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Shekalim: The Weight of My Accomplishments

“There was no one in all of Israel as praiseworthy for his beauty as Absalom; from the bottom of his foot to the top of his head there was no blemish in him. When he would have his head barbered,, at the end of every year he would have his hair barbered, because it became heavy upon him and he had it barbered, the hair of his head weighed (Vishakal) two hundred Shekels by the Kings weight (II Samuel 14:25-26).” The text begins by describing that, “from the top of his foot to the top of his head it was no blemish in him.”  The Verse is describing a great man who had neither physical nor spiritual blemish.  What happened to Absalom?

He had his hair weighed. He looked at the measure of his hair and became arrogant. It was not the beauty of his hair, nor its length, that made him arrogant, it was the weight of the hair that was cut.

Absalom was a Nazirite and was permitted to cut his hair only annually, when it became uncomfortably heavy. But when he weighed that heavy burden he became arrogant; it was as if he perceived the weight of the hair removed as a sign of what he had spiritually accomplished.

One who begins to weigh his spiritual accomplishments and finds them significant can all to easily become arrogant.

Perhaps from this we can understand the mitzvah of the Half Shekel: A full Shekel, the full weight of my spiritual accomplishments, will serve as a distraction, as an opening to arrogance. We are therefore instructed to only offer a Half Shekel, as if to say that no matter what we have accomplished, we are only part of the way there.

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