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By donating a half-shekel, we could once again hold our heads high.

Acquiring Spiritual Elevation

Acquiring Spiritual Elevation

Acquiring Spiritual Elevation
By donating a half-shekel, we could once again hold our heads high.

The word "head", in Hebrew "rosh", in the verse:
When you take a census…"
[literally, 'When you lift up the head…'], (Ex.30:11) tells us that if we manage to become the "head", then we can achieve spiritual elevation. This word "rosh" also contains the mystical element of the Shabbat within it, since it alludes to the completion of the creative process in the Celestial Regions, i.e. the "head".

The Shabbat is the soul-mate, of the Jewish people. The expression "zug shel [literally, 'mate of'] rosh", alludes to the letters in the alphabet following [i.e. being the mate of] the letters in the word "rosh": reish-alef-shin. These letters are shin-bet-tav, the letters that spell "Shabbat". As far as the half-shekel contribution was concerned, every Jew was counted, i.e. every "head" was equal. When you combine the word "li" there, with the word "rosh"…you have the word "Yisrael"…

Since the word "teruma", literally "donation", appears three times in this paragraph, it is clear that the Torah alludes to three distinct contributions to be made. One of these contributions is a voluntary one, described by the Torah as given to G‑d, as is written, "li", literally "for Me," [regarding the donations made for building the Tabernacle (Ex. 25:2)]. When you combine the word "li" there, with the word "rosh" used by the Torah in our verse, you have the word "Yisrael"- Israel.

When all the Jews have made both their mandatory and their voluntary contributions the result is "Shabbat kodesh l'Yisrael", "Shabbat is holy to Israel", meaning that the 600,000 Israelites have each joined their mate, the holy Shabbat, [i.e.] the seventh day. >

Tragically, then the Israelites sinned by worshipping the Golden Calf, an episode introduced by the Torah with the words "When the people noticed that Moses was late" (Ex. 32:1). "…was late" in Hebrew is written "boshesh" and can also be read as "b'shesh [literally, "with six"], meaning that the people regressed to the spiritual level of "six" instead of "seven". Our sages all refer to the word meaning that Moses was six hours overdue or something to this effect, as mentioned already by Rashi.

[Translation and commentary by Eliyahu Munk]

Rabbi Isaiah HaLevi Horowitz [5320/1560 - 11 Nissan 5390/1630] served many years as chief rabbi in Frankfurt and then Prague, his birthplace. In 1621 he moved to Israel and became the chief rabbi of Jerusalem. He is best known as the author of Shenei Luchot HaBrit, a work of Scripture commentary and Jewish Law, and is usually referred to as "the SHeLaH", the acronym of its title.
He lived the last years of his life in Tzefat although his burial place is in Tiberias, only a few meters from the tomb of the Rambam. It is a popular pilgrimage site, especially on Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan, which he himself recommended as a propitious time for saying the special prayer for success in educating one’s children that he composed.
Eliyahu Munk, the translator, was born in Frankfurt, and emigrated to England as a young man, later moving to Toronto. After retiring from education and moving to Israel in 1978, he began an extraordinary second career as a translator, publishing English versions of the Torah commentaries of Rabbeinu Bechayei, Akeidat Yitzchak, Shelah, Alshich and Ohr Hachaim.
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