top of page

Parshat Shkalim and the Mitzva of Machazit HaShekel

זֶ֣ה | יִתְּנ֗וּ כָּל־הָֽעֹבֵר֙ עַל־הַפְּקֻדִ֔ים מַֽחֲצִ֥ית הַשֶּׁ֖קֶל בְּשֶׁ֣קֶל הַקֹּ֑דֶשׁ

This they shall give, everyone who goes through the counting: half a shekel according to the holy shekel

This Shabbat is the first of the "4 Parshiot", which are read around the Month of Adar Parshat Shkalim, which is read on the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh Adar, recounts the mitzvah of the machazit hashekel, the half-shekel contribution that each member of the Jewish people was required to give towards the maintenance of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the desert. This collection took place during the month of Adar, which is why it is read now.

The concept of the machazit hashekel is rich with symbolism and meaning. The Talmud in Massechet Shekalim (3b) explains that the purpose of the machazit hashekel was to create a sense of unity and equality among the Jewish people. By requiring each person to contribute the same amount, regardless of their wealth or status, the mitzvah of the machazit hashekel reinforced the idea that every member of the community was equally important and valued.

The midrashim add a deeper layer of meaning to the machazit hashekel. The Midrash Tanchuma (Parshat Ki Tisa 17) explains that the machazit hashekel was given as an atonement for the sin of the golden calf. When the Jewish people made the golden calf, they demonstrated a lack of unity and cohesion, each person pursuing their own desires and interests. By contributing the machazit hashekel, the people demonstrated their commitment to the collective good and their willingness to set aside their personal interests for the benefit of the community as a whole.

Another midrash (Shemot Rabbah 30:13) explains that the machazit hashekel represents the idea that each member of the community is incomplete without the others. Just as the half-shekel is only complete when it is combined with the half-shekel of another, each person is only complete when they are part of the greater whole of the Jewish people.

Rashi explains that the word "shkalim" comes from the Hebrew word "shekel," which means "weigh." Rashi suggests that the machazit hashekel was given as a way to "weigh" the Jewish people, to count and number them. This interpretation reinforces the idea of unity and equality, as each person was counted and valued equally.

In modern times, the mitzvah of the machazit hashekel is often fulfilled by giving a monetary donation to charity. Just as the machazit hashekel was given towards the maintenance of the Mishkan, we can give tzedakah (charity) to support shuls, yeshivot, and other Jewish institutions. By giving tzedakah, we can continue to uphold the values of unity, equality, and collective responsibility that the machazit hashekel represents.

מי שנכנס אדר מרבים בשמחה

When Adar enters, we increase in joy.

Also, the Gemara in Massechet Taanit (29a) states that just as the month of Adar brings an increase in happiness - it also brings an increase in giving to charity. By reading Parshat Shkalim, which emphasizes the importance of giving a half-shekel for the upkeep of the Mishkan, we are reminded of the importance of giving tzedakah during this time of year. This helps us to fulfill the mitzvah of giving to those in need and contributing to the greater good of the Jewish community.

Parshat Shkalim and the mitzvah of the machazit hashekel teach us important lessons about the value of unity and equality in the Jewish community. Through this mitzvah, we are reminded that each member of the community is equally important and that we must work together for the collective good.

Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov!



Let the posts
come to you.

Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page