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FEBRUARY 28-MARCH 1, 2003 27 ADAR I 5763

Pop Quiz: When did Moshe give B'nei Yisrael the instructions to build the Mishkan?


"This they shall give...a half shekel of the sacred shekel (Shemot 30:13)

When Moshe Rabenu received the command from Hashem to build the Mishkan, he was told that the Israelites were to make a compulsory gift of a half shekel. There were actually two such gifts. One was a one-time contribution of silver for the sockets upon which the walls of the Mishkan rested. The other half shekel was an annual contribution to cover the cost of all communal offerings (korbanot). The annual half shekel was collected during the month of Adar, so that the funds would be ready in time for the month of Nisan, when the new year of korbanot begins. Consequently, this chapter about the half shekel was read in synagogues on the Shabbat before Rosh Hodesh Adar, in order to remind the people to donate for the offerings. This practice is still followed today, to read Parashat Shekalim, as was done in the olden days. In addition, on Purim, we actually contribute a half shekel in honor of the holiday of Purim.

In the Megillah we read that the wicked Haman offered King Ahashverosh an impressive ten thousand silver blocks to influence the king to grant him permission to destroy the entire Jewish nation. However, our Sages teach us that Haman's efforts were preempted by the Jewish people's annual donation during the month of Adar to the Bet Hamikdash for the offerings. As the Gemara relates, Hashem said, "Let the Jewish nation's sacrificial donation of ten thousand blocks preempt Haman's attempt to influence the king with his ten thousand blocks." How in fact did the Jews' donation preempt Haman's offer? Rabbi David Siegel explains that the Jews' annual donation demonstrated their proper understanding of wealth and its power. They allocated their wealth to the most worthy of causes and eagerly donated annually - without fail - ten thousand blocks of silver to Hashem and the Bet Hamikdash. Their proper approach to wealth and its positive values protected them from Haman's financial influence on the king. Because they understood and used wealth properly they were protected from the misuse of wealth. This is the lesson of Parashat Shekalim, and with this thought we usher in the month of Adar II.

My friends, the entire world holds its breath waiting to see the developments in the Middle East. The entire agenda of the U.N is filled with issues that revolve around the Arab-Israeli conflict. Why is the world so concerned? It is based on the financial power of the Arab world. If not for that, the U.N. would have the Palestinian question on the bottom of the agenda list. Just as the Jews at the time of Purim were saved from Haman's financial influence by the half shekel, so too today we will be saved from the Arab world's wealth. The use of our wealth in the right way, will work wonders, Amen. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"See how Hashem has chosen Besal'el, son of Uri, son of Hur" (Shemot 35:30)

Moshe told the Jewish people, "See how Hashem has chosen Besal'el, son of Uri, son of Hur to oversee the Mishkan." The Rabbis tell us that some people complained to Moshe, "Everyone who has a high position is related to you." Besal'el was a great-nephew of Moshe and the people wanted to know why he was privileged to be in charge of the Mishkan.

Hashem answered the people by describing the lineage of Besal'el. His grandfather was Hur, who was killed trying to stop the people from doing the golden calf. We could have imagined that what Hur did was a great act personally, but what could it benefit his family in the future? The answer is that when someone has self-sacrifice, it is never forgotten. Rather, it will end up helping his family in the future. The sacrifice of Hur trying to stop the golden calf resulted in the appointment of his grandson to build the Mishkan. And we know that the main goal of the Mishkan was to atone for the golden calf. No good deed is ever overlooked, especially one that involves sacrifice. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"And he made the washbasin of copper and its base of copper, from the mirrors of the legions [of women]" (Shemot 38:8)

There was no lack of copper to use for the kiyor, washbasin. The Midrash explains, however, that the women's mirrors were given special preference, because they reflected a sacrifice of considerable magnitude, inasmuch as all women use mirrors. The mirrors were also used by the women in Egypt to beautify themselves in order to restore the spirits of their downtrodden husbands. Essentially, the mirrors represented a sense of sacrifice and a sanctification of the mundane.

The Mezricher Maggid suggests the following relationship between the function of the kiyor and the mirrors. People tend to scrutinize their fellow man with an analytical eye. We must realize that the perception we have of others reflects our own self-evaluation. Any deficiencies we detect in our friends should actually be viewed as sensitive aspects of our own personalities. Thus, we must focus upon those areas of ourselves which need improvement.

Prior to performing the daily service, the Kohen must wash his hands and feet. Consistent with this physical cleansing a spiritual introspection should develop. The kiyor was fashioned from mirrors in order to reinforce this idea. When the Kohanim observed the donated mirrors, they realized that the ideal method for self-evaluation is remembering how one critically views others.

We may offer another perspective in the significance of mirrors. When one desires to view himself, he looks in a mirror. Indeed, if one does not possess a mirror, he must ask his fellow man's opinion regarding his appearance. In other words, a mirror gives one a sense of independence, thereby eliminating one's reliance upon other people. The women of that time who relinquished their mirrors were making a statement. They did not want to remain independent of their friends.

The kiyor was the first vessel that the Kohen utilized when he entered the Mishkan. As he left the worldly environment and prepared to perform the sacred service which ultimately atones for Klal Yisrael, he must remember the mirrors. The Kohen may not divest himself from the people. In order to be the faithful agent of the people, the Kohen must interact with them. Although his position demands a certain degree of separation from the community, it does not demand that he be secluded. To achieve respect and reverence, one need not be remote and aloof. (Peninim on the Torah)


"You shall not kindle a fire in any of your dwellings on the Shabbat day" (Shemot 35:3)

Why does the Torah single out this prohibition and not any of the other thirty-nine major activities that are forbidden on Shabbat?

Heated fights and arguments are like fire: Unfortunately they destroy many homes, partnerships and relationships. When people are busy, they do not have time to argue and fight.

Because Shabbat is a day of rest, the Torah warns, "Beware not to kindle the 'fire of dispute' on the Shabbat day. Keep yourself busy with Torah study and prayer, and avoid idleness."

Another explanation is that in the Ten Commandments, Hashem commanded the Jews to observe Shabbat, because in six days He created heaven and earth and everything in it, and on the seventh day He rested. Adam was created on Friday and there was light the entire Friday night and Shabbat. Saturday night, seeing darkness for the first time, Adam rubbed two stones together and produced fire (Midrash Rabbah, Beresheet 11:2). Because of this, we recite the berachah "Boreh me'oreh ha'esh" during habdalah on Saturday night (Pesahim 54a).

Some people may think that since fire was not created during the first six days, Hashem did not rest from it on Shabbat, and thus one is permitted to make a fire on Shabbat. Therefore, Moshe had to stress that it is forbidden to ignite any fire on Shabbat. (Vedibarta Bam)


Question: Why is Bameh Madlikin (which is a chapter of Mishnayot from Masechet Shabbat, primarily dealing with candlelighting) read on Friday nights?

Answer: 1) These Mishnayot discuss laws of Shabbat.

2) We read this chapter in order to lengthen the prayers (as a safety measure for those who come late to shul - especially to shuls in rural areas, so they will not be left alone).

3) On Shabbat we receive an extra soul which motivates us spiritually on that day. This is referred to as a light (Mishlei 20:27). Therefore we read this chapter, which discusses the candles of Shabbat. (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)


"And he put in his heart to teach." (Shemot 35:34)

Besal'el was chosen by Hashem to lead in the construction of the Mishkan. The Torah praises him for his willingness to teach others the special skills and knowledge that would be needed for this work. Rather than give him acclaim for his great wisdom, which was entirely from Hashem, the Torah focused on his willingness to share that wisdom with his fellow man.

Every person has some aspect about him that is unique. One may take pride in that trait and use it to gain honor for himself, or he may share the gift with others. A person who understands that his special trait is a gift from Hashem will want to share it with others so that they can also benefit from it. However, someone who wants to take credit for it will try to horde his special talent so that people will honor him for it.

Question: In which of your features do you feel that your ability surpasses that of your fellow man? How do you go about sharing this special talent with others?


This week's Haftarah: Melachim II 11:17 - 12:17.

The regular haftarah for this week is from Melachim I, which details the construction of the First Bet Hamikdash by King Shelomo. Our perashah also reviews many of the specifications of the construction of the Mishkan.

However, since this week is Shabbat Shekalim and a special maftir is read, the regular haftarah is not read. Instead, we read about King Yehoyada, a righteous king who did away with the idols that the people had been worshiping. He instituted a system to collect funds for the repair and fortification of the Bet Hamikdash. This section contains a reference to the half-shekel contribution that each person was required to bring every year, which is also the theme of the special maftir which we read this week.


A few years ago, a young man, whom we will refer to as D.G., was living a totally assimilated lifestyle in New York. He had no understanding of Judaism; it did not really concern him very much. His life revolved around one thing - music. At the time the incident took place, he was preparing go to Paris to pursue his musical studies.

It was a Sunday afternoon, and he was walking down Kings Highway in Brooklyn. Suddenly he heard a loud crash, and the screech of brakes. He looked up at the source of the noise. There in the street, covered with blood, was an elderly Rabbi who had been hit by a car. He rushed over to his side and attempted to speak to him, but there was no response. He stayed with him and held his hand until an ambulance came.

As the Rabbi was being lifted onto the stretcher, D.G. noticed that his lips were moving. It appeared that he wanted to say something to him. D.G. leaned and bent his ear close to the Rabbi's lips, so that he could hear what he was trying to say. What he heard shocked him. "Sonny, are you Jewish," the Rabbi asked in broken English,

"Yes, Pop," he answered. "I am Jewish."

"Sonny," the Rabbi whispered in obvious pain and with great difficulty, "you must go to Jerusalem and study Torah."

When D.G. heard these words, it literally shocked him into reality. Here was this Rabbi, suffering from multiple fractures, his body bloodied and bruised. In his intense pain, all he cared about was that the young man who stood over him would go to Eress Yisrael to study Torah! The experience transformed D.G. forever. He realized that the man who lay in his arms was no mere man. He was a saint, so committed to his faith that he was able to transcend his suffering and pain just to reach out to another Jew. The Rabbi was G-d's messenger, sent to convey His message to D.G: "Come home. This is where you belong. Do not waste your life. Learn Torah."

D.G. listened to the message, and a few days later went to Eress Yisrael and enrolled in a yeshivah. He has not returned to the States. He remembers only to well to whom he owes his newly-found life - and will never forget. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to pop quiz: 11 Tishrei, the day after he brought down the second Tablets.

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