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A Half Makes You Whole

Friday, 22 February, 2019 - 9:55 am

Money is an incredible tool. It gives you power and broadens your horizons.  

At some level, the money in your pocket can buy you pleasure and prestige; it can also give you peace of mind and security for the future. The dollar represents so much of what we want, so much of what we’d like.

Think about how much of your life, maybe even your self-image, is relying on that dollar.

Now let’s back it up a bit. How did you get that money? Imagine that you’ve worked very hard, taking risks, beating off threats, putting in long hours to earn the money you now possess. In this sense, the money also represents your hard work, the lifeblood you’ve invested in earning a living.

In our society, dollars are more than currency: They embody yesterday’s struggle and tomorrow’s pleasure.

With that in mind, we can appreciate the immense beauty of giving charity. When someone gives money - THEIR money - to a greater need, they are parting with something very essential, an embodiment of their personal toil and their pleasure. By gifting of themselves to something beyond themselves, they elevate those funds – and the personal attachment to them – to a level of selflessness. We call that Holiness.

Charitable people tend to recognize that they are part of a greater whole. When someone realizes “what I need is only half the picture, and the other half is what I’m needed FOR,” life’s equation changes. My assets don’t only represent my pursuits in life; they represent my responsibility to life.

That’s why we call charitable giving ‘Tzedakah’ (in Hebrew). ‘Tzedaka’ means justice, because generosity reflects a mindset of responsibility to the world.  

In this week’s Torah portion, G-d tells each person to give a ‘half-Shekel’ to the communal fund. The Shekel was a silver coin, which the Torah specifically describes as weighing 20 ‘gerahs’ (a Biblical weight measurement) of silver. So why not just say “donate 10 ‘gerahs?’” Why phrase it as ‘half a shekel’?

The Torah is driving home our point.

When we recognize our own ‘half-ness,’ we’ll be ready to give ourselves whole-heartedly to our neighbors’ needs.

The half-Shekel makes the giver whole, because recognizing that we’re half of the picture allows to appreciate the fuller perspective.

Tzedaka. What a concept.

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