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Shekalim: I Will Pay

“If it pleases the King, let it be recorded that they be destroyed; and 10,000 silver talents, I will count out into the hands of those who do the work, to be brought to the King’s treasuries (Esther 3:9).” Haman is a brilliant strategist. He understands that Achashveirosh is a king who refuses to take direct responsibility for any major decision. He therefore never names the “people” he once destroyed, and he he never suggests that Achashveirosh have then killed, but rather that the King record that “they be destroyed.” He then promises to do something that expresses great respect for the King:


My father zt”l was desperate to keep convince a man to grant his wife a religious divorce, a “Get.” After years of negotiations, my father raised $10,000 to pay this man. The man was not satisfied with the money. He insisted that it be delivered in one dollar bill’s. He then insisted that my father, the prominent Rosh Yeshiva, count out the money dollar by dollar. He wanted to humiliate and disgrace my father.

I think of that scene when I read Haman’s promise to Achashveirosh. I picture Haman as promising the King that he personally will count out the 10,000 talents of silver, one by one, as an expression of his servitude to the King.

The King does not refuse the money. He promises Haman that the money will be “given” to him, meaning, it will first be deposited in the King’s treasuries (you can’t ‘give’ money you don’t have, which would have been the case if Achashveirosh refused Haman’s money) and then, it will be given to Haman. Achashveirosh insists that Haman understand that the money comes from the king.

We have Haman counting out the money dollar bill by dollar bill. We have Haman using money to honor the king. We had a king insisting that the person counting the money understand that all the money comes from the King.

The mitzvah of Shekalim  is very different. The King does not ask for a huge sum, but a simple coin of little value. The King will have His agent, Moshe, count the money counting coin by coin to honor the people who gave it, not to honor the King. It may be a coin of little value to us, but God honors it as something priceless when He commands the greatest Navi to count each Half Shekel.

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