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B"H

    Shalom and Bracha!

   This Shabbat is the first of four special Shabbats between now and Pesach in which we read from two Torah scrolls, the portion of the week in the first scroll and a special portion for the Maftir, relevant to the time of year, in the second scroll. The four Shabbats parallel the four letters of Hashem’s name and prepare us for the four terms of redemption connected to the four cups at the Seder.

   In the first scroll we read the portion Mishpatim. The portion of Mishpatim includes the Jewish civil laws. It concludes with details concerning the giving of the Torah that weren’t mentioned last week, including that we promised Hashem that whatever He commands, we will do and we will hear. The seemingly awkward wording teaches us that we must first be ready to accept and follow the commandments of Hashem unconditionally, and thereafter we must seek to understand them. Thereby we include our hearts and minds in the deeds we perform. The juxtaposition of the civil laws and this lesson teaches us that although the civil laws are comprehendible, they are Divine and we must submit our logic to the logic of Hashem. Further, although the laws are mundane, through understanding them we connect our minds with Hashem. Through fulfilling them, we bring Hashem into our mundane affairs of commerce and interpersonal conduct.

  For the Maftir we read the portion of Shekalim. We then bless the month of Adar, the month of Purim. The portion of Shekalim describes the Mitzvah of the annual contribution to the Temple in Yerushalayim for the public offerings. The communal offerings were bought with public funds in order that everyone should have an equal participation. The Torah commands that a collection be made and that everyone give a half Shekel. It was forbidden to give more or less. The collection was made during the month of Adar in order that the offerings from the beginning of Nissan (the month of Pesach, which is considered the first month) could be purchased from the new funds.

  There is also a special connection between the portion of Shekalim and the festival of Purim. Haman promised King Achashverosh ten thousand Shekalim as a bribe if he would agree to annihilate the Jewish people. The Gemarrah teaches that the Shekalim that were donated to the Temple nullified the effect of his bribe. This is alluded to in the verse (Exodus 30:12) “and they shall give… and there will be no destruction.”

  The Midrash teaches that when Hashem told Moshe the Mitzvah of Machatzit Hashekel (the half Shekel), he couldn’t understand it until Hashem showed him a half Shekel of fire. Seemingly, this Midrash is very puzzling. What was so difficult to understand? The Shekel was a known coin at the time, and once a year everyone was to give a half Shekel.

  What perplexed Moshe was that we only give a half Shekel. Every Mitzvah is done in a full and complete manner. Sacrifices that were incomplete were invalid. When it came to the annual participation in the communal sacrifices, surely we should give a full Shekel!

  In order to answer this, Hashem showed Moshe a half Shekel of fire. The half Shekel of fire is the half Shekel of Hashem, which completes our half Shekel. Hashem reminds us that whatever we do is only through His grace. When we do a Mitzvah, particularly Tzedakah, it is often accompanied with ego. I am the giver, you are the recipient and I give up my hard earned money. Hashem reminds us that it is His blessing that allows us to succeed and have all that we possess. Our half Shekel only exists thanks to His half Shekel of fire.

  There is a deeper meaning to the half Shekel of fire. When we perform the Mitzvah of Tzedakah, Hashem send us a half Shekel of fire; renewed warmth in prayer, Torah study, and all the Mitzvot we perform.  Meaning and fervor in life are the greatest possible reward.

  Another meaning is Hashem told Moshe that when one gives Tzedakah, it must be a coin of fire. Tzedakah must be given with warmth and excitement. The Rambam teaches that the attitude in giving Tzedakah is often more important than the quantity. This is true for the giver and recipient.

  The month of Adar is the month of joy, when the Mazal of the Jewish people is strong. The word Adar is a composite of the Hebrew letter Aleph, which represents Hashem, and the word Dar, which means dwells. May we see that in this Adar, the month of joy, Hashem’s dwelling in this earth will be established in the Third Temple with the coming of Moshiach.

  Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov! As we enter the month of Adar may you see the strengthening of your Mazal and Hashem’s blessings in every part of your life!!

Rabbi Biggs

Dedicated to Moshe Chaim Ben Yehudis for phenomenal success

Purim is the 7th and 8th of March! With Purim coming up, please think of ways to see that as many Jews as possible can participate in the Mitzvot of hearing the Megillah, giving Mishloach Manot (gifts of food), gifts to the poor, and the Purim feast. Haman referred to the Jewish people as divided. By helping others perform the Mitzvot of Purim, we negate his words and demonstrate our unity.

To learn more about Purim please go to my website, http://www.chabadgn.com/holidays/purim

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