov.
The lesson for us in all the above is as follows: The forefathers provide an example for us to follow, and simultaneously, provide us with the strength to follow that example. Each Jew’s service should be in the manner of “good to heaven” and simultaneously “good to creatures.” In practical terms, this means that through involvement in the mitzvah campaigns, especially the campaign to unite all Jews through writing a Sefer Torah, the concept of the “wholeness of the people” is accomplished together with the “wholeness of the Torah.”
Through this service we merit to see the actual ‘steps’ in the Bais HaMikdash, as stated in the Mishnah (Sukkah 51b): “there were 15 steps descending from the Ezras Yisrael to the Ezras Noshim, corresponding to the 15 ‘Songs of Ascent’ in Tehillim; and on these steps the Levi’im stood with instruments and said Shirah (Song).” At that time, the entire world will be at perfection, as stated “On that day, the L-rd will be One and His Name One,” in the true and complete redemption, speedily in our times.
4. In parshas Mishpotim, it states (24:4): “And Moshe wrote all the words of the L-rd.” On the words “And Moshe wrote” Rashi comments “From Bereishis until the giving of the Torah, and he wrote the mitzvos (commandments) which they were commanded at Marah.” [Mitzvos such as Shabbos, and the red-heifer — see 24:3, Rashi; and Beshallach 15:25, Rashi. The source of Rashi’s comment seems to be the Mechilta, which brings three interpretations on this verse:
1) “From Bereishis until ‘in the sight of all Israel’“ (i.e. the end of the Torah).
2) “From the beginning of Bereishis until now” (i.e. until Mattan Torah).
3) “The mitzvos which Adom. was commanded, the mitzvos which the children of Noach were commanded, the mitzvos which they (the Jewish people) were commanded in Egypt and at Marah, and all the other mitzvos” (i.e. only the mitzvos, and not the stories concerning the forefathers etc.).
The interpretation which Rashi writes “From Bereishis until the giving of the Torah, and he wrote the commandments which they were commanded at Marah” is not any of these. Rashi, it is true, only quotes interpretations that are consonant with the plain meaning of the verse. But since Rashi’s source is the Mechilta, why doesn’t he interpret our verse according to the second interpretation of the Mechilta which is according to the plain meaning of the verse?
The first interpretation of the Mechilta, that Moshe wrote “from Bereishis until in the sight of all Israel” (i.e. the end of the Torah), is not according to the plain meaning, for all the matters after Mattan Torah (giving of the Torah) had not yet been given to the Jews. Likewise, the third interpretation “the mitzvos which Adom had been commanded ... and all the other mitzvos” is also not according to the plain meaning for
1) as yet, “all the mitzvos” had not been given to the Jews and
2) it is more probable to say that Moshe wrote everything, including the stories concerning the forefathers etc., and not just the mitzvos.
But the second interpretation, that Moshe wrote “From the beginning of Bereishis until now (i.e. until Mattan Torah), is according to the plain meaning of the verse. Why then does Rashi think it necessary to add
the words “and he wrote the mitzvos which they were commanded at Marah?” Or in slightly different words: “The mitzvos which they were commanded at Marah” are included in that part of the Torah which is “from Bereishis until Mattan Torah.” Why then does Rashi add the seemingly redundant “and he wrote the mitzvos which they were commanded at Marah?”
Three verses later, it states (24:7): “And he took the book of the covenant.” Rashi, on the “Book of the covenant” explains that it consisted of “from Bereishis until the giving of the Torah and the mitzvos which they were commanded at Marah.” There are several perplexing points here.
1) Only three verses earlier Rashi explained the exact same thing. Why does he find it necessary to do so again?
2) In his earlier explanation, he writes: “From Bereishis until the giving of the Torah, and he wrote the mitzvos which they were commanded at Marah.”
In his explanation three verses later, on verse 7, he writes “From Bereishis until the giving of the Torah, and the mitzvos which they were commanded at Marah” — without the words “he wrote.” Why the difference? Indeed, it would have made more sense to omit the words “he wrote” in his explanation on the earlier verse since it is already stated in the verse
that “Moshe wrote.”
The explanation of all the above: The plain meaning of “And Moshe wrote all the words of the L-rd” is that Moshe Rabbeinu wrote everything in the Torah that had been said up till that moment. The purpose of writing it was to strengthen and emphasize all the Torah said until then, for when something verbal is written down it assumes more strength and permanence. Although the people had already accepted to do all that G-d said to them, nevertheless, Moshe still wrote all of it down (“Moshe wrote all the words of the L-rd”). Then “He took the book of covenant (i.e. that which he wrote down) and read in the ears of the people and they said: ‘All that the L-rd has spoken we will do and obey’“ — for after writing G-d’s words, they assumed greater significance and strength.
Since the purpose of the writing was to give greater emphasis to the words of G-d said until then, Rashi cannot interpret our verse as the third interpretation of the Mechilta, that only the actual mitzvos were written (and not the stories etc.), for in the plain meaning, everything was given this extra emphasis. Likewise, he cannot follow the first interpretation of the Mechilta, that the entire Torah till the end was now written by Moshe, for this writing took place on the 4th of Sivan, before the giving of the entire Torah (on Shavuos, the 6th of Sivan). Hence Rashi writes that Moshe wrote down all the words of the L-rd “from Bereishis until the Giving of the Torah [not including that said at the Giving of the Torah itself], and he wrote the mitzvos which they were commanded at Marah.” All these things had already been said to the Jews, and they now, through being written down, received extra strength and emphasis.
The reason why Rashi adds the words “and he wrote the mitzvos which they were commanded at Marah,” is because these mitzvos were written differently than that written “from Bereishis until the Giving of the Torah.” In other words, there were two writings:
1) that of “Bereishis until the Giving of the Torah” and
2) a special writing in regard to the “mitzvos which they were commanded at Marah.”
The reason why Rashi makes a distinction between the two is as follows. It is logical to say that Moshe wrote “from Bereishis until the Giving of the Torah” in the same manner (i.e. the same language etc.) as these sections are written in a Sefer Torah — according to the order of the parshahs, Bereishis, Noach, Lech Lecha etc. However, in regard to the “mitzvos which they were commanded at Marah,” we cannot say that Moshe wrote them in the same manner and language as these mitzvos are written in a Sefer Torah, for the section of the Torah in which such mitzvos are spoken about (e.g. Shabbos in the Ten Commandments and the red heifer in parshas Chukas) had not yet been given to the Jews on the 4th of Sivan. Thus, the “mitzvos which they were commanded at Marah” are a separate entity, and were written in a different language and style than how they were (afterwards) written in the Torah. They were written in their own style — the style and language in which Moshe said them to the Jews at Marah.
In verse 7, Rashi states that the “Book of the covenant” consisted of those things “from Bereishis until the Giving of the Torah and the mitzvos which they were commanded at Marah,” and does not say “he wrote the mitzvos which they were commanded at Marah.” The reason for this is that the verse says “He took the book of the covenant” — singular tense, one book. Hence, although there were two separate writings — from Bereishis until the Giving of the Torah” and a separate writing of the mitzvos commanded at Marah — Moshe joined them together and made one book out of them — “He took the book of the covenant.” Although the covenant was on both things — the Torah from Bereishis until the Giving of the Torah and the mitzvos commanded at Marah, it was in the form of one book — Moshe had joined them together.
Thus Rashi does not in verse 7 say “He wrote the mitzvos etc.,” for in this verse the emphasis is on the two things as they were bound together (and not on how they were written, separately or otherwise.