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Shekalim: Against a Negative

“Why do you weigh out money without getting bread and exerting your efforts for that which does not satisfy? Listen well to Me and you eat well, and your soul will delight in rich food (Isaiah 55:2).”


The prophet is describing weighing with scales, meaning comparing one thing against the other. They would put a certain weight on one side of the scale and their money on the other side. They would measure having a lot of money against having little money. They would measure satisfaction against hunger. However, the verse says, “One who loves silver will never be satisfied with the silver he has (Ecclesiastes 5:9).” The pursuit of money will always leave the person with a sense of, “there should be more.” In other words, money is weighed against its absence, or its negative. No wonder the prophet describes toiling without any satisfaction. We will only have a part of what we want; a Half Shekel.

However, Torah study and service of God cannot be weighed. They cannot be measured or calculated. There is no way to place them on a human scale. They are on knowable. The Half Shekel is a statement that our service of God and Torah study present us only with half the scale, there is nothing to place on the other side to which to compare our accomplishments, for we have no idea how to calculate their value. In fact, the only thing we can conceive is the effort. The effort alone is worth far more than any specific accomplishment.

The Half Shekel is a statement of effort, of which just a little, not even a complete coin so to speak, can take us all the way to the highest heavens.

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