Thursday, March 6, 2008

For What Do the Shekalim Atone?

According to one opinion, the half shekel atones for the sin of the golden calf. The Shem MiShmuel zt”l explains that the Jewish people sinned because they were unable to properly harness their intelligence. As soon as they saw what appeared to be the body of Moshe Rabbeinu, their minds became clouded, and the Soton was then able to entrap them. How, then, should they have responded to such a frightening vision? By transcending their rational minds and strengthening their emunah instead. This is the deeper meaning of using an amount that is made up of six garmesin[1]: “she’chatu b’shesh”—they “sinned with the six” lower emotional attributes that make up every person.

The second opinion is that the shekalim come to atone for selling Yosef HaTzaddik. The brothers failed their challenge to use their minds and clear thinking to transcend their personal, ulterior motives. Their jealousy obscured the truth from their eyes and clouded their judgment regarding their brother’s fate. A coin atones for the sale of Yosef, because each of the brothers walked away with a coin. The fact that it is half a shekel symbolizes their need to have admitted their ulterior motives, and to have accepted that their minds were only working “half as well” as they should have.

The shekalim atone for both the sin of the sale of Yosef and the sin of the golden calf, because the roots of both sins were the same. “These and those are the words of the living G-d.”

A man from London came to Israel for a visit, and while he was in the country he decided to take the opportunity to visit the Chazon Ish zt”l. When he was about to leave, he asked the Chazon Ish for a message to bring back to the Jews of London.

The Chazon Ish answered, “The verse says that Noach was a pure Tzaddik in his generation. This teaches that people are judged according to the challenges of their time. And in ours, the main test is strengthening our emunah!”

[1] This is a measure of silver.

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