Friday, March 25, 2011

Arba Parshios: The Four Stages

Chazal instituted that on the first week of Chodesh Adar we read about the Shkalim. This small reading discusses how the Jews donated to the Mishkan. On the Shabbos Kodesh before Purim we read Parshas Zachor, a reminder of our eternal struggle with Amalek. This week, the week after Purim we read Parshas Para in which we learn about the Para Adumah the laws and details of a fully red cow which is completely burnt and whose ashes are used to purify those who are under the status of Tamei Meis, meaning that they have contracted a certain type of intense impurity via contact with a corpse. The ashes of the Para Adumah nullify this impurity. The week after Parshas Para, which is the week before Rosh Chodesh Nisan we read Parshas HaChodesh, in which Moshe Rabbeinu is commanded by HaKadosh Baruch Hu in regards to the first Mitzva given to the Jewish people - Kiddush HaChodesh, the obligation to organize the beginning of the months around the discovery of the new moon every thirty days or so.

These four special readings: Shkalim, Zachor, Para and HaChodesh are called the Arba Parshios.

If we can analyze each one by itself, maybe we will see how they work as a unit.

Parshas Shkalim represents the intrinsic holiness and pure intentions inherit to every Jew. The Jews were commanded to give the Shkalim to the Mishkan, but when they did so it wasn’t merely a monetary donation, it was an investment of self, of personal devotion to the cause of what the Mishkan represents. And the Mishkan stands for living with the reality that Hashem really dwells within our lives. How do we know? A possible hint is given to us by the Ba’al HaTurim who points out that Shekel is the same numerical value as the word Nefesh, which means soul. When the Jews gave to the Mishkan they were really giving of themselves.

Then comes Parshas Zachor which reminds us of our eternal battle with Amalek. Amalek is more than just a physical people who we are at odds with. Amalek embodies all of the struggles that the Jewish people as a whole go through and on a deeper level they are the spiritual source from which all of the struggles that every individual undergoes.

Rav Yitzchak Hutner Zatz’al explains this based on the Passuk which describes Amalek. The verse says, “Reishis Goyim Amalek” - Amalek is the first of the nations. What does it mean that they are the first of the nations? Every nation serves in some way as a counterforce to the growth of the Jewish people. Amalek was the first nation to attack the Jewish people, as the Torah describes their ambush upon our exodus from Mitzrayim. Therefore, them, being the Reishis - the first, they serve as the prototype to this counterforce. Thus, in both the physical and spiritual realm, they set the mold for all the challenges to spiritual growth.

Amalek contains a very intense spiritual impurity, and it leaves a mark on everything it comes in contact with. The same is true with their attack on the Jewish people when they left Egypt. The sources bring down that via spiritual-cause-and-effect, the ‘spiritual dirt’ that Amalek left behind eventually caused Cheit Ha’Egel - the sin of the golden calf, an offense which left a heavy claim in heaven against the Jewish people.

This is where Parshas Para comes in. The Midrash explains that the Para Adumah was a Tikun - a rectification for the Cheit Ha’Egel, and therefore it’s also a tool used to battle Amalek’s effects on us.

Amalek comes to sever our relationship with the Divine. They try to get us to believe that we don’t need the Torah and that really we can make it on our own. That’s where all our problems start. Para Adumah represents the opposite. The Torah describes the Para Adumah as a Chok, a Mitzvah without a rational explanation. As we explained, Para Adumah comes to extract a person from the deepest impurity - Tumas Meis. Says the Para Aduma - You think can get out of Tumas Meis with your own formula? That’s Amalek thinking. The only way to escape Tumas Meis is by forfeiting your knowledge to God. This is very anti-Amalek.

This brings us to the fourth stage. This is Parshas HaChodesh - HaChodesh HaZeh Lachem - This renewal shall be for you, the Sanctification of the new moon. The Sfas Emes explains that the hidden meaning. The moon whittles down and diminishes, and then just as it hits rock bottom it begins to grow back. But it’s not really that simple, because the moment that we notice its renewal it takes on a new identity, one step, one month higher in the cycle. It was the moon of Chodesh Adar, but now it’s the moon of Chodesh Nisan. Once a struggle is met and subsequently overcome, the combatant is not the same person he was before hand – he’s stronger, he’s more experienced, but most importantly he’s ready to take on a new, stronger adversary.

These four special readings are the path of how we grow: Shkalim - Things are going well. Zachor - A Challenge comes. Para - We grapple with the difficulty. HaChodesh - We overcome and take on a new, stronger persona; ready to repeat the process on a higher level.

When we are living in a Shkalim state of mind, we need to know that it’s possible to reach a level of HaChodesh if we just fight Zachor with Para. When we feel like we are cruising in our Avodas Hashem, and then a struggle hits the most inspiring thing that we can know is that we will be we won’t just be back to where when we started once we overcome, rather we will be exponentially stronger because of it.

This is really the depth of what Chazal say, “B’Makom She’Ba’alei Teshuva Omdim, Ain Tzadikim Gemurim Omdim.” – In the place where a Ba’al TeShuva stands, a complete Tzadik doesn’t reach a level. Because even though the Shkalim level is nice, he who falls and gets back up is even higher – and this what the process of Shkalim, Zachor, Para, HaChodesh is coming to teach us.

HaKadosh Baruch Hu should give us a Bracha that we should be able to live with the inspiration needed to overcome the challenges that He sends us, and that we should have the awareness to appreciate the growth that we do achieve. If we can do this, there is no doubt that we will live lives of Simcha and Shleimus, moving closer to HaKadosh Baruch Hu and ultimately the Geulah Sheleimah!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Purim Costumes: Way Deeper than You Thought

~Please feel free to print this out and read it over Shabbos Kodesh, just please not during Tefilos. Enjoy!~

We take it for granted that everyone dresses up on Purim. We’ve been told that this is because just like Hashem hid behind the costume of seemingly natural events to generate the miraculous salvation of Purim, so too we hide ourselves. But we need ask a question that is one step deeper. Firemen, Aladin, Pirates, The Muffin Man – all sorts of secular cultural icons show up at our Purim feasts. It’s one thing to dress up, but why does it all of sudden become okay to dress like a Goy?

Like all things, in order to understand the true essence of costumes we need to investigate as to what the first time that we encounter them in the Torah. And to do so we need to look no further than Parshas Bereishis. We need to understand the ‘costume’ that Hashem gave to Adam HaRishon.

After the sin of the Eitz HaDa’as Tov V’Ra - The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil - HaKadosh Baruch Hu gives to Adam what the verse calls Kasnos O’r (O’r is spelled Ayin-Vav-Daled), Garments of skin to wear before kicking him out of Gan Eden, the Garden of Eden.

There is an interesting Midrash connected to the Kasnos which says that in the Torah of Rebbe Meir the Tana, the word for skin - O’r - was written with an Alef - Or, meaning ‘Light’. His Torah said that Hashem gave Adam HaRishon a cloak made of light.

Based on the words of The Ramchal and The Leshem Shvo V’Achlama we can understand the dramatic tragedy of the Kasnos O’r with an Ayinand its contrast of the Kasnos Or with an Alef.

It’s brought down from the Ari’zal that before Adam HaRishon sinned by eating from the Eitz HaDa’as Tov V’Ra, the universe existed in a qualitatively different state. We experience physical things and spiritual things. Lunch is physical - Gashmius. Praying Kabbalas Shabbos with a fervor; that’s spiritual - Ruchnius. Clearly our experience of Gashmius is much more attainable and recognizable to our senses.

But that’s only now. Says the Ari’zal, before the sin, Adam HaRishon experienced our Ruchnius as his Gashmius, meaning that what we call spirituality was to him how we experience lunch, and if that’s the case, then we don’t have the words to describe what his spirituality was like. By sinning he brought everything down a notch – resulting in the universe as we know it.

Therefore, before his sin, Adam HaRishon’s body was a comparatively spiritual entity, Kasnos Or with an Alef - a body of Light. Therefore the Noam Elimelech explains, it was specifically in the Torah of Rebbe Meir, whose very name means ‘Makes Light’ that we are taught what the ideal universe was supposed to be like. But because of the sin we went from Kason Or with an Alef to Kasnos O’r with an Ayin, bodies of flesh.

This is the first costume in the Torah. HaKadosh Baruch Hu took Adam HaRishon’s essence, which was a Kasnos Or, a body of light and covered it, dressed it up with Kasnos O’r with an Ayin, a Body of Flesh.

The Kasnos O’r that was given to Adam post-sin make another appearance in the Torah, a few Parshios later in Parshas Toldos.

The stage was set for a tremendous calamity to occur. Eisav HaRasha was going to be blessed by Yitchak Avinu. Although Yitzchak had good intentions, Eisav would have taken the empowerment given to him and used it against Yaakov. But as we know, Yaakov Avinu came in and stole the Brachos, he took the spiritual energy headed for Eisav and redirected it to the realm of holiness.

How did he do so? The Passuk tells us that Rivka Imeinu dressed up Yaakov in Eisav’s clothing so that Yaakov would be able to convince Yitzchak that in fact he was Eisav. The Passuk describes these clothing as Bigdei Chamudos, precious garments. Rashi brings down from the Midrash that these precious garments which belonged to Eisav were really stolen by Eisav from King Nimrod, who took them from Cham, the son of Noach who himself received them directly from Adam HaRishon. This mentality and focus on Kasnos O’r with an Ayin had made its way down to Eisav HaRasha.

Yaakov Avinu took the Kasnos O’r and entered into Yitzchak’s private quarters in order to receive the Brachos. The final words in the verse before Yitzchak gives the blessing is that he smelled from these garment the Reiyach HaSadeh Asher Beircho Hashem, the smell of the Field which Hashem blessed. Says Rashi, this smell of the blessed field was the smell of Gan Eden.

And now things come full circle. Says the Maor VaShemesh, Yaakov Avinu was able to direct the energy headed to Eisav because he took the Kasnos O’r with an Ayin and brought it back to Kasnos Or with an Alef, he took the flesh and turned it back into light. And therefore Yitzchak smelled Gan Eden - Yaakov Avinu brought it in with him.

How does this apply to Purim? The answer is that Mordechai HaTzadik really did the same thing with Haman. Haman HaRasha was empowered by Achashverosh to wipe out the Jewish people, but as we know from Chazal, this decree didn’t start with Achashverosh. It was really a Gezeira, a decree from heaven, and Haman was chosen to carry it out. And therefore he too had his own special garments that were headed to him. Achashverosh asked Haman how to properly honor someone and he responded by listing that all the special royal garments should be put on such a person.

At that stage in the Megilah, Haman was the empowered one! Those garments should have been his – a symbol of his power! But at the last the last second they are given to Mordechai, and that’s when the Megilah says that if lost this battle of the Levushim, the garments, then for sure Haman wont succeed. Mordechai’s wearing of the equivalent of Haman’s Kasnos O’r led to the eventual redirection of power from the death sentence over the Jews to their dramatic salvation and victory. And then after the victory came about in actuality, the Megilah says that Mordechai took over Haman’s position, meaning that he fully took his spritiual energy, and then the Passuk says that U’Mordechai Yatza MiLifnei HaMelech B’Levush Malchus - And Mordechai went out from before the king in Levush Malchus, royal garments. It’s no shock that the Zohar says that Levush Malchus means Garments which come from the spiritual reality called “Malchus” - Mordechai too had arrived at Kasnos Or with an Alef.

And this all makes a lot of sense in the light of a comment made by the Chida that Mordechai was really a Gilgul, a reincarnation of Yaakov Avinu.

We are taught that when we celebrate a holiday we aren’t simply commemorating it, rather we are re-living it. The light that came down which generated the original experience re-enters the world on that date every year. Thus on Purim the war that happened back then happens again. If we check the Megilah we see that at first there was a decree to kill the Jews, and then there was a decree for the Jews to defend themselves. We won, and we win again every year. But the interesting thing is that the first decree was never nullified. That means that this potential to lose the war also re-enters the world every year. Our wearing of pop-culture-inspired costumes is our way of transforming the Kasnos O’r with an Ayin into Kasnos Or with an Aled, just like Mordechai did and just like Yaakov did. That’s how we take the victory.

But how does this apply to my Bat-Man costume? The answer is that in my mind, I really do associate myself with my Garment of Flesh (body) much more than I affiliate with my Garment of Light (soul). If I’m mainly physical and somewhat spiritual then I automatically put a roof on how far I can grow spiritually. But when I look at my self in the mirror and I see myself in a costume, and then I get a little into the Purim mindstate (which may or may not take a few cups of wine [it does take a few cups of wine]) I begin to realize that my body too is only a costume. The real me is the Garment of Light, the Kasnos Or with an Alef.

If we can internalize this message, even of only for a few seconds, then we transform ourselves into vessels of massive spiritual capabilities – far greater than what we relate to the rest of the year. Hashem should give us a Bracha that we can, in our own little way – focus less on the Kasnos O’r with an Ayin and feel a little closer to our Kasnos Or with an Alef. A Freilachen Purim!

Friday, March 11, 2011


The following is based on the Me’or Einayim

This week we are Zocheh, we are lucky enough to begin Sefer Vayikra. This section of the Torah mainly primarily deals with Korbanos, the sacrifices which were the main even in the Mishkan, whose building took up a significant amount of space in Sefer Shemos.

The first Passuk reads as follows: “VaYikra El Moshe VaYidaber Hashem Eilav Me’Ohel Mo’ed Leimor.” ‘He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting (the Mishkan) saying…”

The first anomaly is the seemingly vague first two words - “He Called” –who called? If it was simply Hashem calling to Moshe, then why not just tell us as the Passuk does two words later? Tell us from the start without breaking up the verse into two parts!

Our second point is even more puzzling. The word VaYikra is spelled Vav-Yud-Kuf-Resh-Alef. The interesting thing here is that if we check our Chumashim or any Sefer Torah we will see that the final Alef is written in superscript, it’s much smaller than the rest of the word, and every other letter for that matter, it’s called an Alef Ze’ira, a Mini-Alef. The appearance of such a letter in of itself begs an analysis.

Before entering into our discussion of Sefer Vayikra and its beginnings, we should first analyze the last few words of Sefer Shemos, as they serve as the contextual bridge between the two Books.

Sefer Shemos concludes at the end of Pekudei describing the Mishkan’s completion and the descent of God’s presence upon it. A Cloud of God’s Glory comes down and engulfs the Mishkan. Because of this Cloud, the Psukim tell us that Moshe Rabbeinu could not enter the Mishkan.

Let’s take even another step back. How did we get to the point where God’s Presence came over the camp of Am Yisrael? The answer is that we got there through a difficult process where God reveals Himself to us slowly.

Imagine discovering a person who has lived underground, without ever knowing what light even is. The time has finally come to integrate him into society. How are we to go about doing this? Simply plucking him from his burrow and placing him outside would be torturous, such a thing would cause him tremendous suffering. He wouldn’t be able to take seeing the light of day straight on. So first we light a small candle at a distance; we introduce him to the concept that there is something called “not-darkness”. Then we would show him a small window; not only is there a thing called “not-darkness”, but there is even such a thing as an outside world where “not-darkness” is used, and therefore you don’t have to fumble around. Only then, when his eyes are ready, can we take him out into the open.

This parable is really the process of God’s revelation to the Jewish people over the course of Sefer Shemos. Entrenched in Egyptian society, we begin Sefer Shemos reveling in the deepest levels of Tumah - Spiritual Impurity. Our status is titled by the Sfarim as Sha’ar Nun, the Fiftieth Gate, a spiritual phrase describing the farthest extent that anything can go. We were in the Sha’ar Nun of Tumah.

To build a Mishkan right there and then would simply be a spiritual overload. Hashem knows this, and so we decide to take things slowly.

First, on the way out of Egypt, God shows us that there is such a thing as “not-darkness”. He gives us two Mitzvos, Korban Pesach and Bris Milah. Then on the way to Har Sinai he sends relates to us at a distance, a Pillar of Smoke and a Pillar of Fire. Being with God is now seen as a tangible reality. Distant manifestations of God’s presence among us can go a long way. Then There is the revelation at Har Sinai. God comes out to us in a much bigger way than He ever has before, but He remains atop the mountain. He doesn’t speak to us in full. Only after working on the Mishkan does His Presence enter into the camp to fully reside among the people. Our man in the burrow has been taken out into the open.

And what was the whole point of Mishkan? Not for Hashem to have a clubhouse in which He could hang out. Rather the goal was, “V’Asu Li Mikdash V’Shachanti B’Socham” - ‘They shall build me a Mishkan and I will dwell among them. As it is famously pointed out, the verse does no say that He will dwell in the Mishkan, rather it states that He will dwell amongst them, the Jewish people themselves, B’Socham. The point of everything, of this entire journey from Mitzrayim to Mishkan was to get me to realize that Godliness can penetrate even little me.

So let’s imagine how Moshe is feeling right now! All of this work, all of this time, all of this effort and energy, but as God’s presence finishes settling on the Mishan, the situation is set for the ultimate closeness, but then the Passuk tells us, “V’Lo Yachol Moshe LaVo El Ohel Moed” he’s locked out. All of this work to attain closeness, and he can’t seem to bring it home. He can’t complete the task. He can’t experience the intimacy in its entirety. Bummer.

The concept of God’s presence penetrating me and giving me my vitality is called my Chelek Eloka MiMa’al, ‘A Godly Portion from Above’. God sends His aura to dwell inside of me. There is an already present reality of B’Socham that Hashem is constantly trying to get me to feel.

This is hinted to with a Small Alef. Why? Chazal call Hashem Alufo Shel Olam, the Commander of the Universe. Alef, for this reason, is an analogy to God (Alef/Alufo). If creation, and therefore physicality, begins with a Beis (as we see by Breishis), then that which is before physicality and the universe must be that which precedes Beis, namely Alef. Before there was Bereishis there was only Alufo Shel Olam.

If God is the ‘Big-Alef’, then the way that He penetrates me on the on the microcosmic level is a Small-Alef; my own little personal expression of Godliness. V’Shachanti B’Socham.

God can’t become impure. He’s God; it’s impossible. Therefore, it’s a matter of simple association that some of that unblemishable purity resides in me as well. This is my little Alef. A small manifestation of Alufo Shel Olam that is pumping inside of me. (In previous weeks we’ve discussed the Kotozo Shel Yud and the concept of Yechida. Therese is a strong connection between the Alef Ze’ira and the Kotzo Shel YUd.

The reality of a Small Alef expressing itself in me explains the concept of Hirurei Teshuva, random thoughts of closeness to God. These are the thoughts that pop up even in situations in which I’m taken to the farthest, oddest, most spiritually perplexing of places, even in the middle of an act of sin, all too often I feel that little urge pulling me back, “I can do better.” “This isn’t really me.” “If I could do this night again, I wouldn’t be here right now.” Where does such a thought come from? When I feel a spark of inspiration, or at the very least hesitation, that seemingly came out of nowhere, how did it get in my head?

The Ba’al Shem Tov taught us an important lesson. Hashem carefully tailors everything that comes my way. I’m meant to learn from the things that cross my field of vision, from the conversations that I overhear. All the more so from the loose thoughts that pass though my mind – Hashem is constantly asking, ‘What does this mean to you?’

The answer is that the little tug of Hirhurei Teshuva, that sudden push of yearning that doesn’t seem to match up with my conscious thinking is in truth, a small shining through of the Alef Ze’ira, my Chelek Eloka MiMa’al. It’s really HaKadosh Baruch Hu Himself whispering in my ear, “Come Back.” Because no matter where I go, He’s automatically still with me.

This is the struggle that is occurring in the start of this week’s Parsha. Moshe feels far. Like we said, he’s being kept out of the Mishkan and he doesn’t like it. And so when VaYikra begins, and he is being called in, he doesn’t know who it is that is speaking to him. And thus the Passuk says VaYikra El Moshe, without us being told who is doing the calling. But we do know that something is definitely calling to him. And what is the identifying factor of that call? It leaves a calling card, a signature: There at the end of the word is a Alef Ze’ira, a little burst of expression from the Chelek Eloka MiMa’al. There is an internal pull from inside Moshe Rabbeinu himself. Only through his contemplation of where this inner calling is coming from does he realize that what is really going on is the next words of the Passuk, “VaYidaber Hashem Eilav. He sees it’s all really coming from Hashem. With this realization in mind, immediately the lines of communication open back up.

In a very broad sense, the story of Moshe Rabbeinu is really the story of every Jew. His challenges are our own. And so the way he overcomes his feelings of distance is going to be the way that we overcome ours as well.

In moments of distance, in moments where we feel symbolically “locked out of the Mishkan” the first step is to look out for the tiny tug of my Alef Ze’ira. Living with the simple knowledge that my whole existence is predicated on the battery-powered spiritual goodness called my soul is a piece of inspiration that I can always always always go back to. There is a part of me that stays in direct contact with Hashem no matter how far I go, regardless of my past, or even more importantly - regardless of my present. That’s my first step back into the Mishkan.

HaKadosh Baruch Hu should give us a Brachathat we will be able to really live with such inspiration. If we can do that there is no doubt that we will live livesof Simcha, moving closer to The Creator and ultimately the Geulah Sheleimah!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Parshas Shkalim: A New Lease on Life

Am Yisrael enters into Adar (this year Adar Sheini) by reading what is called Parshas Shkalim. Parshas Shkalim is a small portion found in the beginning of Parshas Ki Sisa where HaKadosh Baruch Hu commands Moshe Rabbeinu to take a census of the people via each one donating a Machatzis HaShekel - One half of a Shekel coin to the creation of the Mishan.

Why do we read about Shkalim when Adar begins? Chazal base this custom off the first Mishna found in Messeches Shkalim. The Messeches begins, “B’Echad Ba’Adar Mashmi’in Al HaShkalim” – ‘On the first day of Adar they proclaim about the Shkalim.’ In the times of the Beis HaMikdash, in similar fashion to what we described by the Mishkan, there was a year donation from the people of a half-Shekel. This money was used to pay for Korbanos (sacrifices) and the general upkeep of the Beis HaMikdash. The announcement to bring in these Shkalim was released on the first day of Adar.

We also know the famous Ma’amar Chazal (and catchy song) MiShe’Nichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha - When Adar enters, we increase the happiness level.

What emerges is that Chazal tell us about to spiritual realities that occur simultaneously. The announcement of the Shkalim (based on the Shkalim of the Mishkan) and the amplification of Simcha both emerge from Adar’s arrival.

It would be impossible to say that these two realities - Mashmi’in Al HaShkalim and Marbin B’Simcha - are disconnected. The Jewish approach to spirituality is too sensitive and too nuanced to let such an overlap lay unclarified. The question is: What about Shkalim brings us to a place of Marbin B’Simcha?

We need to begin by first clarifying the nature of the Simcha of Adar. It can’t simply be that there is a holiday – practically every month has some sort of holiday in it. Pesach we celebrate our liberty. Chanuka we celebrate religious dedication. Shavuos commemorates the accaptence of the Torah HaKedosha. Yet none of the months associated with any of these holidays see a clearly stated augmentation of joyfulness. What makes the holiday of Purim unique that it causes a reality of Marbin B’Simcha?

We can answer with a parable that I heard from my dear Rebbe, Rav Elchanan Ehrman Shlit’a: Skydiving. During the drive there…Worry. Suiting up in the equipment…Panic. On the plane-ride up…Terror. As you bullet towards the ground…shock. And then you land safely. You get in your car and go home. The emotions used to describe that car ride are different than that of the others…Bliss. A new lease on life. Pure, unadulterated exhilaration.

Why is this so? The answer is that there are all sorts of joys in life and then there is one happiness that rises above all others, and that is the joy of simply being alive. When my life is put in danger, where there is a chance I just might not make it - and then I get through, I get to approach life with a totally new appreciation. Colors become brighter. Food tastes more flavored. Music is more harmonious. The simple fact that I’m alive on the canvas of the possibility that for a brief moment I almost wasn’t, gives me the ability to live with vitality impossible without such a climactic moment.

This is what sets Purim apart from all other holidays. Like we said, every holiday celebrates a very specific point: Mitzvah-observance, the Torah HaKedosha, freedom. On Purim we are celebrating something qualitatively different. We are celebrating the fact that (to quote my dear grandmother) it’s good be above the ground as opposed to in it.

Haman sought to kill out every last Yiddaleh (Jew in Yiddish) on one day. In the month of Nisan the decree was put out that eleven months later in Adar all of Am Yisrael would be slaughtered. Eleven months. Eleven months of dread. Eleven months of being taunted – “I’m gonna get you.” And then…and the last second…Venahafoch Hu! Everything got turned upside-down and we were saved. Sounds a little like skydiving.

But what caused us to be saved? The Midrash tells us that Haman saught to bribe Achashverosh by paying him ten-thousand silver pieces. When this was happening, HaKadosh Baruch Hu said in Shamayim - “Fool! You think you will decree against them with your money? They already have a Zechus, a merit of money that has far preempted yours!” Which money is that? The Machatzis HaShekel that was used in the desert, the one that we read about on Parshas Shkalim, the entryway into MiShe’Nichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha.

Now things are clear. There is an intrinsic connection between the reading of Parshas Shkalim and MiShe’Nichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha because what granted us the Simchas HaChayim, the joy of simply being alive, was the fact that we donated the Machatzis HaShekel to the Mishkan. In other words, without Parshas Shkalim there would be no possibility for MiShe’Nichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha.

But nowadays in order to experience this spiritual reality we need to take a slightly different root, because – to our great distress – there is no Beis HaMikdash do donate to.

However there is another way other than a monetary donation. That is the donation of my effort, my energy, my emotions. How is a personal investment as good as a monetary one? Because as the Ba’al HaTurim points out, Shekel shares the same Gematria (numerical value) as Nefesh - Soul.

The investment of my Kishkes, of making my Avodas Hashem the central, most important factor in my life is the way that we make our way to Simchas HaChayim. In order to achieve the feeling that life is vibrant we need to be appreciative of the very fact that we are alive, and that is only done by becoming to the root of all life in the universe.

HaKadosh Baruch Hu should give us a Bracha to be Zocheh, meritorious enough to experience MiShe’Nichnas Adar Marbin B’Simcha in the light of B’Echad Ba’Adar Mashmi’in Al HaShkalim, meaning that on the first of Adar a proclamation is made to each Shekel, each Nefesh that now is the time to become fully alive. If we can life in the context of all of its beauty, if we can experience Avodas Hashem as the life-changing experience that it is, if we can fully invest ourselves there is no doubt that we will live lives full of Simcha and Shleimus, moving closer to HaKadosh Baruch Hu, and ultimately the Geulah Sheleimah!