1. Of the various aspects of today, the two principal ones are that it is Shabbos Mevorchim and Shabbos parshas Shekalim. The former, because it occurs twelve times a year (thirteen in a leap year), takes precedence over the latter which is but once a year. On the other hand, precisely because it is only once a year it is a fresh, new thing, and therefore has more appeal than something which occurs relatively more frequently.
Other aspects of this day include the fact that it is Shabbos, that the parshah read today is Pikudei, that it is Shabbos Mevorchim Adar Sheni, and that Rosh Chodesh is on Sunday, immediately following Shabbos Mevorchim (“Machor Chodesh”).
Because “deed is paramount,” each of the above aspects can provide a lesson for man’s service to G-d. In addition, a lesson may be derived from the coincidence of all these aspects on the one day.
In a leap year, an extra month of Adar is added to reconcile the solar and lunar years. Most authorities are of the opinion that the extra month (the “leap” month) is the first Adar and the second Adar is the main month. Thus, a person born in Adar of a regular year, whose thirteenth year is a leap year, celebrates his Bar Mitzvah in Adar Sheni (the second Adar) since it is the principal month of Adar.
This Shabbos Mevorchim, then, blesses the principal month of Adar (the second Adar), in which we celebrate Purim and read the Megillah. Moreover, not only is Adar Sheni equal to Adar of a regular year, but surpasses it in two aspects.
1) Adar Sheni is the thirteenth month of the year, and it is associated with and yet separate from the other months. The months are always associated with the number twelve, corresponding to the twelve signs of the Zodiac, the twelve tribes, etc. The thirteenth month must therefore be in a category apart from the others, surpassing them. Simultaneously, however, it is associated with the other months, for it too is called a “month.”
2) Each month serves as preparation to the next month, which is why the Shabbos on which the coming month is blessed (Shabbos Mevorchim), and which provides the strength to carry out the service of that month, is in the previous month. The preparation to Adar Sheni is therefore Adar (Rishon — first Adar), and Adar is unique among the months: Its “mazal” is strong, and “when Adar comes, we increase in joy” (which applies to Adar Rishon too, as the Ramah writes in regard to Purim Koton in Adar Rishon, that “He who is of a good heart rejoices continually”). Thus Adar which follows Adar Rishon in a leap year is much loftier than Adar which follows the month of Shevat in a regular year.
Moreover, the specific qualities which make Adar Rishon a special month, and therefore a loftier preparation to Adar Sheni, are qualities which are present also in Adar Sheni: strong mazal and joy. Thus, after the preparation of Adar Rishon, service in Adar Sheni is in the same areas but in greater force, “going from strength to strength” in joy itself. And this is particularly stressed on Shabbos Mevorchim Adar Sheni, for Shabbos Mevorchim, because it is in Adar Rishon and simultaneously blesses Adar Sheni, emphasizes the joining together of the two Adars.
Parshas Shekalim is associated with the month of Adar, as the Mishnah says, “On the first of Adar, announcements are made concerning the shekalim.” The giving of the shekalim is the idea of tzedakah, which is equal to all the other mitzvos and which brings near the redemption.
Parshas Shekalim is also associated with the Bais Hamikdosh, for the half-shekels donated by the Jewish people were used to purchase the congregational sacrifices offered in the Bais Hamikdosh. It is also associated with the building of the Bais Hamikdosh, for any monies of the half-shekel contributions remaining after the purchases of the sacrifices were used to make repairs to the Bais Hamikdosh.
In the subject of sacrifices itself, we are talking of their offering in the most complete manner, emphasized by the fact that parshas shekalim is this year read on Shabbos parshas Pikudei. In Parshas Pikudei it is written (Shemos 40:17,29) that “In the first month, in the second year, on the first of the month, the Mishkan was erected ... and he (Moshe) offered the burnt-offering ... it This section talks of the dedication of the Mishkan, which took place over an eight day period. The above verses refer to the eighth and final day of the dedication.
There is a difference between the first seven days of dedication and the eighth day, which was Rosh Chodesh Nissan. On the former, Moshe set up and dismantled the Mishkan each day, and the Divine Presence did not yet rest on it. On the eighth day, Moshe’s blessing (Rashi, 39:43) that “May it be His will that the Divine Presence abide in the work of your hands; and may the pleasantness of the L-rd our G-d be upon us, and establish for us the work of our hands,” was fulfilled.
The difference between the first seven days of the Mishkan’s dedication, and the eighth day and afterwards, is great indeed. Not only was the Mishkan not permanent on the seven days, but the exact opposite is emphasized: On each of these seven days Moshe dismantled the Mishkan on the same day that he set it up! On the eighth day, when the Divine Presence rested on the Mishkan, the element of eternality was established for all time, as our Sages have said, that the Mishkan and its vessels are eternal.
Hence, although sacrifices were offered during the seven days of dedication, their loftiness cannot be compared to those offered on the eighth day when the Mishkan was totally complete.
Thus, when parshas Shekalim is read on Shabbos parshas Pikudei, in which we read about the eighth day of dedication, it emphasizes the lofty nature of the half-shekel contribution used to purchase the congregational sacrifices offered in the Mishkan as it was whole and eternal.
The distinction of parshas Shekalim, then, is that it is service associated with the Bais Hamikdosh as it is whole (eternal), and in the manner of tzedakah which brings near the redemption.
2. In addition, there is a lesson to be learned from the coincidence of parshas Shekalim and the other aspects on this Shabbos. All the other aspects (Shabbos, parshas Pikudei, Shabbos Mevorchim Adar Sheni, Machor Chodesh) have, in addition to their particular service, a common theme: the concept of parshas Shekalim, which is the building of the Bais Hamikdosh and the bringing near of the redemption. Further, the theme of parshas Shekalim also runs through service of the whole year. How?
Shekalim, we have said, is the idea of tzedakah. Tanya (pp. 96-97) explains that tzedakah is equal to all the mitzvos and brings near the redemption, for the purpose of mitzvos is “to elevate the vital soul to G-d ... and you can find no mitzvah in which the vital soul is clothed to the same extent as in the mitzvah of tzedakah ... which a man gives out of the toil of his hands ... and therefore his whole vital ascends to G-d; for since he could have purchased necessities of life for his vital soul with his money, he is giving his soul’s life to G-d [when instead he gives the money to tzedakah].”
The goal of a Jew’s service is to refine the body and world, “so that He should have a dwelling place below [in this world] specifically, to transform darkness into light, so that the glory of the L-rd shall fill all the material world and fall flesh shall see it together.”‘ And through refining and elevating the world, all evil will be eliminated. Thus service throughout the year has the same theme as tzedakah — elevation of the person’s vital soul and the world — and also brings near the redemption (when “I shall remove the spirit of impurity from the land”). And tzedakah is the concept of parshas Shekalim.
Parshas Shekalim, we noted previously, is also associated with the Bais Hamikdosh, for the half-shekel contributions were used to purchase the congregational sacrifices. This too is the theme of service of the whole year, for the Bais Hamikdosh (and Mikdosh) is the idea of using physical materials to build a sanctuary to G-d, thereby elevating them to holiness. This then effects the entire world, as our Sages have said, “From there (the Bais Hamikdosh), light went out to the world.”
Sacrifices, also are the concept of elevating the physical, for they entail taking physical things, animals or flour, and offering them to G-d on the altar. Thus both concepts in parshas Shekalim — tzedakah and sacrifices — have the common theme of refining and elevating the world, through which the redemption comes. Likewise, although service throughout the year possesses different aspects commensurate to the particular time of the year, each aspect is nevertheless permeated with the theme of parshas Shekalim: elevating the world.
Although the concept of Shekalim is present throughout the year, special emphasis is still necessary on Shabbos parshas Shekalim for from it, strength for this service is drawn for the rest of the year. It is obligatory on every person, for example, to remember the exodus from Egypt each day, to the extent that “a person is obligated to see himself as if he went out today from Egypt.” Yet this idea is particularly stressed on the festival of Pesach, from which strength to fulfill this obligation is drawn for the whole year.
Similarly, then, the theme of parshas Shekalim (Bais Hamikdosh and redemption) — both as a service for itself and as to how it must permeate other aspects of service — is stressed on Shabbos parshas Shekalim. We find, for example, that although the same sacrifices offered every day of the year were also offered on Yom Kippur, on Yom Kippur they possessed extra sanctity. Similarly, that service throughout the year is permeated with the theme of shekalim is emphasized on Shabbos parshas Shekalim, when the many other aspects of service on Shabbos coincide on this Shabbos.
The lesson from all the above in practical terms: Shabbos parshas Shekalim, when the service of Shekalim itself — building of the Bais Hamikdosh and bringing near of the redemption — and the service of Shekalim as it permeates all other aspects of service is stressed, gives the inspiration and strength to increase in all aspects of service, particularly the dissemination of Torah and Judaism through which the redemption is hastened.
Further, when Rosh Chodesh immediately follows Shabbos Mevorchim as this year, it teaches that the resolutions undertaken on Shabbos Mevorchim in regard to the service of the coming month (Adar Sheni) should be translated into action immediately after Shabbos.
All these matters should be carried out with joy, consonant to the theme of Adar which is “When Adar comes, we increase in joy.” This is especially so on Adar Sheni, on which, as we explained earlier, the joy is very great indeed.
3. There is a further lesson to be derived from parshas Shekalim; to be specific, from the way the half-shekel was given. The Rambam rules: “It is a positive commandment from the Torah for every Jew to give half a shekel ... He should not give it in many installments, today a little and tomorrow a little, but must give all of it as one at one time.” This law we find only in regard to the giving of the half-shekel.
In terms of man’s spiritual service, “all of it as one at one time” is the idea of wholeness. Giving “today a little and tomorrow a little” means that the service of both today and tomorrow is not whole, unlike when it is all given at once.
On the other hand, one had to give half a shekel — the seeming opposite of wholeness. Moreover, the mitzvah was to give half the standard coin of the time, even if this standard coin was greater than a shekel of the Sanctuary standard. In other words, the mitzvah is to give half a shekel, of whatever the shekel is worth at that time.
We have, then, a paradox: On the one hand, a whole shekel must not be given, but only half a shekel; On the other, it must be given in a whole manner, “all of it as one at one time.”
This teaches a wondrous lesson in service to G-d. A Jew should know that his service is but “half a shekel”: Although he is created to serve G-d, and that service must be performed by him alone, nevertheless, “if the Al-mighty did not help him, he could not overcome his evil inclination” — and thus the person’s efforts is but “half” of the service. This is emphasized in our Sages’ statement that “I was created to serve My Maker”: First G-d creates man with all the necessary powers to serve Him; then he serves.
But then, a person may think that since his service will at best be only a half a service (since he needs G-d’s help), he need not work too hard at it: he will do only a little and G-d will do the rest. The response to this thinking is that the half-shekel had to be given in a whole manner, “all” of it as one at one time”: From the person’s perspective, he must perform his service wholly; he must just know that even so, it is still only a “half . “
These two aspects in the mitzvah of the half-shekel apply to all aspects of service. It is explicitly seen in the half-shekel for the half-shekel encompasses all aspects of service. The half-shekel was given to purchase the congregational sacrifices each day in the morning and afternoon; the daily morning offering was the first sacrifice brought each day, and the daily afternoon offering was the last of the day: They thus encompass all the different types of sacrifices brought during the whole day. The morning offering atoned for the transgressions of the night, and the afternoon offering atoned for the transgressions of the day. Since all the different aspects of a person’s service ascend and become pleasing to G-d through the service of the sacrifices, it follows that just as the two daily offerings atone for the whole day’s activities, so too they elevate all aspects of service.
In our days, prayer substitutes for the sacrifices. This applies both to the atonement they procure, as the Alter Rebbe writes in regard to atonement, that “In our time, prayer with repentance replaces offerings,” and also to the elevation of the day’s service, for prayer is the “gate of heaven” through which the day’s service passes.
Because all aspects of service are encompassed in the two daily offerings which were purchased with the half-shekel contributions, it follows that the giving of the half-shekel encompasses all service. Thus it also follows that the two aspects in the giving of the half-shekel — only half a shekel, but simultaneously a whole giving — are reflected in all aspects of service: In them, too, a person must feel that his service is only a “half” since G-d helps him, but at the same time he must devote himself to it wholly.
Torah study provides a good example. On the one hand, a Jew knows that his Torah study is not whole without G-d’s strength — it is but “half.” On the other hand, he cannot think that he will therefore only learn a little, and rely on G-d for the rest: he is obligated to toil in Torah study to the full extent of his abilities.
So too with the entire spectrum of divine service. While acknowledging that his service is only a half one, he must do it in a whole fashion: Not just “with all your heart and all your soul,” but also “with all your might” — service transcending all limits.
Service “with all your might” is expressed in the way the half-shekel is given, “all of it as one at one time.” When his service is within definite limits, a person may do “today a little and tomorrow a little.” But when it transcends limits, he gives his all, “all of it as one at one time.”
When a Jew engages in the service of the half-shekel in the spiritual Bais Hamikdosh of his soul, he effects that it be realized in the physical Bais Hamikdosh. And when that service is done in the manner of “all of it as one at one time,” the realization of the physical Bais Hamikdosh comes about also “at one time” — immediately.
4. Parshas Pikudei talks of the accounting Moshe gave of “all the weights of the contributions of the Mishkan, of silver, of gold and of copper” (Rashi, 38:21). The Jewish people had made these contributions for use in the construction of the Mishkan, and Moshe, to avoid any suspicion that the contributions were not used for the purpose for which they were given, gave an accounting.
In regard to the contributions of silver and copper, the parshah gives a full accounting of the uses to which they were put. But in the case of the gold, Torah says (38:24) only that “The amount of the gold of the offering was twenty nine talents and seven hundred and thirty shekels by the Sanctuary standard” — and makes no mention of the uses to which this gold was put.
The Kli Yokor explains that when the work for which silver and copper was used was finished, Moshe was eager to give an accounting so that no suspicion of improper use would fall upon him. He could not give an accounting of the gold, for the priestly garments, which contained gold, had not yet been made. Nevertheless, he had to mention the amount of gold received — although he could not yet give an accounting for what it was used — for if he would only mention silver and copper and omit the gold, suspicion would be aroused regarding the gold. Therefore he mentioned the amount of gold received. He did not give an accounting of the uses of the gold after the priestly garments were finished, for then there was no need. The Midrash states: “When Moshe came to give an accounting for every thing, 1,757 shekels [of silver] were missing, and he forgot what he had made with them. A heavenly voice proclaimed, ‘And of the 1,757 [shekels] he made hooks for the pillars’ (38:28), to fulfill that which is written (Bamidbar 12:7) ‘In all My house he is trustworthy.”‘ When the Jews saw that heaven testified about him in this matter, there was now no necessity to give an accounting for the gold; for if he had kept some of the gold for himself, heaven would not have testified for him even about the silver.
However, this explanation does not fit in with the plain interpretation of Scripture, for the following reasons:
1) The verse, “And of the 1,775 [shekels] he made hooks for the pillars,” is written before the accounting was given for the copper. Why then did Moshe have to give an accounting for the copper if a heavenly voice had already proclaimed his innocence in the case of the contributions of silver.
2) The Midrash’s words that “He forgot what he had made with them” and a heavenly voice had to say they were used for the hooks, are not only not found or even alluded to Scripture or in Rashi, but oppose the plain interpretation. Moshe was the leader of all Jewry, bearing all their concerns, and it is impossible that he forgot what he did with 1,775 shekels of silver, which correspond to the atonement for 3,550 Jews!
Moreover, the accounting was given before all the Jews, those who contributed their goods and those who actually worked to construct the Mishkan (Betzalel, Oholiov and the craftsman). It is extremely surprising that Moshe and Betzalel and Oholiov and all the craftsmen should have forgotten what they did with this amount of silver.
3) The Kli Yokor’s explanation is that Moshe’s accounting was primarily for the silver and copper, while he mentioned gold only to avoid any suspicion. If so, why does Scripture write the amount of gold that was donated before the accounting for the silver and copper? Only after giving the primary accounting — for silver and copper — should Moshe, to avoid suspicion, say that he also received such and such an amount of gold, but because the work hasn’t finished, he cannot yet say to what uses it was put.
There is another question regarding the accounting given by Moshe. Scripture, in describing the contributions brought by the people, writes (Shemos 36:7): “The materials were sufficient for all the work to be done, and too much.” In other words, the Jews donated more materials than were necessary for the construction of the Mishkan. Why did not Moshe, when giving an accounting of the contributions, say what was done with the extra amount not used in the construction? The very fact that he did not mention it would surely excite suspicion about misuse.
A detailed accounting is necessary only if the people who gave the contributions are unsure that all their contributions were used for the Mishkan. Then it is necessary to detail that such and such an amount was used for such and such a purpose, enabling the contributors to see that the contributions tally with the things made from them. But an accounting is totally unnecessary when everyone sees that the contributions are inadequate to cover all of the expenses. In the case of the contributions of gold, the total amount donated, Torah tells us, was 29 talents and 730 shekels less than the copper contributions (over 70 talents) and the silver contributions (over 100 talents). In contrast, the amount of gold that was needed was at least twice as much as that donated. A quick glance at what the gold was used for tells us this: The menorah — pure gold, one entire talent; the ark — covered with gold; the cover of the ark — gold; the tables and altar — covered with gold. In addition, the 48 boards of the Mishkan, each 10 cubits high and two and a half cubits wide, were covered with gold — clearly necessitating a large amount of gold.
It is thus obvious that 29 talents of gold was insufficient for all these things, and at least a like amount needed to be added. But then, the question is reversed: If they only had 29 talents, how did they make all the gold objects?
However, the verse detailing the amount of gold contributed states that “the gold of the offering was 29 talents and 730 shekels,” meaning that this sum is the amount that the Jews donated. They brought all they possessed — 29 talents — and yet it was still not enough. The rest of the gold was contributed by Moshe, who, Rashi explained previously (34:1), was “very wealthy.”
Since all the Jews were informed that the total amount of their contributions of gold was only 29 talents, and they could see that it was insufficient for all of the Mishkan’s needs to the extent that Moshe had to give his own gold — there was certainly no room for suspicion that Moshe misused the gold donated by the Jews. And therefore Moshe did not need to give a detailed accounting of the uses to which the donated gold was put.
In the case of silver and copper, however, the amount given by the Jews was sufficient for all the Mishkan’s needs. Moshe therefore had to give a detailed accounting of the uses to which they were put to eliminate any suspicion that some of it was not used for the mishkan (although, since Moshe added his own gold, it is obvious that he would not take silver or copper for his own uses).
The only question unanswered is why Moshe did not give an accounting of the amount of the contributions which exceeded that needed for the construction of the Mishkan — “The materials were sufficient ... and too much.”
According to Rashi’s interpretation, however, there was no excess. On the previous verse, “The people were prevented (‘Vayikole’) from bringing” (because there was already enough), Rashi interprets the word “Vayikole” to mean “restraining,” unlike the Targum which interprets it to mean “The people stopped [to bring].”
The people brought their offerings to Moshe, and Betzalel, Oholiov and the craftsmen came and took them to make the Mishkan. Scripture then tells us (36:3) that “they brought more offerings every morning.” When Moshe sent them to bring these additional donations to the craftsmen, the craftsmen did not want to accept them since they already had enough, as written (4-5): “All the wise men came ... and said to Moshe, ‘The people are bringing much more than is needed for the work.”‘ As a result, “Moshe commanded ... No man or woman shall do any more work (i.e. bring any more materials) for the offering of the Sanctuary.”
What happened then? “The people were prevented from bringing” — they were restrained from giving to the craftsman the excess that they had already brought. They therefore did not actually give more than what was necessary.
The next verse, “The materials were sufficient for all the work to be done, and too much,” explains why “The people were prevented from bringing.” Since “the materials (that the people brought — not which had actually been given) were sufficient for ... the entire construction of the Mishkan, to make it and more” (Rashi, 36:7), the people were restrained from bringing — i.e. even that extra which they brought was not accepted. There was therefore no extra material.