Machatzis Hashekel: Part of a Whole


By Rabbi Berach Steinfeld

The posuk in Shemos, Perek Lamed, posuk yud gimmel says that every Jew who was to be counted needed to give half a shekel. The Alshich says in the name of Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz that there are two reasons the Jews were commanded to donate the machtzis hashekel. The first reason is to show that every individual is really only a half (not complete) when he is on his own. The second reason is to show that when a Jew joins the klal he then becomes a whole person. 

The Malbim says that as long as the Jews join together as one person, the zechus of the rabim is great. On the other hand, if you count the Jews separately, each individual gets judged by himself and then the vulnerability to plagues and other punishment is that much greater. To counteract this problem Hashem commanded Bnei Yisroel to bring a half a shekel, which shows that they are only part of a larger unit. Only when he joins with others will he be considered a whole.

This can also explain the famous Gemara in Megilahdaf yud gimmel, amud bais where Reish Lakish said that Hashem projected ahead to Haman in the future who would pay shekalim to plot against the Jews; therefore, Hashem preceded Hamans shekalim with the command that the Jews should donate shekalim. This half shekel donation served as an antidote to Haman’s shekalim.

We can try to explain why the machtzis hashekel was sufficient to counteract the shekalim of Haman. The main power of how Amalek tried fighting against the Jews was by causing the Jews not to get along (pirud levavos.) The Yaaros Dvash in chelek alef, drush gimel says if the Jews are beaguda achas (of one mind and agreement) then no other nation can rule over them. If you look in the megillah when Haman tries to plead his case for the annihilation of Bnei Yisroel he says, “There is a nation who is mefuzar and meforad (separated and spread out) between all other nations, indicating that the Jews are not united. Esther, to counteract Haman’s complaint, said the opposite when she asked that “knos es kol haYehudim” (gather together) all the Jews. If the Jews are together, then the Reshaim are unable to cause any evil to befall them.

The Midrash Rabba, Vayikra, Perek Chof Vov, posuk bais tells us that during the era of Dovid Hamelech, the Jews would lose battles when going out to war as a result of the people who spoke lashon hora, effectively causing separation between oneJew and another. When Haman gave the ten thousand shekalim, he had the intention of showing that just like each shekel is an important coin and can’t become bateil, (nullified) the same concept applies to the Jews when they are not mevateil themselves to one another and people are only in it for themselves. Hashem counteracted this divisive idea with the machatzis hashekel to prove that we can only have a complete matbea when we join with one another. Only when we are part of a whole can we become invincible.

This can also explain why Moshe and Yehoshua carried out the initial war against Amalek. The reason for this was that we find that Moshe was the greatest anav (humble person) to have ever lived. We also find that the Targum Yonasan explains why Moshe added a letter to Yehoshua’s name because chama Moshe anvasenusei”(Moshe saw his humility.) Humility shows that one is a part of a whole. The humble man is totally united with all the Jews, hereby not feeling the need to be nisgaeh (think you are greater than others.) That was the power needed to beat Amalek.

May we be zocheh to be united and be zocheh to erase Amalek and live to see the Bais Hamikdosh Hashlishi so we can contribute the machtzis hashekel. Amen!

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