Newsletter Parshat Vayakhel – Parashat Shekalim – Sabbat UK

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Shabbat Shekalim

This week we read Parashat Shekalim


When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, each Jew contributed an annual half-shekel to the Temple.

The funds raised were primarily used to purchase cattle for the communal sacrifices. The leftover monies were used for a variety of communal purposes, including providing salaries for the judges and maintenance of the Temple, its vessels, and the city walls.

This annual tax, known as the machatzit hashekel, was due on the 1st of Nissan. One month earlier, on the 1st of Adar, the courts began posting reminders about this Biblical obligation. In commemoration, the Shekalim is the first of four readings added during or immediately before the month of AdarTorah reading of the Shabbat that falls on or before Adar is supplemented with the verses (Exodus 30:11-16) that relate G‑d's commandment to Moses regarding the first giving of the half-shekel.

The Shekalim haftarah (II Kings 11:17-12:17) continues on the same theme, discussing the efforts of King Jehoash (9th century BCE) to earmark communal funds for the upkeep of the first Holy Temple.

(We too give a commemorative half shekel to charity—on the Fast of Esther.)

"Parshat Shekalim" is the first of four special readings added during or immediately before the month of Adar (the other three being Zachor, Parah and Hachodesh).

The Shekalim reading is also related to the upcoming holiday of Purim. According to the Talmud, Haman's decree was averted in merit of the mitzvah of machatzit hashekel.



II Kings 11:17-12:17.

The Parshat Shekalim Torah reading discusses the annual obligation for every Jew to give half a shekel to the Temple coffers. The haftorah discusses the efforts of King Jehoash (9th century BCE) to earmark these communal funds for the upkeep of the first Holy Temple.

Background for this haftarah: Because of an alliance with the Northern Kingdom of Israel, idol worship had become rampant in the erstwhile righteous Davidic dynasty-controlled Southern Kingdom. When the king of the Southern Kingdom, Ahaziah, was killed, his mother Athaliah murdered the remainder of the royal family and seized the throne. During her brief reign, she actively promoted idolatry. Unbeknownst to her, one of Ahaziah's sons, a small baby, was hidden and survived. When he became seven years of age, Jehoiada the High Priest led a successful revolt against Athaliah, and installed the child king, Jehoash, as the new King of Judea.

The haftarah begins with the new king renewing the people's covenant with G-d. They destroyed all the pagan altars and statues and appointed officers to oversee the Holy Temple. Jehoash then instructed the priests regarding all the funds that were donated to the Temple. According to his plan, all the funds would be appropriated by the priests. In return, the priests would pay for the regular maintenance of the Temple. In the 23rd year of Jehoash's reign, the priests neglected to properly maintain the Temple. Jehoash then ordered that all monies should be placed in a special box that was placed near the Temple altar, and these funds were given directly to the workers and craftsmen who maintained the Temple


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Q & A on Parashat Vayakhel

 All references are to the verses and Rashi's commentary, unless otherwise stated.

  1. On which day did Moshe assemble the Jewish People?
    35:1 – The day after Yom Kippur.
  2. Why is the prohibition against doing work on Shabbat written prior to the instruction for building the Mishkan?
    35:2 – To emphasize that the building of the Mishkan does not supersede the laws of Shabbat.
  3. Why does the Torah specify the particular prohibition of lighting a fire on Shabbat right after it had already noted the general prohibition of doing work on Shabbat?
    35:3 – There are two opinions: One opinion is to teach that igniting a fire on Shabbat is punishable by lashes as opposed to other "melachot" which are punishable by death. The other opinion is to teach that violation of numerous "melachot" at one time requires a separate atonement for each violation.
  4. What function did the "yitdot hamishkan" serve?
    35:18 – The edges of the curtains were fastened to them. These were inserted in the ground so the curtains would not move in the wind.
  5. What function did the "bigdei hasrad" serve?
    35:19 – They covered the aron, the shulchan, the menorah, and the mizbachot when they were packed for transport.
  6. What was unusual about the way the women spun the goat's hair?
    35:26 – It was spun directly from off the backs of the goats.
  7. Why were the Nesi'im last to contribute to the building of the Mishkan? How does the Torah show dissatisfaction with their actions?
    35:27 – The Nesi'im reasoned that they would first let the people contribute materials needed for the Mishkan and then they would contribute what was lacking. The Torah shows its dissatisfaction by deleting a letter from their title.
  8. Who does the Torah identify as the primary builders of the Mishkan? From which tribes were they?
    35:30, 35:34 – Betzalel ben Uri from the tribe of Yehuda; Oholiav ben Achisamach from the tribe of Dan.
  9. What time of day did the people bring their daily contributions for the construction of the Mishkan?
    36:3 – Morning.
  10. For what was the woven goat's hair used?
    36:14 – It was made into curtains to be draped over thMishkan
  11. What image was woven into the parochet?
    36:35 – Cherubim. (See Rashi 26:31)
  12. Why does the Torah attribute the building of the aron to Betzalel?
    37:1 – Because he dedicated himself to its building more than anyone else.
  13. Where were the sculptured kruvim located?
    37:7 – On the two extremities of the kaporet (cover of the aron).
  14. How many lamps did the Menorah have?
    37:23 – Seven.
  15. Of what materials was the mizbe'ach haketoret composed?
    37:25,26 – Wood overlaid with gold.
  16. Of what material was the mizbe'ach ha'olah composed?
    38:1-2 – Wood overlaid with copper.
  17. The kiyor was made from copper mirrors. What function did these mirrors serve in Egypt?
    38:8 – These mirrors aided in the proliferation of the Jewish People. The Jewish women in Egypt would look in the mirrors so as to awaken the affections of their husbands who were exhausted by their slave labor.
  18. How did the kiyor promote peace?
    38:8 – Its waters helped a woman accused of adultery to prove her innocence.
  19. The kiyor was made from the mirrors of the women who were crowding at the entrance to the Ohel Mo'ed. Why were the women crowding there?
    38:8 – To donate to the Mishkan.
  20. Of what material were the "yitdot hamishkan" constructed?
    38:20 – Copper.


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