Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Vayakheil & Shekalim 5776

The Torah Portion of "Vayakheil - Shekalim"  

Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l

"And Moshe assembled..." (Shemot 35:1) 

Rashi says that this occurred on the day after Yom Kippur.  It is customary for people to appease their friends on the day before Yom Kippur, but also on the day after Yom Kippur we should take care to continue to assemble together and to live in peace and brotherhood. And that was the intention of what Rashi says "And Moshe assembled - on the day after Yom Kippur".

"You shall not light fire in any of your dwellings on the day of Shabbat" (Shemot 35:3) 

It is brought in the holy books that even though the fire of Gehinnom is extinguished on Shabbat, for someone who desecrates Shabbat the fires of Gehinnom are kindled especially for him to punish him.  And this is what the Torah is warning us, that one should be careful not to desecrate Shabbat since that would cause the fires of Gehinnom to be lit up for him.  Also, the Sages said that the sin of desecrating Shabbat causes fires, G-d forbid.  And this is what the Torah is hinting to us, that you shouldn't cause fires to flare up in your dwelling places, because of desecration of  Shabbat, G-d forbid.  Similarly, if we are careful not to  desecrate Shabbat, then as a result there will not be any fires in our houses.   In addition, it is hinted in the holy books, that on the holy Sabbath,  one needs to be especially careful to prevent the kindling of the fire of divisive argumentation (Machloket).  On Shabbat people are present in the Bait Knesset and are not busy with their weekday work, so the evil inclination finds an opportunity precisely on this holy day to incite people to have disagreements and arguments.  And that is why the Torah says "You shall not light fire...on the day of Shabbat".

Parshat Shekalim - The Torah Portion about Shekalim (Shekels)

It is written in the Mishna that on the first of Adar they announce about the Shekalim.  In the time of the Temple it was a Torah Mitzvah that everyone would donate a half shekel to the office of donations in the Temple, in order to purchase with that money all of the public sacrificial offerings.

The Sages established during the time when the Temple existed, that on the Shabbat right before the month of Adar (or on the Shabbat which fell on Rosh Chodesh Adar) they would read Parshat Shekalim, because on Shabbat all the people would gather in the synagogues and study halls.  When they would hear about the obligation to donate the half shekel, they would be reminded and encouraged to fulfill that Mitzvah.  In our times when the Temple doesn't exist, and we don't have the sacrificial altar and sacrifices for our atonement, the Mitzvah of collecting the half shekel cannot be fulfilled.  Nonetheless, we read this portion from the Torah on the Shabbat right before Adar, since "we compensate for the bulls with our lips" (Hoshea 14:3).  May the reading be considered as if we fulfilled the Mitzvah in actuality.

The Sages say that it was revealed and known before the Holy One Blessed Be He that in the future Haman would weigh out Shekalim to the King Ahashvairosh against Israel, and therefore Hashem commanded us to donate Shekalim so that our Shekalim would precede the Shekalim of Haman.

The four Parshiot, special Torah portions which are read  at this time of year before Passover, are: Shekalim (about the shekels), Zachor (about remembering Amalek), Parah (about the red cow) , and Hachodesh (about the month of Nisan).  The names of the four portions give us hints about improving ourselves from an ethical  (Mussar) point of view.  1.  Shekalim - one needs to weigh his deeds  (since the word for weighing has the same Hebrew root letters as Shekalim). 2. Zachor - one needs to remember Hashem (since the Hebrew word Zachor refers to remembering).  3. Para - one needs to purify himself (since the Parah Adumah, the red cow, was used for purification).  4. Hachodesh - one needs to renew himself (since the word for renewal has the same Hebrew root letters as Hachodesh, the month). 

M'shenichnas Adar Marbim B'Simcha (When Adar enters, we increase in happiness)

The Torah Portion of "Vayakheil" has 122 verses.  It has one negative commandment.Two Torah Scrolls are taken out: 1) for the weekly Torah portion and 2) for the Maftir, The Torah  Portion of "Shekalim", from the beginning of the Torah Portion of Ki Tisa until  "Al Nafshoteichem".The Haftorah is "Ben Sheva Shanim" (Malachim Beit 12)

This is Shabbat Shekalim and Shabbat Mevorchim for the month of Adar Sheini: Rosh Chodesh is on Yom Chamishi (Thursday) and Yom Shishi (Friday).  The Molad is Lail Dalet at the hour 9:31 with 14 Chalakim.

We say Borchi Nafshi

May you have a light-filled and happy Shabbat.
Shabbat Shalom

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