Ki Tisa: Holy Half-Shekel

Counting Coins

“This they shall give, everyone who goes through the counting: half a shekel according to the holy shekel….” (Ex. 30:13)

In parsha Ki Tisa, God commands Moses to take a census of the adult male Israelites by collecting half a shekel of silver from each person. The silver is then melted down and made into sockets for the beams of the Tabernacle.

It seems odd that everyone is asked to donate only a half-shekel. Why not a whole shekel? Or why not mint a coin with a new name that contains one half shekel’s worth of silver? Clearly the fact that each man must give only “half” is significant. The Alshich (1508-1593) explains that “the half is to remind us that we are not complete – we are still working towards completing ourselves.” Rabbi Moshe Kormornick adds that a vital part of self-completion is humbly acknowledging other peoples’ contributions. Every Jew “must approach their role with humility, knowing that however great they may personally be, their strengths and talents are not completed without the strengths and talents of others.” 

Dedicated by Marjorie Holler

Image: A half shekel coin minted during the time of the second Holy Temple (courtesy Temple Institute)

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