Half a Sheqel

Everyone who passes through the census a half sheqel of the sacred sheqel … as a portion to the Lord.

Exodus 30.14 (Parashat Ki Tissa)

It is interesting that the Torah requires a flat tax, that every Israelite male contribute one-half sheqel (about 6-8 grams of silver) annually for the Tabernacle. By nature, this tax is regressive; the wealthy will have an easy time paying this while the poor will struggle. yet every man must pay it.

Why? Why should the poor pay a tax, even if they cannot afford it? And why should the wealthy not pay their fair share? There are several answers postulated for this: First of all, it is important that everyone pay something in support of the Tabernacle. This contributes to a sense of a person’s self-worth; when a person contributes, even half-a sheqel, he or she feels a part of the group and not an interloper.This is comparable to a person using a health club as a guest – and then continuing to use the facilities for free while others pay to keep the building open.

A second reason why the wealthy do not pay more is because they are expected to pay on other occasions. On other sacrificial occasions, Israelites can bring a sheep, a goat or even a pigeon or grains, depending upon their economic circumstances. At these times, the wealthy would bring animals while the poor would bring birds or grains..

Finally, why half a sheqel and not a full sheqel? Here is where the value of leadership enters! Many commentators have noted that two halves make a whole. While this is most obvious, it also means that we are not complete unless we find our other half; as long as we do not join with others, we cannot do our job: at work, in worship or especially in love. Only when our half-sheqel joins with other half-sheqels can we be most effective; a half-sheqel cannot be successful alone.

So we as leaders need to realize that we are only half a sheqel; we need other half-sheqels, other people, to join with us: in our work, our worship and our families.When we share the burdens, delegate the tasks and share in the successes, then we will be true and effective leaders. When everyone contributes, we will realize every person’s talents and move forward to realize and surpass our greatest goals and dreams.

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One thought on “Half a Sheqel

  1. Pingback: Shabbat Shalom! – Ki Tisa – Coffee Shop Rabbi

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