מגילה י"ג עמוד ב
אמר ריש לקיש גלוי וידוע לפני מי שאמר והיה העולם שעתיד המן לשקול שקלים על ישראל לפיכך הקדים שקליהן לשקליו והיינו דתנן באחד באדר משמיעין על השקלים ועל הכלאים ויאמר המלך להמן הכסף נתון לך
Some communities have the minhag to say yotzros on the daled parshios – Shekalim, Zachar, Para, Chodesh – while others don’t. Yotzros is a point of contention in every shul as to whether it’s a hefsek in the middle of Shemonei Esrei. It’s important for this question to be answered hashkafically because it goes right to the heart of what Shekalim is about.
If we understood what Parashas Shekalim stands for, we would understand what approach to take when it comes to the issue of yotzros, and in general, to every controversy, we have in our lives.
What is Parashas Shekalim?
On the first of Adar, Parashas Shekalim announces that Rosh Chodesh Nissan is around the corner, which means we will have korbanos from the new batch of money coming in - לשכה חדשה – and so we have to collect money.
The Mishna says משמיעין על השקלים ועל הכלאים. Also, the Gemara (מגילה כ"ט) brings itבאחד באדר משמיעין על השקלים, and as Rashi points out it's basically hachrozas bes din, and in commemoration of that, we lein Parashas Shekalim. However, Is it appropriate in our times?
There's a lot more significance in Parashas Shekalim. In Megila, it says it's connected to Haman giving shekalim. In order to pre-empt the shekalim of Haman, we give shekalim on the first of Adar – it's not only just about providing money for the Beis Hamikdash, but it's also an introduction to the story of Purim.
So how were the shekalim that Klal Yisrael gave the yeshua for Purim? The Chida says in קתר דוד, referring to אין קטיגור נעשה סניגור, (the prosecutor can't itself be the defense, which is the source for not wearing gold on Yom Kippur), that the opposite is also true – אין סניגור יעשה קטיגור. Therefore the סניגור, the shekalim that we brought for the Beis Hamikdash, can’t be used later to kill Klal Yisrael.
The Maharal in אור חדש says a different pshat – the shekalim were given as a korban. What is a korban? אדם כי יקריב מכם קרבן לה – מכם means you, meaning that the person becomes close to Hashem. Therefore if the person becomes Hashem’s through the korban, that means Haman can’t buy us – we already belong to Hashem.
The Chasam Sofer discusses a different angle of this inyan of shekalim. The chisaron in the time of Purim was that Hashem sold us to the mercy of Haman. Others say it was that the Jews took part in Achashverosh’s party, which was, although kosher, hashkafically unsound since the party was to celebrate that the Beis Hamikdash wouldn’t be rebuilt. That was why he brought out the vessels from the Beis Hamikdash. The problem was that Klal Yisrael went eagerly and enjoyed the party, which shows that they didn't feel the loss of Churban Habayis. The Chasam Sofer says that by reading Shekalim, thereby promising to give shekalim in the Beis Hamikdash and showing that we mourn its loss, we correct the chisaron of Klal Yisrael in the times of Haman.
Everyone besides for these mefarshim offer a different pshat. The Alshich asks why it is machatzis hashekel – why does it have to be a half? To teach us that we are only half and only when we join together we can become one. The complaint that Haman had about Klal Yisrael was that ישנו עם אחד מפזר ומפרד בין העמים, so we see clearly that Klal Yisrael didn’t have achdus. Therefore the shekalim, and the lesson of achdus, is the tikkun.
On the one hand, it says עם אחד מפזר ומפרד but on the other ודתיהם שנות מכל עם. How do we reconcile these seemingly contradictory statements? The thing that unites Klal Yisrael, and keeps us apart from the goyim, is the Torah and its laws. If Klal Yisrael were not מפזר ומפרד, then nobody would mind ודתיהם שנות, but since they were assimilated, Haman was annoyed that they didn’t keep the same laws. If a people settle in a country and don’t assimilate with its citizens, it makes sense that they have their own laws – but if a people integrate into a country and still keep their own laws, it shows that they’re anti the government.
This is an important lesson – if Klal Yisrael wants to survive as different, we have to be completely separate. The biggest problems we had in history was when we tried to assimilate. So, we're so careful to give shalach manos on Purim to fix the problem of achdus that the yidden had in the times of Haman.
For a person to become one with another, he has to break himself. It doesn't say chatzi shekel; it says machatzis hashekel – not "half" but "half of." Rav Shalom Schwadron would say that he saw Haman read Parashas Zachor. He was once in a shul where the baal korei didn't show up, and a bar mitzva boy offered to lein. Since Parashas Zachor is min haTorah, a bar mitzva boy can't read it because he's not definitely a gadol. Someone stood up and announced that someone else should read Parashas Zachor, but the rest of the shul didn't see the problem and insisted that the boy lein. The man went up himself and leined Parashas Zachor, embarrassing the boy, and that was why Rav Schwadron said he saw Haman lein Parashas Zachor. To be able to break oneself and be a half with another person to become whole, that's the lesson of Parashas Shekalim.
An interesting Gaon on a Gemara in Bava Basra says that Moshe Rabbeinu asked Hashem, "with what will Klal Yisrael's glory elevate itself." Hashem answered כי תשא את ראש בני ישראל – פרשת שקלים. The word sisa means to elevate – so the parasha of Shekalim elevates. The Gaon says that the idea of the shekalim is actually tzedaka. Since there were no poor people at the time of the midbar, Moshe Rabbeinu was concerned about how Klal Yisrael would give tzedaka, and that was how they did it. This is a chiddush – only tzedaka is rewarded in this world. And part of Purim is giving tzedaka, which is matzil mimaves.
The Gaon also says that the צ in the middle of the word מחצית stands for tzedaka. The letters on either side of the צ, ח and י, stand for chai. The outer letters, מ, and ת, are meis. If you give tzedaka, you’re closer to chaim and further away from meis.
The Gaon also says that the word ונתנו can be read backward and forwards. Someone who is a giver one day may be a taker the next.
Someone was driving fast because he was in a low-speed area, and his wife told him to be careful because there was someone he could have knocked over who looked like a violent person. He replied that if he was caught for driving fast, he'd sit in jail but he'd rather do that than be in the beis hakvaros, which is what would happen if the violent person caught up with him. It's better to be the giver of the punch than the taker, and it's better to be the giver than the taker with tzedaka.
Tzedaka is chai because if you give others life by giving them money to live, Hashem pays you back – which can only be in this world, not in the next.
Shekalim elevates a person because of the ko’ach of achdus that Klal Yisrael has over any other nation. Haman was embarrassed to fight Mordechai by himself because the yid was considered low class, but once the yidden became exalted, that was the story of Purim.
On Friday night, after davening, we say logen avos in order to prolong the tefilla so that everyone can wait for latecomers to finish davening. Why should everyone have to wait just because someone turned up late? And why can’t the latecomers daven faster? Because it’s so important to bend to help others in shul, that Chazal made this bracha even though there shouldn’t be that chazaras hashatz.
How does Mishpatim connect to Sinai? Rashi explains that we have to put the Sanhedrin next to the mizbei’ach because although we might assume that mizbei’ach is avoda, it’s the same avoda as out of the Beis Hamikdash – where we’re careful of other people in the street, in business, in life in general.
Eved ivri is the first parasha. A person might feel that he owns his eved because he paid for him. But despite the halacha of חייך קודמים, if there's, say, only one pillow, he has to give it to his eved. The reason for this is because the eved feels very low by himself and therefore we have to go to the other extreme to make him feel important. There's no point in חייך קודמים if through it other people feel bad. The point is not that you can't hurt another person – the chiyuv is to make the other person happy, and so if while doing that you make him uncomfortable and therefore unhappy even for a second, there's already a problem, and it's not what the Torah wants.
The rebbe of Rabbeinu Tam says in his ספר המצוות on לא תונו איש את עמיתו, you are not allowed to hurt another person, that it includes showing someone a sour face because it makes him feel bad – that is included in the isur of ono’as devarim. Chazal tell us in Bava Metzia that ono’as devarim is worse than ono’as mamon.
Tziva Hashem b’har sinai – Hashem commanded us not to transgress the isur of ono’as devarim. The reason he’s suddenly talking about Har Sinai is because of this pshat. One might think that this isur doesn't carry as much weight as the isurim from Sinai, but it does. If someone doesn't keep all the halachos in Mishpatim, it's as if he's transgressing an isur from Sinai.
This is where Klal Yisrael stands out in its midas hachesed, and it’s what elevates us.
The Shaarei Teshuva brings down that just like there's an isur to hurt a person; you're not allowed to act in a way that scares someone. Once, the Berditchever got up by a Shabbos drasha and told the people that although it’s not true that there is non-Jewish blood in the matzos, there is Jewish blood in them. At the matza bakery, the people who work there are the ones who don’t have money, the almanos and paupers – and they’re shouted at to work faster and better.
Years ago, there was a shaila about matzos that were made by Russians who couldn't all be proven to be Jewish. A Rav was bothered by this nekuda of goyim being able to make matzos lishma or not, especially since to turn them away would bring pain to so many people who needed that parnassa. Sometimes we become zealous about mitzvos while hurting others.
Since the inyan of shekalim was for Klal Yisrael to come together be’achdus, by arguing about whether to say yotzros or not defeats the purpose.
On Erev Pesach people are busy with matzos and maror. A husband asked his wife to make a potato kugel, and she was insulted that he didn't think she made enough food. But he explained that there was a widow who would be lonely over Pesach, and it would make her feel better if they could send her a kugel. It's the same lesheim mitzva because it’s all from Sinai.
Purim is not just to give tzedaka but to make the poor people happy. The Mishna Berura brings from the Ritva that one is supposed to give a pruta, a pennyworth, on Purim. But since a pauper can't do anything with a penny, the poskim say that the real mitzvah is to do something that will make him happy – i.e. you have to give enough for him to have a meal on Purim. Sitting and doling out matanas l’evyonim with a measuring stick isn’t what the mitzva really is.
Haman’s shekalim weren’t able to defeat the shekalim that Klal Yisrael gives, of machatzis, of tzedaka.