Dearest Friends as we approach the holiday of Purim it is a time where we are asked to open our hearts again and fulfill important mitzvoth. The first of these is Zecher Lamachatzit Hashekel – the remembering of the half Shekel. During the times when our holy Temple stood, we were commanded to give a half a shekel which was used to finance public offerings there. This mitzvah originated in Biblical times when the half a shekel was used as a method to count the nation of Israel and it went towards the building of the Adanim – the silver foundations of the beams in the Tabernacle. Today it is a custom among Israel for every member of the household to give in the month of Adar 3 half coins of currency of the country one resides in to charity. Others give the value of around 10 grams of silver which was around the weight of the ancient half shekel. It is brought down in the Midrash that since the wicked Haman was to offer in the future ten thousand kikars of silver to King Achashveyrosh for his final solution plan of annihilating Am Yisrael – G-D commanded us first with the Mitzvah of Machatzit Hashekel to counterbalance this evil in the world with a positive act of goodness by using the same vehicle.
The famous Rabbi Yaakov Halavi (known as Mahari Segal or the Maharil) a 14th century Torah scholar from Mainz Germany brought down in his Halachic work that it was a custom to give the Machatzit Hashekel to support those who move to the land of Israel. Another important mitzvah we do on Purim is something called Matanot Levevyonim. We are obligated to help the poor enjoy their Purim by giving to at least two poor people enough money to make a meal on Purim. The third mitzvah related to giving on Purim is Mishloach Manot where we are obligated to give to at least one person two different kinds of food items. The reason behind this mitvah is to bring us closer to one another and instill us with brotherly love.
This year our community has decided to give the Machatzit Hashekel for the completion of the synagogue. We have Baruch Hashem more or less completed the structure, but we still have to finish the furnishings, ornaments, and landscaping. There is no more auspicious time than now to be part of this special mitzvah. We want to wish all of our friends a wonderful Happy and healthy Purim.
“And they shall make me a temple and I will dwell amongst them” Exodus 25/8