This week's reading begins with the commandment that every male Jew above the age of 20 must contribute a half shekel every year to the Temple treasury. The custom nowadays is for each individual family leader to give a half of the local currency for each person in their family to the charity(s) of their choice on the afternoon immediately preceding Purim, at the end of the Fast of Esther. The Alshich, who lived 450 years ago, writes that the half shekel teaches us the value of Jewish unity. Specifically because the commandment is to give only one-half of a shekel, we are supposed to understand that each of us is not complete but only a portion of the whole. Only by joining together can we become complete. Our kipa helps us to remember that there is something above us…

The Otzar Chaim opens his commentary of this parasha by asking why it begins with the words "When you raise the head of the children of Israel." Why the word "head" (singular) and not "heads" (plural)? This is to tell us that there should be only one head of the nation - one spokesman for the generation. "Happy is the nation that has many smart people. Nevertheless, woe to a nation where everyone thinks he is the leader."

You know you have a problem when everyone asks who is in charge but thinks that they should be in charge. For instance, when a person wants to build a palace he needs both strong stones and fancy stones. Fancy stones, however, are meant to be few and well placed, while the strong stones have to be used in abundance from the foundation up. A nation is the same way: it needs strong stones, energetic stones, committed stones, smart stones, but only a few "head" stones.

The word "head" is used in this verse because the unique and important part of a person is his head. This is what elevates us above animals as is indicated by the way we stand. An animal's head is generally level with the rest of its body, showing that the intellect and emotions of an animal are equal. In the case of a person, his head is higher than the body, reminding us to use our brains to control our emotions. This is connected to the mitzvah of covering one's head out of respect for G‑d. Our kipa helps us to remember that there is something above us. A well-known story describes a meeting between an unobservant person and a 5 year-old boy in the Meah Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem. The child asks the adult why his head is not covered. The adult tries to be to be poetic and responds that the blue sky above him is his head covering. The boy, opening his eyes wide and rolling his head answers, "With such a small head, why does it need a hat so big?!"

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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