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A Coin of Limitless Value

Friday, 5 March, 2021 - 12:33 pm

Have you ever seen the Mitzvah mobiles engaging people on the streets of New York, or been stopped at the Kotel and asked to lay Tefillin, or asked to shake the Lulav and Etrog somewhere around town? Perhaps you questioned the idea of asking someone to do a Mitzvah on the spot. What value does laying Tefillin, or hearing the Shofar, or shaking the Lulav have, if I am just doing it to get this persistent dude off of my back? Can there be a significance attached to doing a Mitzvah out of habit or without any intent?

The Midrash tells us that there were three things that Moses heard from G-d that shocked him. The command to build a Sanctuary. How could a meager structure house the glory of the Divine Presence? The command to being offerings. How could a measly handful of animals serve as a gift to honor G-d? The command to give the Half-Shekel (in this week’s Torah portion), as an atonement for the soul following the sin of the Golden Calf. To each situation G-d replied, that He asks of us only what we as mere mortals are capable of.

The Sanctuary was built using the generous contributions of the children of Israel. The heart that they invested in their contributions rendered the structure fit to house the glory of G-d. The offerings are brought of the owners’ volition. The emotional investment in the offering and its accompanying service makes it a fit gift to G-d that can atone for transgression.

But the half-shekel is a paltry coin, and Halacha dictates that it may be taken by the Beit Din even by seizure if a family did not contribute willingly. How could a minimal offering, which potentially lacks any investment of heart, atone for the soul following the most egregious sin?

G-d replied by plucking a coin of fire measuring a half-shekel from beneath His Throne of Glory. “This is what you shall give,” G-d declared. The coin of fire from the Throne of Glory represents that essential point of connection between the soul of the Jew (hewn from the Throne of Glory) and G-d. The fact that coin measured a half-shekel indicates that this fiery connection can be contained even within the finite limitations of the human condition.

So when one does a Mitzvah without consciously associating it with a relationship with G-d, that connection is still inherently present. Therefore the Mitzvah is not only significant, but it has infinite value, a value that can only come from a connection to G-d. Even on a day that you are not feeling it, you should be aware that everything you do is valued by G-d and maintains that point of connection with G-d.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin


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