Torah Fax

Friday, March 11, 2005 - 30 Adar I, 5765

Torah Reading: Pekudei (Exodus 38:21 - 40:38)
Candle Lighting time: 5:40 PM
Shabbat ends: 6:41 PM
Shabbat Rosh Chodesh, Chazak and Shekalim
One And A Half
This week, we read the parsha of Pikudei, which discusses the completion of the Mishkan (the portable sanctuary the Jews built in the desert).  It also marks the conclusion of the entire Book of Exodus.
When Shabbat coincides with Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of the Jewish month), we read an extra selection of the Torah that deals with Rosh Chodesh. This week we also read a third selection of the Torah. In addition to the weekly portion, entitled Pikudei, and the special reading for Rosh Chodesh (as this Shabbat marks the first day of Adar II, the month in which we celebrate Purim), we also read a third selection that is called "parshat shekalim." This selection is about the obligation Jews had-in the days when the Holy Temple stood-to contribute a half shekel to the Temple fund. So this Shabbat we will have the rare experience of taking three Torah scrolls out of the Ark.
An even rarer event this week is the coincidence of Parshat Shekalim with the weekly Parsha of Pikudei. In most years, Parshat Shekalim is read with earlier parts of the Book of Exodus. The Baal Shem Tov taught us that there are no coincidences. Whenever there is a confluence of two events, it happens by Divine providence. Certainly, when two Torah related events come together there is a message that it conveys to us.
In the readings of the last few weeks, the Torah has been describing to us, in vivid detail, the way: 1) G‑d commanded Moses about the building of the Mishkan; 2) How Moses transmitted G‑d's commandment to the Jewish people. 3) How the people carried out their obligation to collect funds and make the various parts of the Mishkan and its vessels. In this week's Parsha it gives us the final tally of the all the materials that were contributed, and the way Moses actually erected the Mishkan and brought this major project to fruition.
Now the lesson of giving a half shekel, rather than a whole shekel has been explained by our Sages as a way of underscoring the need for us to realize that whatever we do we can only accomplish half of the task. We must depend on others-other people and, of course, G‑d-to make the effort complete. When we embark on a monumental project, we are naturally daunted by the enormity of the task ahead of us. Many people shy away from these major challenges for that reason. Others recognize that the only way they can succeed is to make the project one in which we have other partners. Otherwise, we know that we will never be able to get the project off the ground.
In other words, while we might want to take credit for the major undertaking in which we are involved, we are compelled by our own desire to get the project started and completing it, to accept the reality that we can't go it alone. However, when we actually complete the task, and we no longer have the psychological need to acknowledge the efforts of others, human nature makes us forget, or downplay the contributions of others. "Sure we got help, but we could have done it ourselves," is a frequently heard refrain.
And just as it is with our appreciation for the help extended to us by others, the same is true regarding our dependence on G‑d. At first, when things look bleak, we are more than ready to turn to G‑d for His assistance. When we reach our goals, we then forget that it was G‑d who assisted us all along.   A story is told of a person who had an extremely important business meeting. When he couldn't find a parking space, he turned to G‑d and offered $1,000 to charity if G‑d would help him find a parking place. While circling the parking lot, he kept on increasing the amount he was prepared to give to charity in return for a parking space, until it reached $10,000. It was one minute before the time he had to be at the meeting, when suddenly a parking spot became available right in front of the entrance, right in the nick of time. No sooner does he park, when he turns to G‑d and says, "Thanks anyhow, but I found a parking space myself."
This is the lesson of reading about the half-shekel in the week when the Parsha is Pikudei, which deals the completion of the building of the Mishkan. Precisely when the Mishkan project came to an end and reached fruition it was/is imperative that we acknowledge that we did not do it alone.
Throughout Jewish history we were on the road to fulfilling our dream of peace, prosperity and all of the blessings that for the most part have been missing throughout our history. We never took them for granted, as we always expressed our dependence on G‑d. We trusted that He would make the world a better place for Jews and for all of humanity. We prayed and hoped that we would survive. And we prayed and hoped for a time when every Jew would be free to practice his/her religion. We prayed and hoped for the return of the Jewish people to their Land. And we never forgot that we depended on G‑d for His "half." In our day and age when we've realized so many of our greatest aspirations, it is imperative for us to appreciate G‑d's role in all of this, and continue to pray to Him to compete the process that will lead to the ultimate Redemption with our righteous Moshiach.
Moshiach Matters
The Midrash (Tanchuma, Nitzavim) states: "Israel will not be redeemed until they become one assembly." King David's Psalms end with the words, "All the soul will praise G‑d," using the singular for the word "soul." The message is, "If all of us are united as one soul, with one heart, one goal, one dream, then we will eventually bring all of the Jews to say, "Praised is G‑d." (L’Chaim)
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