In today’s digital age of Bitcoin and the likes, actual coins, in general, are somewhat of a nuisance. If you subscribe to the school of thought that we are headed towards a cashless society, coins will soon be extinct.
This is relevant, as this week, in addition to taking out two Sifre Torah, being Shabbat & Rosh Chodesh, we have the rare occasion of taking out an additional third Sefer Torah to read Parshat Shekalim. In preparation for the minhag (custom) of giving ‘machatzit hashekel,’ the value of a half-shekel coin given at the time of the Temple. (This year, the silver value per Sephardic tradition is $10, customarily given on Taanit Esther before Megillah reading).
Chatam Sofer points out that the pasuk (Shemot 38:26) refers to the half-shekel as a ‘בקע.’ The point of the machatzit hashekel is to split (לבקוע) the good from the bad, to realize that good and bad cannot be mixed and must be filtered.
By giving a half-shekel – a half of a whole coin, we demonstrate that we are part of a collective whole as Am Yisrael. We need to respect and get along with everyone else. On the other hand, being unified doesn’t mean discarding our filters. We don’t have to put our spiritual welfare on the line for the sake of getting along with others. If our friend is a negative influence, like speaking Lashon Hara, we have to set boundaries. Striking a balance, figuring out how to play ‘both sides of the same coin’ can be challenging – still, a significant challenge to embrace as we prepare for the holiday of Purim that celebrates salvation in Galut (exile).
Chodesh Tov & Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay