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When Half is Whole

Thursday, 20 February, 2020 - 11:02 am

Yogi Berra once said “no matter where you go, there you are”. Joking aside, this idea - being present where you are actually isn’t as simple as it sounds. Especially to someone (like myself) who struggles with “Smartphone on the Brain.”

How does one manage to actually be ‘present’ on a regular basis?

In the Torah, G-d commands the Jews to contribute half a shekel to a fund for the Tabernacle’s needs. The Torah then defines a shekel as being 20 gerah (a weight) of silver. Do the math, and a half shekel is obviously ten gerah. So why doesn’t the Torah just say that? Why does the Torah – in a way that feels circuitous - tell us that a Shekel is twenty gerahs and the donation should be half of that?

The Torah seems to be underscoring the significance of ‘halfness’.

The Rebbe once noted that the Torah also instructs the donation itself to be made in one gift, not in installments. Practically, one needed to give the entire contribution at one time.

So, the Torah seems to be combining two opposite concepts: give HALF a shekel, as a WHOLE (undivided) contribution.

The Rebbe explained it this way:

If I want to give WHOLLY of myself to a person or situation, to be totally – WHOLLY - present in any situation, I need to rise above my preoccupation with what happened this morning or my next appointment.  I need to unplug from my concerns for where else I need to be and when and recognize that the person before me deserves my total and undivided attention.

Because, it’s not about me and my broader day, me and my e-mails, or me and my to-do list. It’s about me and the person or situation before me.

When I can really respect that I’m only HALF of the present equation, I’m ready to be there in WHOLE.

So ‘going somewhere’ doesn’t necessarily mean I’m actually there. Going somewhere with a sense of respect for WHY I went there, with humility and respect for the exercise, makes me actually arrive at my journey.

It’s the half-Shekel method to respecting our relationships.

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