Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Tetzaveh - Purim - 5772

HALF A SHEKEL EACH

The Megillah states that Haman offered to add to the King's coffers ten thousand kikar of silver in exchange for the right to get rid of the Jews. The medieval rabbis from France known as the Balei HaTosafot note that the amount corresponded to a half Shekel for every Jewish person. The simple analysis of Haman's offer is that Haman was concerned that Achashverosh and Revenue Persia would object to the loss of Jewish tax revenue if he killed them all. To pre-empt that financial loss, Haman made the offer.

The Rabbis relate that what Haman was trying to do was to reverse the merit of the Jews’ annual half Shekel contribution to the Temple's upkeep. The Gemara says that since the Almighty knew that Haman would offer Shekels to Achashverosh to 'purchase' the right to destroy the Jews, HaShem pre-empted Haman's contribution through the half- shekel. The merit of the Jews contributing the annual half-shekel protected them (in the future) against Haman's evil designs.

Haman's potential for destroying the Jewish people was hinted at in his own description of the nation: "There is a nation that is dispersed and divided..." [Esther 3:8]. It is only because there is division and unjustified hatred within the Jewish nation that their enemies have the ability to harm them. When the Jews are divided, they represent only individuals - not a Klal [a communal entity]. When that happens we have lost our strength.

Haman's whole plot was based on the division of the nation. That is why Hashem insisted that each Jew should give exactly one half shekel. The symbolism of the half shekel is that each Jew is only a fraction of the entity. He needs to combine with his fellow Jew to make a significant contribution. If we think we can be 'an entire shekel unto ourselves', that is not going to work. Our strength is through the recognition that we need each other and the realization that we need to set aside our differences to come together to provide a complete shekel.

This is the strength that ultimately saved the Jewish people. Because of the terrible calamity that was hanging over them as a result of Haman's decree, they decided to put away those 'dispersions and divisions in the nation' and came together as a unit and as a whole. A threat from Persia can be discharged through the power of unity!

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Purim