Mishpatim 5778


באחד באדר משמיעין על השקלים (שקלים א:א)

On the first of Adar they would announce the collection of the Machatzis HaShekel (Shekalim 1:1)

The Halacha requires every male member of Klal Yisrael over the age of twenty to contribute a half Shekel to the coffers of the Beis HaMikdash. This collection was to be used for the purchase of the daily offerings in the Mikdash. The contribution is derived from the Pasuk זה יתנו כל העובר על הפקדים מחצית השקל בשקל הקודש (שמות ל:יג), “Everyone passing by to be counted must give this – half a Shekel based on the Shekel of the Holy Sanctuary” (Shemos 30:13).
Essentially, the Halacha requires everyone to become part of the ongoing services in the Mikdash, yet this law has a postscript. The Torah continues, העשיר לא ירבה והדל לא ימעיט (שמות ל:טו), “The wealthy may not add and the poor may not give less” (ibid. 15). Regardless of one’s financial situation, the sum remains the same. Be one rich, be one poor, the half Shekel remains the prescribed amount.
But if the purpose was simply mandating every individual’s participation in the Mikdash, a specific fee would seem unnecessary. We could perhaps understand a fixed minimum, but why a fixed maximum? Why create a ceiling? Additionally, the specific amount is curious. A half Shekel, not a whole one but a half – why?
Parshas Shekalim mentions the prohibition of counting Klal Yisrael. The general Halacha is that it is forbidden to count heads. When a count of Klal Yisrael is required, it is done through means of substitution. Instead of counting the people, each individual gives something to represent himself. These items are subsequently counted, thereby arriving at the sum of people without having to count people directly. Similarly, in this Parsha, Klal Yisrael’s count was tallied through the giving of the Machatzis HaShekel.
The Torah explains the prohibition ולא יהיה בהם נגף בפקוד אותם (שמות ל:יב), “So there should not come a plague as a result of their being counted” (ibid. 12). How does counting the people bring about plague? So long as Klal Yisrael remains an entity, there is a special protection over the element called “Klal Yisrael.” It is at the moment of fragmentation, when they are separated, that they become threatened. A number separates the mass into separate components. Consequently, when Klal Yisrael is counted, they lose their unique standing of being “Klal Yisrael” and become individuals. Hence the concern for plague. (Based on the commentary of Rabbeinu Bechaya.)
With this idea, the earlier questions can be resolved. If the purpose of counting through means of substitution is to preserve Klal Yisrael’s meaning as an entity, so, too, the very means of the process reflect that same idea. The individual is not represented as something whole. Therefore, when the final number is computed it will not aptly represent the number of individuals. “One hundred” does not mean 100; the number has not created complete individualism. Furthermore, by requiring every person to give a half Shekel, to become a “number,” he is required to be joined with somebody else. Only as part of the whole can one have an identity.
The Parsha mentions two Halachos: the giving of the Machatzis HaShekel and the prohibition of counting Klal Yisrael. These two Halachos have the same undertone. They are there to convey the sublime concept of Klal Yisrael. Klal Yisrael as a people are not fashioned by the individuals; they are “Klal Yisrael” to whom which the individual joins (ע’ נפש החיים ש’ב פ’יז).
This idea can be used to explain the placement of Parshas Shekalim as the opening of the Four Parshiyos and the commencement of Chodesh Adar and Nissan.
Haman sought to destroy the Jewish nation with the claim, עם מפוזר ומפורד (אסתר ג:ח) , “They are a nation divided” (Esther 3:8). Haman only has power over individuals. Esther responds, לך כנוס את כל היהודים (אסתר ד:טז), “Go gather the Jews” (Esther 4:16). Against the Jewish nation, Haman is powerless. The Ribbono Shel Olam offers special protection to Klal Yisrael as an entity. That is something which Haman can never destroy.
And when was that special bond created, the bond between the Ribbono Shel Olam and Klal Yisrael? That bond was forged at Yetzias Mitzrayim.
Therefore, we begin this time period with the Parsha of Machatzis HaShekel. This period of time identifies and illustrates the concept of Klal Yisrael with the Parsha that underscores these ideas in their Halachic application.


ומשלוח מנות איש לרעהו (אסתר ט:יט)

And of sending portions a man to his friend (Esther 9:19)

As the Yom Tov of Purim approaches, a discussion of the Mitzvah of Mishloach Manos is appropriate. The Gemara (Megilla 7a-b) says, “רבי יהודה נשיאה שדר ליה לרבי אושעיא אטמא דעיגלא תלתא וגרבא דחמרא, שלח ליה קיימת בנו רבינו ומשלוח מנות איש לרעהו”, “Rav Yehuda Nesiah sent to Rav Oshiya a thigh of a third-born calf and a bottle of wine. Rav Oshiya responded, ‘[By giving us these gifts,] our Master, you have fulfilled through us [the Mitzvah of] Mishloach Manos.’”
The Maharsha asks, what is this Gemara teaching us? Certainly a piece of meat and a bottle of wine constitute the requisite two Minim for Mishloach Manos! The Machatzis Hashekel (695:11) answers that the Gemara is establishing that one may fulfill his obligation of Mishloach Manos even with a drink. This supports the view of the Shelah quoted by the Magen Avraham (ibid.), who rules this way as well.
The Rashash (cited in Kuntres Acharon to Turei Even, Megilla ibid.) offers a different answer to the Maharsha’s question. He says that when one sends Mishloach Manos to his friend, both the sender and recipient are מקיים the Mitzvah. This is presumably because friendship has been brought about through both of them, which is ultimately the purpose of the Mitzvah. Rav Oshiya therefore used the term קיימת בנו, “You have fulfilled [the Mitzvah] through us,” instead of קיימת בי, “…through me.”
Some Rishonim (see Rabbeinu Chananel and Ritva) have a significantly different version of this Gemara. According to their גירסא, when Rav Yehuda Nesiah sent the thigh and the wine, Rav Oshiya responded, קיימת בנו רבינו ומתנות לאביונים, “You have fulfilled through us [the Mitzvah of] Matanos L’evyonim” (not Mishloach Manos). Rav Yehuda Nesiah subsequently sent back a full calf and three bottles of wine. Rav Oshiya replied, “[By giving us these gifts,] our Master, you have fulfilled through us [the Mitzvah of] Mishloach Manos.”
The Ritva, as understood by Biur Halacha (695:4), explains that Rav Oshiya rejected Rav Yehuda Nesiah’s first gift because Rav Oshiya was an אדם חשוב, a man of stature, and such a gift was unbecoming for such a distinguished recipient. Rav Yehuda Nesiah was forced to send a more substantial gift, and therefore sent back a full calf and three bottles of wine. The Chayei Odom (155:31) extrapolates from here that when giving Mishloach Manos to a wealthy person, one must give a gift befitting the עשיר’s standards.
Rav Tzvi Pesach Frank (Mikra’ei Kodesh – Purim §38) explains this alternative גירסא differently. He says that Rav Oshiya was teaching Rav Yehuda Nesiah that one may not use a drink to fulfill his Mishloach Manos obligation; therefore, Rav Yehuda had originally sent only one portion. He had to send an additional calf to complete the two portions necessary to be מקיים Mishloach Manos. (It is unclear why Rav Yehuda Nesiah sent an additional three bottles of wine the second time.)
This text of the Gemara has ramifications in another Halacha regarding the Mitzvah of Mishloach Manos. There is a dispute among the Poskim whether the two portions must be sent simultaneously. Although the Chida holds that the portions must be sent together, Rav Frank proves to the contrary from this Gemara. After all, Rav Yehuda Nesiah’s first gift (the thigh of the calf) was sent earlier than the second (the full calf).
Rav Frank deduces yet a third Halacha from Rav Yehuda Nesiah’s actions. The Pri Megadim (Rosh Yosef, Megilla ibid.) is in doubt whether two portions of the exact same type of food constitute two מנות. It would seem from this גירסא of the Gemara that, at the very least, two distinct cuts of meat would indeed qualify for two מנות, since Rav Yehuda Nesiah sent meat both times.