Adar is the last month of the Jewish year. Even though Tishrei is the first month for calculating years, Nisan is designated by the Torah as the first of the months. Thus, Tishrei is considered the seventh month, and Adar (which immediately precedes Nisan) is the last month. Each month is associated with a particular sense, and that which corresponds to the month of Adar is laughter. It is befitting that we look back over last year and laugh at ourselves a bit, at how much the world's trivialities fooled us into believing in them. Let's try to use this last month of the months, Adar, to examine ourselves and set new standards in our relationships with G‑d and our fellow for the coming year.

Today, it is the rabbis in each community who give us both spiritual and moral direction. In the times of the Temple, this position was the priests' - kohanim - who were often the spiritual leaders and the judges who instructed everyone as to appropriate behavior. The Kli Yakar makes the connection between this week's portion and the end of last week's: Last week ends with the prohibition of the kohanim to ascend the altar via steps (as opposed to a ramp), so as not to reveal their nakedness. He explains that this is so the priests should not err and claim to be a "step" and intermediary between the people and G‑d. If they do, they reveal their nakedness, their spiritual shallowness. Continuing, this portion begins, "And these are the judgments that you should put before them" (Ex. 21:1). Before whom? Before the judges. The judges are reminded of the same warning the Torah gave the kohanim: Jews do not have, nor need, an intermediary to G‑d. We all have an essential connection; we just need to be willing to use it.

The remedy is to replace this distance with unity….

Referring to these judgments and Jewish Law in general, the Lubavitcher Rebbe writes in his book, "From Day to Day" ("HaYom Yom")that there are two kinds of laws: "Some laws form life, and some laws are formed from life. The laws that people make are in the latter category, and this is why in each country the laws are different, because the nature of each place is slightly different. G‑d's laws, on the other hand, give us a context in which to live our lives - they form life. This is why we say that the Torah is true, Torah laws are unchanged in each place, and that the Torah is eternal."

On the Shabbat before the beginning of the month of Adar, an additional portion is always read, called "Shekalim". This reading speaks about the commandment of giving a half shekel for use in the Tabernacle and Temple. "This you should give...half a shekel...[each] person ... to atone for your souls." (Ex. 30:11) The reason for the commandment is to atone for the sin of worshipping the Golden Calf. Idol worship caused a gulf to be created between G‑d and the Jewish people. The remedy is to replace this distance with unity. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that in truth, G‑d and the Jewish people are really one entity. We are incomplete without G‑d. Alone, we are like the half shekel. This is the reason we were commanded to give only a half shekel. We show that we are just a half of the whole. The other half is G‑d, and together we are something complete. Giving the half shekel demonstrated the Jews' atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf - by returning to our belief in G‑d.

When we understand this, we can see the inner connection between "Shekalim" and why it is read before the Adar, when Purim takes place. The Talmud Megilla explains that the evil decree of Haman happened because the Jewish people bowed to an idol; the spiritual reason the decree was ultimately nullified was because of the merit we accrued by doing the commandment of the half shekel. Bowing to an idol is a demonstration of an apparent separation between G‑d and the Jewish people. The giving of half a shekel rejects this, showing clearly that we are not separate, G‑d forbid, but rather one united being. The merit of the commandment of the Half Shekel aroused the Jewish people and pushed them to maintain their Judaism even to the point of self-sacrifice. Not one Jew tried to escape the decree of annihilation by abandoning Judaism. They stood united waiting for G‑d's salvation. Because of this they merited the miracle of Purim.