A place of hope and unity

Chaverim,

There are a number of Shabbatot throughout the Jewish calendar that have special names. The most familiar of these is probably Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat of Return, which takes place between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. These special Shabbatot each serve a purpose, some historical, some still relevant today. On Friday evening begins Shabbat Shekalim, the Shabbat of Shekels. It takes place every year on the Shabbat before the month of Adar. It is named for a special verse of Torah read on this date which commands every Israelite to contribute half a shekel to support the sacrifices in the ancient Temple.

Now, the Second Temple was destroyed in the year 70 CE and, with its destruction, came the end of Jewish sacrificial worship. So, the notion of a half shekel contribution to The Temple is an interesting historical idea, but, beyond that, seemingly irrelevant to our 21st Century lives. And yet, there were several things about this contribution which still resonate today.

First, this was a shared responsibility. The obligation to give a half shekel fell to each and every Israelite, regardless of income. This shared tax must have led to a unique sense of unity and belonging among the Israelites.

Second, this money went to support what was considered the main institution which guaranteed the welfare of the Israelite nation. From the perspective of the Israelites, that half shekel tax was the first step to providing prosperity, safety and happiness to the entire nation … to providing hope for the future.

To have the official opening of our new Bet David campus this Shabbat, Shabbat Shekalim, was a deliberate choice, because the two above mentioned values, which seem to be from another time, but will be hopefully continue to be the supporting pillars of our congregation. A unique sense of unity and belonging in which all who are part of Bet David enjoy the same rights and responsibilities. And Bet David as a place that provides hope for the future, a place where we grow together and strengthen our community and our Progressive Judaism.

On this Shabbat Shekalim, I pray our congregation will prosper in its new home and that everyone who seeks a place of peace, safety and hope will find it within its walls.

Rabbi Adrian M Schell (Source: Howard J. Goldsmith )

Torah Reading

Shabbat Shekalim – Parashat Mishpatim

Exodus 21:1-24:18 – Reading: Ex 22:27 – 23:22 (Plaut p. 519; Hertz p. 315)

Haftarah for Shekalim: II Kings 12:5-16 (Plaut p.1451; Hertz p.993)

 

Shabbat Shekalim

Shabbat Shekalim („Sabbath [of] shekels“) takes place on the Shabbat before the 1st of the Hebrew calendar month of Adar, and is one of the four 4 special Shabbatot surrounding Purim and Passover to help us prepare physically and spiritually for those holidays. Traditionally every adult Jew was requested to contribute a half of a Biblical shekel for the upkeep of the Tabernacle. This tax was due by the 1st of Nisan, meaning in a month from now. In later times – as we can understand it from our Haftarah – the donation was used for maintenance of the temple. Today we can understand it as a contribution to the infrastructure of a community. The building and maintenance of a Synagogue for example. As the Israelites contributed to the building of the Mishkan, the tabernacle, we are still today asked to support our communities.

But we shouldn’t make the mistake to understand it only as a donation of money. This is one way of support, but Silver and Gold are only placeholder/symbols for other things we can give. It can be a cake for a Bracha, help when something needs to be prepared or done in the Synagogue or the visit of people who are sick. Sometimes, “just coming to the prayer services” can be a big contribution. Today, I think, the giving of TIME is one of the most valuable offerings we can give to our community.
Thank you all. – Rabbi Adrian M Schell