Weekly Davar: Vayakhel 2022

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Davar Thought

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.

Shabbat Shalom

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.

Weekly Davar: Ki Sissa 2022

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Davar Thought

The portion begins with the idea of taxing each person for half a shekel a year which went towards the upkeep of the Temple. There are two things I love immediately about this commandment. Firstly, that everyone gives the same, as the Torah says, ‘the rich shall not give more; the poor shall not give less’. All are equal in the service of God. But also, the fact that it is half a shekel, not a full shekel. The service of any individual is incomplete without others.

Along these lines, a beautiful story is told about a king who had two sons who were very close to each other, but one of whom was estranged from his father. It was the king’s Golden Jubilee and he desperately wanted both princes to attend. He sent a message to them saying that anything spent in honour of the king for the party, would be reimbursed. The prince, who was close to the king, immediately went out and bought the finest clothes, hired a limousine to pick him and his family up from the airport, after flights in first class, and booked the presidential suite at the local hotel for the full week of celebrations. Knowing that his brother would not attend, he figured that double the budget was available.

At the end of the week, as he was leaving, the prince handed his father receipts for all that he had spent. The king said to him that he was not reimbursing a penny. The prince remonstrated that he could not afford to pay by himself and that his father had promised.

‘I promised,’ said his father, ‘to reimburse what was spent in my honour’.

The prince responded that all of this had indeed been spent in honour of the king’s party.

‘This was not spent in my honour,’ replied the king, ‘it was spent in your own honour’.

The son said that was ridiculous. How could the king know?

To which the king answered. ‘If you genuinely wished to honour me, you would have brought your brother.’

I find sometimes, and I can only speak for myself if not for others, that self-righteousness can be a serious stumbling block. I want to be the one serving God, the one who does the good deed, who helps others, who is being holy and righteous. And whether others do that or not is their own business. But the rabbis, wisely, tell us that greater than the one who gives charity, is the one who encourages others to give.

Being of service is not just my deepest and greatest pleasure; it is every human being’s deepest and greatest pleasure. And whoever is not doing so is missing out. God does not want any of his children to miss out on having a deep and meaningful connection with Truth; to be in harmony with the oneness of life and the Universe. For me to feel that beautiful feeling and not look to help others find it also is to care about my own honour, not humanity’s honour and certainly not God’s honour. For in the context of service to a greater good, we are all God’s children and the success of each and every one of us should be as precious to us as our own.

Shabbat Shalom

Parsha in a Nutshell

This week, we begin with a census of the Jewish nation. Each person, rich or poor, had to give a half shekel for upkeep of the Tabernacle.

The portion includes the building of the washstand in the Tabernacle, the making of the incense and anointing oil and the appointment of craftsmen and architects. But all this is only a prelude to the feature presentation: the story of The Golden Calf. The Jewish people, having heard God speak to them at Mt. Sinai only 40 days previously, decide to build an idol!! How this could be possible is a difficult question that I have dealt with in previous years. I’m happy to send you something if you are interested.