This week, as an extra portion, we once again read the part in last week’s portion about the half shekel given by every member of the Jewish People as a contribution to the Temple service. It affords me the opportunity to continue from where I left off.
I mentioned that I love the idea of it being the same amount for everyone. The wealthy person does not give more, and the poor person does not give less. Whilst it might look as though a wealthy person, Bill Gates for example, has the wherewithal to contribute more to the betterment of our world, that is not correct. Because true contribution comes from within and on that most fundamental human level, our souls are entirely equal.
I want to add this week that Rashi, the great Medieval commentator, says that God showed Moses a half shekel of fire in order that Moses should understand what this commandment was about. On the surface, this is usually understood to mean that Moses did not know what God meant by a half shekel and so God showed him a fiery image of it. However, this is difficult to understand. Firstly, why would Moses not know what a coin looked like and secondly, even if he didn’t, why did God need to show him one of fire? Just show him a regular half shekel…
I heard a beautiful explanation for this, I can’t recall from whom.
It wasn’t that Moses was unsure what the coin looked like; it was that God wanted to articulate an idea.
The half shekel that was given, might have been a small amount, but it needed to be ‘of fire’. It needed to come from a strong and burning inner feeling to be of service. It might only be ‘half’ and hence lacking in itself, but a lacking on the outside says nothing about what is happening within. It is only a half as a reminder that any contribution we make as human beings will always be ‘lacking’. No single one of us can fix the world entirely. What matters, always and only, is the feeling that we come with. What we bring to service is our own inner fire; our own vision and drive; our own sense of desire to contribute. Fire is formless, but it is the formless nature of our service that matters, not the form that it takes. Our service will only ever be ‘half’ because, as I said last week, no single one of us can alone give what our world needs. But when it comes from a strong and deep feeling, such service is full and complete. Because service of the heart is what matters.
God showed Moses a half shekel of fire to tell him just this. It might only be a half in form – but the burning fire from within is what makes it full and complete. When we come to something with a full heart, our contribution will always be a full one, even if it doesn’t look like much on the outside; if we have given of ourselves fully from within, that’s what really matters.
Parsha in a Nutshell
This week’s portion once again talks about the Tabernacle – the travelling, prefab Temple. Also included is the fundraising history of the Tabernacle. Too much money was donated. For the first time in Jewish history, the volunteers had to man the phones to ask people NOT to give. I’m still looking forward to when that happens to us at Tikun.