Motzei Shabbos: parashas Ki Tisa – Wholeness
“This is what everyone who is entered in the records shall pay: a half-shekel by the sanctuary weight—twenty gerahs to the shekel—a half-shekel as an offering to the L-RD.” – Exodus 30:13
The census characterizes a concept, in regard to identity, inasmuch that a half shekel denotes a lack, in and of itself, since it is only half of the whole; thus, each Israelite in giving a half shekel in order to be included in the census taken for K’lal Yisrael becomes part of the whole. The half shekel was offered as an atonement for the individual souls of Israel, as recompense for the transgression of the eigel – golden calf – the half shekel represents the need to make up the difference in what each soul lacked at the time of that debacle.
According to R’ Bachya, a person “must weigh his actions in life so as to give due weight to his spiritual needs as well as to his physical needs” (R’Bachya, Exodus 30:13, sefaria.org). The half shekel is symbolic of this duality of body and soul, and our responsibility to purify even our physical needs with an effort to focus on the soul. Thus, as well it can be understood that secular activity must be accompanied by a spiritual motive. Everything becomes uplifted for the sake of its transformation toward a higher purpose.
This is the very reason that our souls are on earth – to become sanctified by the divine. And, we find this lesson found in the building of the mishkan as well, were it is clear that the secular nature of the work done to build the mishkan was for the sake of building a sanctuary for the Shechinah. Our main avodas (spiritual service) could be said to be the same as well – to build a place for the Shechinah within ourselves.