In days of old, when the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, there was an annual donation of a half-shekel that every single Jew had to make to the temple. This custom continues to this day in the form of a half-dollar to charity. The Mitzvah was first instituted in the Hebrew year 2448 (1456 BC), when the Jews were in the Sinai desert after leaving Egypt. We read the account in this week's Torah portion. G‑d tells Moses to tell the Jews to donate this half-shekel coin, which was used as a census tool as well, for the number of coins given represented the overall population of the Jewish people.


But Moses had trouble understanding this Mitzvah. He just didn't get it. So much so, that G‑d made a half-shekel of fire, and showed it to Moses. Only then did Moses have his eureka moment; he finally understood what G‑d had meant.

Sounds like a cute story you might say. A coin of fire to demonstrate just exactly what G‑d had meant by giving half a shekel to charity. But this is not Dr. Seuss. It's the Torah, every word of which is true and has kept the Jewish people alive and kicking for 3500 years, despite unrelenting hardships.

How can this story serve as a lesson for us today? Well, let's review the details. Moses was told to tell the Jews to give charity, and he just couldn't understand! Come to think of it, I can see where he was coming from... but seriously, what was so difficult to comprehend?!

What he didn't understand was how this simple coin could serve as the core connection of the Jew and G‑d. You see, this coin was an atonement for the idol in the form of a golden calf which the Jews had decided to worship right after getting the Torah. This coin was to be the 're-connector' to G‑d, an atonement for them.

This is what Moses didn't get. Just imagine. The Jews had just gotten the Torah, after G‑d had taken them out of Egypt and split the Red Sea, and yet they gave it all up to worship an idol at the foot of Mt. Sinai! The atonement should be, perhaps, an extra Yom Kippur, a day of prayer and reconciliation, not a small coin!

What did G‑d do? He showed Moses a coin of fire. The message was simple but profound. If the coin, however small it may be, is given with fire, with enthusiasm, joy and a smile, it can accomplish the greatest of things. If the Jews were ready to give a half shekel with joy and enthusiasm, that meant more to G‑d than a day of prayer without enthusiasm.

This is quite practical. Reconciling with someone we've fallen out with, or doing something for someone we care about, can be less about doing something glorious and imposing and more about doing the smallest of daily routines - with warmth and a smile.

Rabbi Avrohom