What is Shabbat Shekalim?

Thursday, 11 February, 2021 - 9:20 am

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This Shabbat is very special. In the synagogues (wherever they are allowed to open), we will read portions from three Sefer Torah (this happens only one or twice a year). Usually, we take out one Sefer Torah, from which we read the Portion of the Week. This Shabbat, which is Rosh Chodesh, we will also read the Portion of the New Month from a second Sefer Torah.

But this Shabbat, we will add a third Sefer Torah, because it is Shabbat Shekalim. What is it about?

There were two kinds of Offerings (Sacrifices) in the Temple: Individual Offerings, which an individual could (or had the obligation) to bring, and Communal Offerings, i.e the offering a one animal on behalf of the entire Jewish people. How were the communal offerings arranged? Every year, each Jew had to give a small monetary amount (in Hebrew, Machatzit Hashekel, Half a Shekel), and this money served to the purchase of all the animals for the Communal Offerings of the year. Thus, all the Jews were part of each offering.

The funds had to be gathered until the 1st of the month of Nisan, when the annual cycle of offerings started, according to G-d’s commandment. This is why, at the beginning of the previous month Adar, there were proclamations in every city not to forget to bring the Shekalim, so that in the month of Nisan, sacrifices would continue.

As a remembrance, on the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh Adar (or, when Rosh Chodesh falls on Shabbat like this year, on the day of Rosh Chodesh), we read the Torah portion speaking about this commandment.

What is the significance of the Mitzvah of the Half-Shekel? Why was this lengthy procedure needed? The sum given by everyone was very small. Would it not have been simpler to have the offerings sponsored by a few donors?

In the Communal Offerings, everyone had to participate, and all in an identical manner. The wealthiest person gave the exact same sum as the poorest one. In these sacrifices, no one was a separate individual, but they were all equal, part of a united people, without separations.

This is something that we can do even now, when we do not have the Temple. Understand that the other Jew is equal to us and be united.

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov,

Arie from the Yeshiva

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