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Dovid Vigler

The Torah’s Secret to Disarming anti-Semites

A rare coin from the time of the Bar Kokhba Revolt, bearing the name of “Eleazar the Priest”, and dated to the first year of the revolt (132 CE), was discovered in the Mazuq Ha-he'teqim Nature Reserve. Photographer-Emil Aladjem Israel Antiquities Authority: https://youtu.be/X7yMpjpfHPQ - https://www.youtube.com/@IsraelAntiquities

Together, we are Unbreakable

History is repeating itself today in the most stunning way. The exact same nation that was threatening to destroy us 2380 years ago in 356 BCE, is attempting the same horrific genocide today. And for the exact same reason. It’s exhilarating to decode the full story—and its incredible remedy—as all the drama unfolds in the Torah portion of Vayakhel!

After our First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians (modern-day Iraq) in 423 BCE, the Persians conquered the Babylonians. They became the world’s greatest superpower under the leadership of King Achashverosh (of the Purim story). His chief advisor, Haman, requested permission from the Persian dictator to execute every single Jew in the world, in a brazen act of shameless genocide. In a mysterious twist, Haman offered the monarch ten thousand talents of silver to replenish the king’s coffers for “any potential loss.”

Why would Haman have offered this strange ransom to destroy the Jews?

The Jerusalem Talmud (Megillah 13b, Tosfos) explains the significance of this odd sum as being the equivalent of 600,000 half-shekels, the Biblical count of the Jewish People. Haman offered half a shekel for each Jew to intimate that they are a broken, scattered, and fragmented people that cannot stand united—each Jew is but a broken half (Commentary of Bachaye—Exodus 38:25).

Haman was making a veiled reference to the Biblical episode in which the ten brothers of Joseph heartlessly sold him for five silver shekels. They each netted a half shekel for his sale. In much the same way, Haman was intimating that the Jews were so divided and fragmented, that they would be willing to sell their own brother for a mere half shekel. Thus, Haman’s generous financial ransom to King Achashhverosh served as a dangerous accusation against us—that our internal division warrants our destruction.

In an eerie replay of history, the same narrative is unfolding today. After they were captured following the horrific October 7th massacre, Hamas Nukba terrorists admitted that the reason that Hamas—under the orders of their handlers in Iran (ancient Persia)—gave the order to strike Israel was because of the intense lack of unity that was raging in Israel in the past year. The country was more divided than ever over judicial reform and other major issues. Indeed, in today’s news, Hamas’s Gaza leader Yahya Snwar (may his name be blotted out and erased) continues to press for absurd demands from Israel in exchange for the hostages, because they believe that Israel and its leadership are divided and weak.

Those who don’t learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. On 29 Adar I, 5784, the Torah portion is called Parshas Shekalim—the portion of Shekels—because it instructs each Jew to donate half a shekel to the Temple Operating Fund, each year during the month of Adar, to pool our resources for the daily offerings in the Temple. When we give the half-shekel before Purim, we are creating Jewish unity through this collection for a single unifying cause. In this way, we stand united before G-d on Purim, negating any ominous accusation against us through the malicious half-shekel of Haman. Our annual half-shekel donation emphasizes Jewish generosity and unity to preempt Haman’s accusatory half-shekel of divisiveness and weakness.

It turns out that the half-shekel donation of this Shabbos is, indeed, a powerful antidote to anti-Semitism and any attacks on our People! In each of our daily prayers, we say “Bless us Father, as we stand united”. The former depends on the latter. There is nothing more important to a parent than the unity of their children. Nothing. When we stand united as one, we draw upon ourselves the most powerful blessings imaginable!

In his final talk delivered before his stroke on Shabbos February 29, 1992, the Rebbe took this one step further as he explained the peculiar obligation to give a half, and not a whole, shekel donation. As it was the very last sermon we heard from the Rebbe, this talk has been understood by his students and disciples as his last will and testament—an aspiration we have striven to reach each day for the past thirty years.

Everything else in the Temple needed to be perfect, made of the finest precious metals and fabrics; the oil in the Menorah was the highest quality made from the finest olives; the incense from the highest quality spices; even the stones used in the Temple’s floor were deemed unfit if they had so much as a small nick. And of course, no animal was permitted to be brought as a sacrifice if it had a blemish on it. How then could the Temple require a fragmented currency to be donated by each member when it could just as easily have required a full shekel?

Image source: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/276689970843659871/

The Rebbe explained that the half-shekel is indeed a full shekel when united with that of another Jew! Alone, we are broken, but when we stand united we are complete.

This approach personifies the Rebbe’s relentless faith in all the Jewish People, regardless of their culture or creed. Each and every Jew is precious, holy, and a vital component of our People. There simply are no exclusions. This is why the only way to get off the mailing list of a Chabad House is a permanent forwarding of the address to the cemetery! ; ) We believe in the goodness of every Jew and refuse to ever give up!

Someone once asked the Rebbe why G-d would have created the human heart on the left side of our bodies when anything important is always on the right side. Without skipping a beat, the Rebbe responded that the heart is indeed on the right side of your body—when you are facing your fellow Jew!

Indeed, the Jewish Nation is described in the Kabbalah as one body. Each limb has a unique character, purpose, and function, but they must work in harmony to be healthy. No limb can function properly without being fully in sync with all the others. To cut off another Jew from your life would be akin to the right hand amputating the left hand for erroneously dropping a knife on it.

The Talmud (Ta’anis 29a) tells us that the impact of the unity of the half-shekel donation is so profound, that the entire month of Purim is predisposed towards success in all of our endeavors—not just overcoming anti-Semites. The Torah encourages us to schedule all court cases, closings, wars, and surgeries in this month, when we are far more likely to be successful, because of the extraordinary power of Jewish Unity!

Today, we need to heed the call of the Torah to pool our resources into one communal cause, uniting our nation as one. Though we don’t donate the actual half shekel since we don’t have a temple and communal offerings, we still symbolically remember this mitzvah to unleash all the blessings associated with Jewish unity to overcome and repel anti-Semitism. We do this by donating the value of a half shekel, which works out to $7 per person in today’s currency. Participate in this Mitzvah of Jewish Unity by making your half-shekel donation at JewishGardens.com/Donate

We may not have it all together. But together, we have it all!

_______________________
Rabbi Dovid Vigler
Chabad of Palm Beach Gardens

6100 PGA Blvd, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418
JewishGardens.com | 561.624.2223

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About the Author
Raised in South Africa and educated in some of the finest Yeshivas in Israel, England, New York, and Australia, Rabbi Dovid Vigler strives to share the beauty and depth of Judaism in a clear, conversational, and down-to-earth manner. Whether in private counseling, relatable sermons, weekly email broadcasts, or in his popular Torah classes on social media, he reaches out to every Jew with unconditional love, patience, and compassion. His inspirational talks and uplifting messages can be found on YouTube.com/JewishGardens and Facebook.com/JewishGardens
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