CLERGY CORNER: Purim & Unity

Posted on 07 March 2019 by LeslieM

In the Purim story, read on Purim in the Book of Esther, the Persian Prime Minister, Haman, persuades the Persian king Achashverosh, to consent to a genocidal plan to annihilate the entire Jewish people. Haman offered the king a huge sum of money.

Reish Lakish said: It is revealed and known in advance to G-d that in the future Haman was going to weigh out shekels against the Jewish people; therefore, He arranged that the Jewish people’s shekels preceded Haman’s shekels.

What does this mean?

This Shabbos, Jews the world over read, in addition to the weekly Torah portion, an extra Torah, the “portion of the coins.” This section of the Torah records the mitzvah incumbent upon the people of Israel, to make a yearly contribution of a half shekel to cover the cost of all communal Temple offerings.

This mitzvah given to the Jewish people in the desert applied to all following generations as well. In every generation, every Jew was required to make an annual contribution of half his country’s standard coin, to cover the cost of the communal offering brought in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

So Reish Lakish is telling us that since G-d knew that in the future Haman was going to weigh out a hefty number of shekels—15,000,000 shekalim against the Jewish people, He arranged that the Jewish people’s shekels precede Haman’s shekels, to cancel out the power of the money which Haman gave to the Persian monarch.

Although this mitzvah is not applicable today, since we have no Temple, it is still a custom in Jewish communities to read this Torah portion at this time of the year. In the U.S., we contribute a silver 50-cent piece, since the dollar coin is our country’s standard coinage, just as the shekel was during the time of Moses.

This seems quite bizarre, to insist on Jews giving an imperfect gift!

The Torah wants each of us to contribute a whole complete shekel. But if I were instructed to contribute a complete shekel on my own, I could begin to think that I am a complete being in and of myself, since I have contributed a complete coin.

The Torah is attempting to teach us that you and I are really one. For me, the real me, the G-dly me, to contribute a complete shekel, I must contribute just a half shekel, allowing the other half to be contributed by my fellow Jew. When you and I contribute each a half shekel, each of us has, indeed, contributed a complete shekel.

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