In the Jewish world we are accustomed to the rhythms of a calendar year that marks its beginning in the Fall. It is the blossoming days of Fall in which we make our commitments for the year ahead. With the backdrop of the Yamim Noraim (High Holidays) we make our promises and commitments that we hope will carry us through the year and help make it rich with engagement and meaning.
But human nature is such, that a few months in we start to slack off. Just look at the world around us – even for those promises of the secular New Year, by February 1st shiny new gym cards are languishing in pockets and proponents of “dry January” are imbibing at Happy Hour.
Fortunately for us, our Jewish calendar has built in a reset button for those commitments that we made to the community. In the dead of winter (the end of February in our case) our Jewish rhythm mandates Shabbat Shekalim, the Sabbath we read of each person over the age of 20 contributing half a shekel towards the construction and upkeep of the Tabernacle, which was used until the Temple found its permanent home in Jerusalem. The rich were not allowed to give more and the poor were not allowed to bring less, an ancient reminder that each contribution was equally valid and valued.
It is easy to make promises and commitments in the fall when everything is shiny and new. When Rosh Hashanah and its themes are so pervasive and inspire us to make those promises with full hearts and all good intentions. But come February, it’s not so easy. Shabbat Shekalim prompts us take advantage of the half a year that is still ahead of us. There is still time to reset and be involved in our community. This contribution was called mahatzit ha shekel, the half shekel. What will be your mahatzit ha shekel for the next part of the year- Will you volunteer in your child’s Religious School Class? Help make a shiva minyan? Greet newcomers on Shabbat mornings? Bring a meal to a family with a new baby?
Just as the half shekel was the way the ancient Israelites were counted in the desert, our contributions are part of the way that we are counted as members of the Chizuk Amuno family. We look forward to your continued engagement in our community which strives to be sacred.