Parshas Ki Thissa 5757
"Everyone included in the census must give a half shekel of the (holy) Tabernacle standard, this is a shekel of 20 Gerahs, this is the half shekel gift to Hashem." (Ex. 30:13)
Rebbi Chanoch Henoch of Alexander explains that the Children of Israel were insructed to bring a half shekel of the type used for holy purposes. Why a half? One half of a Jew is his Neshamah, the soul. The other half is his body. The soul is known as "a portion of G-d above" since the soul of each person is hewn out from a special place under the throne where the King himself sits, and it is already sanctified and pure. The giving of a half shekel is to remind us to work on our half, the body, to raise it to a level of holiness and purity. In this way the two halves are indeed made into a whole.
The half shekel was given as an atonement for the transgression of constructing and worshipping the Golden Calf. The worship of the Golden Calf exposed a sense of separation and denial of Hashem's sovereignty. The correction is unity. It works when a Jew understands that he is only 'a half', and the half shekel reminds him of this. He comes to perfection and completion when he unifies himself with the ways of Hashem.
"And you (Moshe), speak to the children of Israel saying to them, just keep my Sabbaths (even during the building of the Tabernacle), because it is a sign between me and you that you will know that I am Hashem who makes you holy." (Ex. 31:13)
In commenting on this verse the Gemarrah in tractate Shabbos (10b) related that when Hashem told Moshe, "I am Hashem who makes you holy", he said to him, "Go and tell the Children of Israel that I have for them a wonderful present in my treasury, and Shabbos is its name!" Rebbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchov explained what is so special about Shabbos that it alone of all the mitzvos is described as a "special gift".
Hashem gave Yisrael the Torah so that they could earn eternal life of spiritual delight in Gan Eden. Hashem also gave us a taste of this eternal delight in this world in order to tempt and encourage Jews fufill more mitzvos and thereby merit a place in Gan Eden. That taste is Shabbos, the day that is a taste of the world to come. But we know that there is no reward for keeping mitzvos in this world, that is reserved for the world to come. So Hashem gave us Shabbos as a gift, a sign between him ans us to remind us that by keeping the Shabbos we can become holy and therefore be deserving of a place in a world where everyday is Shabbos!
For the Chassidim, preparation is an essential part of doing a mitzvoh. It leads to anticipation, which in turn leads to enthusiasm and fervor in the performance of the mitzvoh.
It says in the Torah, Remember the Sabbath day to make it Holy. (Ex. 30:8) How can we remember the Sabbath? The sages instituted that we say a special Psalm for each day in the morning prayers and preface it by saying, "Today is the first day of the Sabbath", "Today is the second day of the Sabbath", etc. Rebbi Kalonymus Kalman Epstein, in his classic book Maor vaShamash, says that in this way we can draw the holiness of the Shabbos into each day of the week.
Even the common English expression, "Hang in there, Shabbos is coming!", is a fulfillment of remembering the Sabbath day. It shows that the Shabbos is the hub, it is the day upon which the whole week revolves. In is a good practice to find ways to put Shabbos into you weekday conversations. Speaking about how much one enjoys Shabbos, about its laws and customs, or even planning out the menu, can serve the purpose of keeping Shabbos in the forefront.
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