Bag It and Tag It

While Shabbat Shekalim reminds us of the Temple and to earnestly pray for its rebuilding, it is also a time to remember the mitzvah of financial integrity.


Calendar, TorahFeb 6, 2018

TorahFeb 6, 2018



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This coming Shabbat is Shabbat Shekalim. This is either the last Shabbat in the month of Shevat or coincides with Shabbat in years where Rosh Chodesh Adar falls on Shabbat.

On this Sabbath a special maftir reading of Exodus 30:11-16 occurs to remind us that in the days of the Temple, the annual half-shekel Temple tax was collected during the month of Adar. It is around this time that the story of the shekel in the fish’s mouth from Matthew 17:24-17 took place, thus allowing both Peter and Yeshua to pay the half-shekel tax.

In addition to an extra reading from the Torah, there is a special haftarah reading from 2 Kings 12:1(11:21)-12:17(16). The setting of this haftarah is that Jehoash was king of Israel and he realized that the Temple was in disarray. With the help of the priesthood he came up with a plan:

And Jehoash said to the priests, “All the money of the dedicated gifts that are brought into the house of the LORD—each man’s census money, each man’s assessment money—and all the money that a man purposes in his heart to bring into the house of the LORD, let the priests take it themselves, each from his constituency; and let them repair the damages of the temple, wherever any dilapidation is found.” (2 Kings 12:4-5)

This obviously fits into the theme of Shabbat Shekalim since the money is being collected for the upkeep of the Temple the same way the Temple tax was. Not long afterward, enough funds are collected to begin the repairs:

Whenever they saw that there was a large amount of money in the chest, the royal secretary and the high priest came, counted the money that had been brought into the temple of the LORD and put it into bags. When the amount had been determined, they gave the money to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. With it they paid those who worked on the temple of the LORD—the carpenters and builders, the masons and stonecutters. They purchased timber and blocks of dressed stone for the repair of the temple of the LORD and met all the other expenses of restoring the temple. The money brought into the temple was not spent for making silver basins, wick trimmers, sprinkling bowls, trumpets or any other articles of gold or silver for the temple of the LORD. (2 Kings 12:10-13)

So after the money was counted, they bagged it and presumably tagged it as designated for the workers only. It was then delivered. Torah Club: Voice of the Prophets points out that what is remarkable is that “they did not require a system of accounting from the contractors because the workers conducted themselves with such scrupulous integrity.” [1] The Midrash comments:

“Moreover, they did not require an accounting from the men into whose hand they gave the money to pay to those who did the work, for they dealt faithfully” (2 Kings 12:15). This refers to the generation of Joash, “For they dealt faithfully.” Our Rabbis taught: A person entrusted with the Temple treasury was not to enter the treasury wearing garments with folds or felt shoes (in which he could conceal objects) lest he someday became rich and people would assume that he stole from the Temple treasury. Every man must be above suspicion among his fellows just as he must be morally clean in the sight of God, as it says [in Numbers 32:22], “You shall … be free of obligation toward the LORD and toward Israel.” (Exodus Rabbah 51:2)

So while Shabbat Shekalim reminds us of the Temple and to earnestly pray for it’s rebuilding, it is also a time to remember the mitzvah of financial integrity. May we strive for such levels of faithfulness and integrity in not only our workplaces and congregations but also in our personal lives. Our goal should be to be nothing short of living beyond reproach.

Footnotes:
  1. D. Thomas Lancaster, Torah Club: Depths of the Torah (Marshfield, MO: First Fruits of Zion, 2013), B7.
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About the Author: Toby Janicki is the director of the 12-21 youth initiative, as well as a teacher and writer for First Fruits of Zion. He contributes regularly to Messiah Journal and has authored several books including God-Fearers and a comprehensive commentary on the Didache titled: The Way of Life. More articles by Toby Janicki