Rabbi Brent Gutmann
Beth Shalom, Auckland, New Zealand
This Shabbat is Shabbat Shekalim, the first of several special Shabbatot leading up to Passover. It commemorates a time when the Temple in Jerusalem stood, when every Jew was commanded to contribute a half shekel to the Temple treasury prior to the festival of Passover. Rich or poor, every person gave the same amount, but more significantly, we learn of this census we study in Parashat Ki Tisa that every Jew gave.
Can you imagine if every Jew gave money in support of their community – every Jew, no matter how rich or how poor? Can you imagine every Jew belonging to a Synagogue when no more than 40% of all Jews are affiliated? Think of all that would be possible if every Jew gave some of their money or their time.
In Pirkei Avot we find the teaching, “Where there is no flour there is no Torah and where there is no Torah there is no flour – Ein Kemach, Ein Torah V’ein Torah, Ein Kemach.” (Avot 3) Our communities desperately need the generosity of all our members to flourish. Moreover, acts of charity, tzedaka, are traditionally emphasized during this holiday season. In a few weeks on Purim we will be giving gifts Mishloach Manot to others in community, and Passover, which approaches faster than we realize, includes a focus on giving ma’ot chitim. Wheat money. tzedaka which is necessary to ensure the most needy in a community are able to have a Seder in recognition that it is, not the fate of the rich, but the fate of the poorest amongst us on which a community’s health is judged.
This Talmudic passage, Ein Kemach Ein Torah, and the fact that the sages chose this reading for Shabbat Shekalim emphasize the need for all to give to build a thriving community.