FROM THE TORAH
In previous sedras, the Eternal imparted to Moses and, through him, Israel what shall be required in material and construction for the central religious institutions of the Children of Israel: the Tabernacle and the Priesthood. In Sedra Vayakhel, the call is issued for the people to supply the required sacred gifts (terumah), for Bezalel and Oholiav to organize and direct the artisans and to commence and complete the construction of the Tabernacle and the equipping of Aaron and his sons, the Kohanim (Priests).
Implementation of Sacred Design
TERUMAH FOR TABERNACLE AND PRIEST
Moses assembles (Vayakhel) all the congregation of the Children of Israel and says to them: These are the matters which the Eternal has commanded to be observed.
Work may be done for six days. But the seventh day shall be holy, a Sabbath of solemn rest for the Eternal. Whoever does work on it shall be put to death. Do not kindle fire on it in your habitations. (Cf. Exodus 31:12-17)
Take from among you, everyone who is willing, as a sacred offering (terumah) to the Eternal, gold, silver and copper, blue, purple and crimson, fine linen and goats’ hair, reddened ram’s skins, tachash skins, and acacia wood, oil for lighting, spices for the Anointing Oil and for the Aromatic Incense, shoham stones and stones for setting for the Ephod and for the Breastplate. (Cf. Exodus 25:3-7)
Let every capable one among you come and execute all that the Eternal has commanded: the Tabernacle and its Tent and its Covering, its clasps and its Boards, its bars and its pillars and its sockets, the Ark and its rods and its Propitiatory, and the Dividing Curtain for the Screen, the Table and its rods and all of its implements and the Showbread, the Menorah of lighting and its implements and its lamps, and the oil for lighting, and the Incense Altar and its rods, and the Anointing Oil, the Aromatic Incense, the Entrance Screen for the Entrance of the Tabernacle, the Altar of Burnt Offering and its copper grating, its rods and all of its implements, the Laver and its base, the curtains of the Courtyard and its pillars and its sockets, the Screen of the Gate of the Courtyard, and the Pegs of the Tabernacle and the Pegs of the Courtyard and their cords, the plaited garments for sacred service, the sacred garments for Aaron the Kohen, and the garments of his sons to serve as priests. (Cf. Exodus 25:10-30:38)
All of the congregation then leaves the presence of Moses, and everyone whose heart is willing and whose spirit is generous brings the terumah of the Eternal from the specified materials in their possession for the work of the Tent of Meeting and for its service and for the sacred vestments. The men prevail upon the women, so that everyone who is sufficiently generous brings a nose-ring or an earring or a signet or any other golden ornament, and a man would make a wave offering of gold to the Eternal. Women who can spin produce cloths of blue, purple and crimson, fine linen, and goats’ hair. Princes of the people bring the various stones for the Ephod and the Breastplate, and spice and oil for lighting and for the Anointing Oil and for the Aromatic Incense. Every man and woman bring the required items as a freewill offering.
BEZALEL AND OHOLIAV TAKE CHARGE
Moses announces to the Children of Israel that the Eternal has appointed Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, to execute the work of the graver and designer and weaver. The Eternal is filling him with the Divine Spirit, with wisdom and understanding and knowledge, and with all aspects of workmanship, to devise plans for doing work in gold, silver and copper, for the cutting of stones to be set in place, and for the carving of wood to be done with all manner of workmanship. He makes it his will to instruct others as well, he and Oholiav son of Achisamach of the tribe of Dan, whom the Eternal has inspired and qualified to work alongside Bezalel with similar responsibilities. (Cf. Exodus 31:1-11)
Bezalel and Oholiav and everyone divinely-qualified to participate in the work of the sacred service carry out the commandments of the Eternal at the call of Moses. They take from Moses all of the terumah which the Children of Israel have brought and continue to bring every morning. The artisans report to Moses that the people have brought more than enough gifts of terumah. So Moses causes a notice to be circulated among the people to cease bringing materials, and they cease.
CONSTRUCTION OF THE TABERNACLE
All of the artisans construct the Tabernacle (Mishkan) of 10 sheets of twisted fine linen and of blue and purple and crimson yarns, with Cherubs as the creation of a designer. The length of each sheet is 28 cubits, and the width 4 cubits. Five of them are joined to each other, and the other five are joined to each other. Fifty loops of blue thread are made on the edge of the outermost sheet of each of the two sets. The loops of the two sets are arranged opposite each other. Fifty gold clasps are made, and the outermost sheets of the two sets are attached one to the other with the clasps so that the Tabernacle is one. (Cf. Exodus 26:1-6)
Eleven sheets of goats’ hair are made for a Tent (Ohel) over the Tabernacle. The length of each sheet is 30 cubits, and the width 4 cubits. Five of the sheets are joined as a set, and the other six are joined as a separate set. Fifty loops are made on the edge of the one outermost sheet of the one set, and fifty are made on the edge of the sheet of the other set. Fifty copper clasps are made and inserted into the loops, then the two parts of the Tent are connected into one. (Cf. Exodus 26:7-13)
A Covering (Michseh) for the Tent, of reddened ram skins and tachash skins, is made from above. (Cf. Exodus 26:14)
Vertical Boards (Kerashim) of acacia wood are made for the Tabernacle. The height of each Board is 10 cubits, and the width a cubit-and-a-half. Each Board has two parallel tenons. Twenty such Boards are made for both the south side and the north side of the Tabernacle, each, and 40 silver sockets are made for the 20 Boards of each side, two silver sockets for the two tenons of each Board.
Six Boards are made for the rear of the Tabernacle, on the west, and another two Boards for the two corners. They are made flush with each other from bottom to top, where every two contiguous Boards are joined by a ring connector, and this applies as well to the additional two Boards for the two corners, which are similarly connected to the westernmost Boards of the southern and northern sides of the Tabernacle, respectively. So, at the western end there are 8 Boards in all and 16 silver sockets, two sockets under each Board.
Five bars of acacia wood are made for each of the two side walls of the Tabernacle and its rear wall to the west. The middle bar of each of the three walls passes through the Boards from end to end. The Boards are overlaid with gold. Their rings, which serve as housing for the bars, are made of gold, and the bars are overlaid with gold. (Cf. Exodus 26:15-30)
A Dividing Curtain (Parochet) is made of blue, purple and crimson yarns, twisted fine linen, with a designer’s work rendering Cherubs, hung upon four posts of acacia wood overlaid with gold, their hooks of gold upon four sockets of silver. (Cf. Exodus 26:31-35)
Screen for the Entrance of the Tent
A Screen for the Entrance of the Tent (Masach Lefetach Ha-ohel) is made, of blue, purple and crimson yarns, twisted fine linen, the work of a weaver, with its five columns and their hooks, their tops and their connecting rings overlaid with gold, and their five sockets of copper. (Cf. Exodus 26:36-37)
Bezalel makes the Ark (Aron) of acacia wood, two-and-a-half cubits long, one-and-a-half cubits wide, one-and-a-half cubits high. He overlays it, inside and out, with pure gold, and makes around it at its top a border of gold. He casts for it four gold rings on its four feet and two rings on each of its sides. He makes rods of acacia wood overlaid with gold and inserts one through the rings on each side of the Ark, to be used for carrying the Ark. (Cf. Exodus 25:10-16)
He makes a Propitiatory (Kaporet) of pure gold, two-and-a-half cubits long, one-and-a-half cubits wide, and from the gold of the Propitiatory he makes, as one with it, two Cherubs at opposite ends. He makes them of hammered work. They face each other but look toward the Propitiatory, wings spread out above, shielding the Propitiatory. (Cf. Exodus 25:17-22)
He makes a Table (Shulchan) of acacia wood, two cubits long, one cubit wide, one-and-a-half cubits high. He overlays it with pure gold and makes around it a border of gold. He makes a rim of a hand’s breadth around it and makes a border of gold around its rim. He makes for it four gold rings, and he attaches the rings to the four corners of its four legs, close by the rim. The rings are the housing of rods to lift the Table. He makes the rods of acacia wood and overlays them with gold. He makes the implements that are upon the Table: libation dishes, pans, bowls, and jars, of pure gold. (Cf. Exodus 25:23-30)
He makes the Lampstand (Menorah) of pure gold, of hammered work: its base, shaft, cups, knobs, and buds, all of one piece with it. Out of each of the two sides come three branches. On each of the total of six branches there are three cups shaped like almond blossoms, each with a knob and a bud. On the Menorah itself there are four cups shaped like almond blossoms with its knobs and buds. Of one piece with it there is a knob under each of the three pairs of branches. All of it is a single hammered piece of pure gold. He makes its seven lamps and its tongs and its fire-holders of pure gold. From a talent of pure gold does he make it and all of its implements. (Cf. Exodus 25:31-40; 27:20-21)
Altar of Incense
He makes an Altar for the Burning of Incense (Mizbach Haketoret) out of acacia wood. It is one cubit square and two cubits in height. Its horns are of one piece with it. He overlays all of it with pure gold and makes around it a border of gold. He makes for it two rings of gold under the border on two of its sides to house the poles by which it is carried. He makes the poles of acacia wood and overlays them with gold. He makes the holy Anointing Oil and the pure Aromatic Incense, the work of a compounder. (Cf. Exodus 30:1-10; 30:34-38)
Altar of Burnt Offering
He makes the Altar of Burnt Offering (Mizbach Ha-olah) of acacia wood, five cubits square and three cubits high. He makes its horns, on its four corners, of one piece with it, and he overlays it with copper. He makes all of its implements of copper: the pots, the shovels, the basins, the forks, and the fire-holders. He makes for the Altar a grating, network of copper, under its rim extending halfway below. He casts four rings for the four ends of the copper grating to serve as housings for the poles. He makes the poles of acacia wood and overlays them with copper. He inserts the poles into the rings on the sides of the Altar in order to carry it by means of them. He makes it hollow, of boards. (Cf. Exodus 27:1-8; 29:37-46)
He makes the Laver (Kiyyur) and its base of copper from mirrors of the women who attended in large number at the Tent of Meeting. (Cf. Exodus 30:17-21)
He makes the Courtyard (Chatzer). Along its south side and along its north side each, there are 100 cubits of curtains with 20 posts and their 20 copper sockets and their silver hooks and bands. Along its western side are 50 cubits of curtains with 10 posts and their 10 copper sockets and their silver hooks and bands. Along its eastern side are 50 cubits: 15 cubits of curtains on either side of the Gate of the Courtyard, each with their 3 posts and their 3 copper sockets, respectively. The curtains on all sides are of twisted fine linen. The tops of the posts are overlaid with silver, and they are all banded with silver. (Cf. Exodus 27:9-19)
Screen for the Gate of the Courtyard
The Screen at the Gate of the Courtyard (Masach Sha’ar Hechatzer) is of blue, purple and crimson yarns, twisted fine linen, the work of a weaver. Its length is 20 cubits, and it stands by its width at 5 cubits in correspondence with the curtains of the Courtyard. There are 4 posts with their 4 copper sockets and their silver hooks. The posts are overlaid with silver, and they are banded with silver.
The Pegs (Yeteydot) of the Tabernacle and of the Courtyard around it are of copper. (Cf. Exodus 27:19b)
Maftir for Shabbat Shekalim
First of the Four Special Parashiyot
The Eternal instructs Moses: When you count the heads of the Children of Israel, let each one tender a kofer (expiation) for himself to the Eternal for being counted, so that no harm will result for counting them. Each person, twenty years and older, who is recorded, shall offer the terumah (sacred contribution) of the Eternal. The kofer shall be a half-shekel, by the sacred weight, a shekel being the equivalent of 20 gerahs, a half-shekel terumah to the Eternal. The amount of the terumah shall be the same for rich and for poor. The money shall be used for the service of the Tent of Meeting, and it shall prompt the Eternal to provide expiation for your persons.
FROM THE PROPHETS
Haftarah for Shabbat Shekalim
II Kings 12:1-17
King Jehoash authorizes the tzedakah box
Jehoash begins his reign (in Judah) at the age of 7 years, in the seventh year of the reign of Jehu in Israel. He reigned for 40 years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Tsivyah of Beersheba. The Eternal approved his acts as long as Jehoyadah the Kohen instructed him, except that the people continued to bring offerings to the local altars.
Jehoash warrants the Kohanim to personally collect money that is brought by people as an offering to the House of the Eternal. The amount for each person is based upon his personal valuation and is “all the money that comes upon a man’s heart to bring to the House of the Eternal” (II Kings 12:5). With whatever the Kohanim collect, it is their responsibility to repair and maintain the House.
When King Jehoash has reigned for 23 years, the Kohanim have failed to repair and maintain the House. So the King announces to Jehoyadah and the other Kohanim that they should no longer accept the money personally but should instead apply it directly to repair of the House. Jehoyadah the Kohen places a chest with a hole bored in its lid to the right of the Altar that one would encounter in the House of the Eternal. The Kohanim who guard the entrance should place all the money that is brought to the House of the Eternal into that chest.
When enough accumulated, the King’s Scribe and the High Priest would band and count the money. They would pay out of it, through the appointed paymasters of the House of the Eternal, the carpenters, the masons, the stonecutters, and the wood and stone suppliers, for the maintenance and repair of the House of the Eternal. These funds were not applied for silver cups, instruments, basins, trumpets, or any other gold or silver vessels. The paymasters would not be audited, as they were assumed to operate on honor. Money that was paid for guilt offerings and for sin offerings was not brought to the House of the Eternal; it would go directly to the Kohanim.
FROM TALMUD AND MIDRASH
Exodus Rabbah 48:1
A Good Name and the Day of Death
When Moses announces to the Children of Israel that the Eternal has appointed Bezalel to execute the work of the Tabernacle and its components and the priestly garments, his words to the Children of Israel are:
“See, the Eternal has called by name
Bezalel son of Uri son of Hur
of the tribe of Judah.”
This relates to what is written:
“A good name is better than good oil,
and the day of death than the day of birth.”
How far does fragrant oil carry a person? From dressing room to banquet hall. A good name? From one end of the earth to the other, as was said: “The name of David became known in all the lands” (I Chronicles 14:17)! Good oil which falls upon the dead only deteriorates, as was said, “Perfumer’s oil is rendered putrid by flies on the dead” (Ecclesiastes 10:1). But a good name which falls upon the dead in no way deteriorates, as was said, “[The prophet Elisha] lies down upon the [dead] boy…and the boy opens his eyes” (II Kings 4:34-35)!
Now, regarding the second half of the verse, “The day of death is better than the day of birth” (Ecclesiastes 7:1b), why would this be true? Because on the day that a person is born, no one knows what will be the quality of his deeds. But when he dies, his deeds are eulogized to the world!
Rabbi Levi told of two sailing ships: one was departing the harbor while the other was entering it. On the departing ship everyone was celebrating, while on the entering ship there was no celebration. A thoughtful observer who was there said: I see things differently! On the ship departing the harbor, everyone should not be celebrating, because they do not know what lies ahead for them, what weather or conditions of the sea. While on the ship entering the harbor, all should be celebrating, because they do know that they went out to sea and returned from it safely! So it is with man: When he is born, the countdown is uncertain, as the year of his death is unknown to us; but when he dies, the count is certain, as the years of his life are known to us! Thus he says: “The day of death is better than the day of birth” (Ecclesiastes 7:1b)!
Getting back to the first half of the verse, “A good name is better than good oil” (Ecclesiastes 7:1a), better were the names of Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah, than the oil which anointed Nadav and Avihu! How was that true? Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu, priests anointed with oil, offered fire which the Eternal had not commanded and were burned to death (cf. Leviticus 10:1-2), while Chananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who because they would not bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s statue of gold, were thrown into the burning fiery furnace, yet emerged unharmed and unsinged (Daniel 1-3)! Thus: “A good name is better than good oil” (Ecclesiastes 7:1)!
So also, the name of Bezalel was better than good oil. How would that be shown? Other than Aaron, the names of his sons the priests are not given with respect to their anointing with oil (Exodus 40:14-15). But: “Moses said to the Children of Israel, ‘See, the Eternal has called by name Bezalel…’” (Exodus 35:30)!
Exodus Rabbah 48:3
The Divine Spirit of Bezalel:
Wisdom, Understanding and Knowledge
“The Eternal is filling [Bezalel] with the Divine Spirit:
with wisdom and understanding and knowledge…”
With these same three things the world was created, as was said:
“The Eternal founded the earth by wisdom,
He established the heavens by understanding,
and by His knowledge the deeps were broken open
and the clouds dripped dew.”
With these three things was the Tabernacle made, as was said:
“I am filling it with the Spirit of God:
with wisdom and with understanding and with knowledge…”
And with these same three things was the Temple built, as was said:
“King Solomon sent for Hiram from Tyre—
his mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali
and his father was a Tyrian coppersmith—
[Hiram] was filled with wisdom and understanding and knowledge…;
he came to King Solomon and executed all of his work.”
(I Kings 7:13-14)
And when the Holy One, blessed be He, shall arise to rebuild it in the future,
with these three things it shall be built, as is written:
“The House shall be built with wisdom and established by understanding,
and by knowledge shall its rooms be filled with all things precious and beautiful!”
The Source of all of these for Bezalel was the Almighty,
as the verse makes clear:
“The Eternal is filling him with the Divine Spirit [Ruach]:
“With wisdom”: that he would be learned in the Torah;
“With understanding”: that he would understand what the Halacha should be; and
“With knowledge”: that he would be full of knowledge of the Talmud!
“I shall raise you from your graves, O My people,
and bring you to the Land of Israel…
and I shall put My Breath [Ruach] in you
and you shall live!”
Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to Israel:
In this world My “Spirit” [Ruach] grants you wisdom, understanding and knowledge,
and likewise in the world to come,
“My Breath” [Ruach] is “My Spirit [Ruach] in you”,
as was said:
“I shall raise you from your graves, O My people…
and I shall put My Spirit [Ruach] in you…!”
Exodus Rabbah 49:1
Transcendent Love between God and Israel
“All of the artisans construct the Tabernacle (Mishkan)
Not much substance!
The significance of the Torah’s words above can be found
in the following words of Scripture:
“Boundless waters cannot quench love,
nor can rivers overflow it;
if one were to offer all of his substance against love,
he would earn nothing but contempt!”
(Song of Songs 8:7)
“Boundless waters”: These are the idolators of the world, as was said,
“O roar of many peoples,
like the roar of the seas do they roar,
and the raging of nations
like the raging of many waters…”
—yet if all the idolators were to march in
with the intention of destroying the love
between the Holy One, blessed be He, and Israel,
they could not succeed, because:
“Boundless waters cannot quench that love,” as was said:
“Is not Esau the brother of Jacob…
yet I loved Jacob!”
“Nor can rivers overflow it”: These are the Chaldeans, as was said:
“The Lord will raise upon them
the mighty, abundant waters of the river,
the king of Assyria and all of his multitude,
overflowing his channels,
inundating Judah, reaching up to its neck…”
—yet “if one were to offer all of his substance against that love,
he would earn nothing but contempt.”
So My children have made for Me
a Sanctuary merely out of curtains (not much “substance!”),
and I have come down
and dwelled in their midst,
as was said:
“Moses was not able to enter the Tent of Meeting,
as the cloud settled upon it,
and the Profound Presence of the Eternal
filled the Tabernacle.”
Exodus Rabbah 50:1
Open with Light
“Bezalel makes the Ark (Aron)…”
Only for the making of the Ark,
among all of the other implements of the Tabernacle,
is Bezalel mentioned by name!
The reason for this may be discovered
through the following words of Scripture:
“The unfolding [paytach] of Your deeds gives light;
it provides understanding to the simple.”
When the Holy One, blessed be He, created His world, there was no light at first, as was said, “Darkness was upon the face of the deep” (Genesis 1:2). Rabbi Judah and Rabbi Nehemiah differed on when light was created:
Rabbi Judah taught that light was created first, and afterwards the world. This may be compared to a king building his palace in a dark place. First he lights candles and torches to determine where to put all of the buildings. So this would illustrate how the light would be created first (cf. Genesis 1:3).
Rabbi Nehemiah taught that the world was created first. This may be compared to the king who builds his palace and then adorns it with lights, as does God on the fourth day (cf. Genesis 1:14).
But if light was created before the world, in accordance with Rabbi Judah, the following question was asked by Rabbi Shimon ben Yehotzadak of the haggadist Rabbi Samuel bar Nachman: From what was the light made (since heaven and earth were not yet created)? He answered: The Holy One, blessed be He, enwrapped Himself in a garment and lit up the world by means of His own brilliance from beginning to end, as is written, “You enwrap Yourself in light like a garment” (Psalms 104:2a) and then “spread out the heavens like a curtain” (Ibid. 2b)!
So we can see how:
“The opening [petach] of Your deeds gives light…”
Now how does that teaching:
“…provide understanding to the simple?”
It is a lesson for the righteous, who are “simple” in the sense of innocent and eager to learn: when they begin a new project, they should open with light!
Thus you find that when the Holy One, blessed be He, told Moses that Bezalel would make the Tabernacle and its furnishings, and Bezalel wondered, “With which furnishing should I begin?” he began with the Ark (cf. Exodus 37:1ff.), which contains the Light of Torah. This is also confirmed by the verse in Sedra Terumah, “Let them make an Ark…” (Exodus 25:10), positioned there at the beginning of the Eternal’s order of components to be made!
Exodus Rabbah 50:2
Instruction begets Wisdom
“Bezalel makes the Ark (Aron)…”
The significance of this achievement of Bezalel
may be discovered through
the following words of Scripture:
“Provide instruction to a wise man,
and he will find yet more wisdom…”
First consider Noah, whom the Holy One, blessed be He, instructed, “Take for yourself seven of every clean animal” (Genesis 7:2). Noah received God’s instruction to him, and then he added wisdom to it. When he left the ark, “Noah built an altar to the Eternal…” (Genesis 8:20a). But the Hebrew root of “built” [bet/nun/hey] shares two consonants with the root that means “understand“ [bet/yod/nun]: “Noah understood an altar to the Eternal,” that is to say, he understood from God’s instruction to take seven of every clean animal that he should build an altar. How so? He understood that the Holy One, blessed be He, required the number of clean animals to exceed the number of unclean animals (only two of each, cf. ibid.) because He wanted offerings from them. So, “…Noah took from all of the clean animals and all of the clean birds and offered up burnt offerings upon the altar” (Genesis 8:20b).
Noah, then, is an example of “Provide instruction to a wise man, and he will find yet more wisdom…” (Proverbs 9:9), as when a wise man is instructed, he fulfills what he has learned and adds to it.
“A wise man goes up against [alah] a mighty city [ir giborim]
and takes down the strength in which it trusted.”
Moses was “a wise man” who “went up to [alah] the place of the Mighty One [ir Giborim] and brought down the strength in which it trusted“ (Proverbs 21:22), viz. the Torah. He learned Torah from the mouth of the Mighty One for himself and added wisdom for Israel, that is, improved Israel by transmitting Torah to them. The additional benefit that Moses provided thereby was the gift of life that comes from the Torah.
Moses, then, is an example of “Provide instruction to a wise man, and he will find yet more wisdom…” (Proverbs 9:9), as when a wise man is instructed, he fulfills what he has learned and adds to it.
Now consider Bezalel. You find that when the Holy One, blessed be He, instructed Moses to make the Tabernacle, Moses carried the order to Bezalel. Bezalel asked, “What is the purpose of this Tabernacle?” Moses explained, “So that the Holy One, blessed be He, can install His Presence inside of it and thereby teach Torah to Israel.” Bezalel asked, “And where will the Torah be kept?” Moses explained, “After we make the Tabernacle, we will make an Ark for the Torah.” But Bezalel objected, “Rabbenu Moshe, that would not be respectful of the Torah; instead, we should make the Ark first, and only after that, the Tabernacle!” It is for that reason that Bezalel’s name is associated explicitly with the making of the Ark, as was said, “Bezalel makes the Ark” (Exodus 37:1)! and indeed: “Provide instruction to a wise man, and he will find yet more wisdom…” (Proverbs 9:9).
Tanchuma Pekudey 9
“Every man and woman brought their contributions
for the work that the Eternal had commanded
through Moses to be done,
as a freewill offering [nedavah] to the Eternal.”
“He makes the Laver (Kiyyur) and its base
of copper from mirrors of the hosts of women [tso’v’ot]
who attended in large number [tza’v’u]
at the Tent of Meeting.”
When the Israelite men were enslaved with harsh labor in Egypt, Pharaoh forbade them from sleeping in their homes so that they could not be intimate with their wives. Said Rabbi Shimon bar Chalafta: What did the Israelite women do? They went down to draw water from the Nile. The Holy One, blessed be He, caused fish to end up in their buckets, some of which they cooked and some of which they sold. With the money they earned they purchased wine and prepared meals for their husbands which they brought to the fields, as is said, “Their lives were embittered…with all manner of work in the field…” (Exodus 1:14).
There they ate and drank, and the women brought their mirrors, which they looked into together with their husbands, playfully building their desire for each other, which the Holy One, blessed be He, rewarded immediately with progeny exceeding what would have been normal, as is written, “The Children of Israel were fruitful…exceedingly, until the land was filled with them” (Exodus 1:7)! “And the more that they oppressed them, the more that they multiplied and expanded…” (Exodus 1:12)!
When the Children of Israel were instructed to bring terumah for the construction of the Tabernacle and its components, the men responded generously and promptly, bringing their silver, their gold, their copper, and their precious stones. But the women wondered: What do we women have to bring as a freewill offering for the Tabernacle? Whereupon they arose and brought their copper mirrors to Moses. But when Moses saw those mirrors, he rejected them for the Tabernacle in consideration of how intimately personal mirrors are used. He was so angry that he ordered that the women be punished!
But the Holy One, blessed be He, said to Moses: These you spurn? Their mirrors have made your numbers large and weighty [tseva’ot] in the land of Egypt! Accept them, and make them into the “Laver of copper and its base” for the sanctification of the Kohanim: “He makes the Laver (Kiyyur) and its base of copper from mirrors of the hosts of women [tso’v’ot] who made their numbers large and weighty [tseva’ot] at the Tent of Meeting” (Exodus 38:8)!
“I shall heal their backsliding;
I shall love them graciously [nedavah]!”
Said the Holy One, blessed be He to the women: In this world you have given your freewill offering [nedavah] for the Tabernacle, that it may provide you with Atonement. In time to come, I shall provide you Atonement and love you freely, as was said, “I shall heal their backsliding, I shall love them graciously as a freewill offering [nedavah]!” When they say, “We have no Tabernacle and no Sanctuary; may the prayer of our mouth that we utter before You be as a freewill offering [nedavah] for the Tabernacle,” thus said David: “Accept, O Eternal, the freewill offerings [ned’vot] of my mouth…” (Psalms 119:108)!
Mishnah Shekalim 1:1
Collection of shekels in the Oral Torah
On the First of Adar, announcement is made for the collection of shekels (for the purchase of congregational offerings in the Temple for the new year, which begins with the following month of Nisan).
Mishnah Megillah 3:4
Reading of Shekalim on Shabbat
When Rosh Chodesh Adar falls on Shabbat, we read the special portion of Shekalim. When it falls on a weekday, we anticipate by reading it on the preceding Shabbat.
Talmud Megillah 29b
Amoraic deliberations over the portion to be read
What is the special portion of Shekalim? Rav said: “Command the Children of Israel: Observe My offering, My food, of fire offerings with a pleasing aroma for Me, each at its set time…” (Numbers 28:2ff.), while Samuel said: “When you count the heads of the Children of Israel…each should offer a ransom for his life to the Eternal, a half-shekel as terumah (an offering) to the Eternal… (Exodus 30:12ff.).
Regarding this machloket (difference of opinion) between Rav and Samuel: Samuel’s opinion seems supported by the explicit reference to a half-shekel in the portion he puts forward (Exodus 30:12ff.) as the special portion of Shekalim; while in the portion that Rav puts forward (Numbers 28:2) as the special portion of Shekalim, is there any mention of shekel? Yes, in accordance with Rabbi Tavi! (Rashi: Rabbi Tavi understands Numbers 28:14 in Rav’s portion to require offerings beginning on Rosh Chodesh Nisan, the new year, from the new terumah which would therefore have to be purchased with shekels that are collected in the preceding Adar; hence the portion that Rav puts forward (Numbers 28:2ff.) contains implicitly the mitzvah for collecting shekels for offerings of the new year and therefore is appropriate to be considered the special portion of Shekalim.)
Now that Rav’s opinion is supported by his portion’s reference, in accordance with Rabbi Tavi, to offerings of the new year purchased with shekels collected in Adar (Numbers 28:2ff.), Samuel’s portion (Exodus 30:12ff.) seems to lack reference to new offerings and instead calls for shekels in “service of the Tent of Meeting” (Exodus 30:16)! (Rashi: For casting the sockets of the Sanctuary, cf. Exodus 38:27) But, as Rav Joseph teaches, Samuel’s portion mentions terumah (contribution of shekels) three times (Exodus 30:13-15), and while one of these three refers to shekels for the sockets, another one of these refers to shekels for the Altar, which were used to purchase congregational offerings throughout the year!
It is taught, then, in accordance with Samuel: When Rosh Chodesh Adar falls on Shabbat, we read as the portion for Shekalim, “When you count…” (Exodus 30:12ff.)… Rabbi Isaac Napacha taught: When Rosh Chodesh Adar falls on Shabbat, we bring out three Torah scrolls for reading: one for the portion of the day, one for the portion of Rosh Chodesh (Numbers 28:2ff.), and one for the portion of Shekalim, “When you count…” (Exodus 30:12ff.).
Why “lift up the head?”
“The Eternal instructs Moses:
When you count the heads of the Children of Israel…”
“When you lift up the head of the Children of Israel…”
Pesikta d’Rav Kahana Ki Tisa 2:3
Rabbi Yonatan put forward the verse:
“Man shall bow down,
and mortal be humbled;
do not lift them up!”
“Man” is Israel,
as is written about them:
“My flock (Israel) is man…”
“Mortal” is Moses,
as is written about him:
“Moses, a mortal,
was very humble…”
Said Moses before the Holy One, blessed be He: Master of the universe, now that Israel has bowed down to the golden calf (cf. Exodus 32:1 ff.) and I, as a result, have been humbled, “will You not lift them up?” (Isaiah 2:9)
The Divine response: I shall lift them up! Hence, His instruction to Moses: “When you lift up the head of the Children of Israel…” (Exodus 30:12), that is, their fulfillment of the half-shekel commandment will lift them up from the degradation of their transgression and atone for the sin of the golden calf!
Pesikta Rabbati Ki Tisa 10
Said the Holy One, blessed be He, to Moses: Do whatever you can to extol this nation because it is as if you are exalting Me! The verse does not read, “When you lift up the Children of Israel,” but “When you lift up the head of the Children of Israel,” and the Head of the Children of Israel is none other than the Holy One, blessed He, as was said: “Their King marches before them, the Eternal as their Head” (Micah 2:13).
This may be likened to one making a crown with all kinds of precious gems. An advisor encourages him to adorn the crown generously because it is destined to be placed on the head of the king. It is like a scholar who owns a single garment which he shakes and folds constantly. He is thinking to himself: I must treat this with great care because it will clothe me when I am ordained.
It is like the king who owned many royal garments. But he had one in particular which he instructed his servant to watch over at all times. The servant said to him, “My lord, the king, how many royal garments you have, but to watch this one you command me more than all of them!” Said the king to him, “I treat this one with great care because it is the robe that I wore when I became the king and married the princess!”
Thus said the Holy One, blessed be He, to Moses: Treat this nation with great care. Of all the nations that I have created in the world, it alone is the first to declare Me King, as they said at the Red Sea in the presence of all nations: “This is my God, and I shall adorn Him” (Exodus 15:2)! Therefore, lift up their head “when you lift up the Head of the Children of Israel.” (Exodus 30:12)
Mishnah Shekalim 5:2
Talmud Bava Batra 8b
Yerushalmi Shekalim 5:2
Suspicion or Trust
“King Jehoash addressed Jehoyadah and the other Kohanim:
Why have you not repaired the Temple
from all of the funds you have been collecting?
From now on, apply the money you collect from your donors
to the repair of the Temple
and not for your personal use!”
(II Kings 12:8)
Radak (Rabbi David Kimchi, 13th cent. France): It appears that the Kohanim were keeping the contributions until they were sufficient to repair the Temple but that the King suspected the Kohanim of keeping the money for themselves…
The collection of communal funds must be conducted by at least two persons.
Our Rabbis taught: Collectors of tzedakah (charitable funds) may not separate from each other (Rashi: To prevent suspicion that the collector is alone because he intends to steal), but they are permitted to separate between the interior of a shop and its entrance (Rashi: So that one can collect from those in the shop and the other can collect from those at the entrance, so long as the pair of collectors appear to be together). If money is found unclaimed in the marketplace, the collector may not put it in his own pocket but only into the collection bag (Rashi: So that no one will think that he is stealing collection funds for himself). However, when he arrives home, he may take out that money in private.
Our Rabbis taught: Authority may not be exerted over the community by less than two persons. What is the source for this rule? Rav Nachman cited the verse: “You, Moses, shall instruct all of those who possess the skill, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, to make vestments for Aaron in order to sanctify him to minister to Me as Kohen…and they shall collect the gold…” (Exodus 28:4-5), Rabbeinu Gershom: and there is no “they” less than two! But authority they did not exert, rather each of them, whom God “filled with the spirit of wisdom” was trusted. This supports the teaching of Rabbi Chanina: One time Rabbi appointed two brothers, thereby counting for only one, over the charity fund!
Rabbi Chama of the School of Rabbi Chanina taught: Moses was enriched from the stone-dust of the second set of Tablets, as is written, “Carve for yourself two tablets of stone…” (Exodus 34:1), “for yourself” shall be the carving dust, Korban Ha-eydah: and the Tablets were made of sapphire! Rabbi Chanin taught: A quarry of jewels and pearls did the Holy One, blessed be He, create for Moses in his tent, and from it was he enriched. “When Moses would go out to the tent, everyone would stand at the entrance of his own tent and look at Moses until he arrived at the tent” (Exodus 33:8). Two amoraim presented explanations which reflect disparate views of communal leadership. According to one, everyone stared at his corpulence and could only think of him as eating and drinking at the expense of the people, that all that he had was at the expense of the people, as he was in charge of all of their freewill offerings! According to the other, everyone looked at him in order to enjoy the benefit of seeing a righteous man and deriving therefrom great merit!