Parshat Pekudei/Shabbat Shekalim
Rosh Hodesh Adar II
(2 Kings 12:1-17)
March 8, 2008
This year Shabbat Shekalim coincides with Rosh Hodesh Adar 2. This means that we will read from three Sifrei Torah. From the first Torah scroll, we will read the entire weekly parasha in six aliyot. For the seventh aliyah, we will read from the second scroll the special Torah reading for Shabbat-Rosh Hodesh. After reciting hatzi kaddish, we will read the special Torah reading for Shabbat Shekalim. The haftarah for this special Shabbat is linked to the theme of Shekalim. According to Sefardic custom (minhag), at the end of this haftarah, the reader will add the first and last verses from the haftarah for Shabbat Rosh Hodesh. This is also practiced in some Ashkenazi synagogues but is frowned upon by Askenazic authorities. (See Shulhan Aruch Orah Hayim 144:2)
The haftarah for Shabbat Shekalim recounts the story of the child king, Jehoash, who under the influence of his mentor, the high priest Jehoiada, restores fiscal accountability to the maintenance of the Temple in Jerusalem. He insures that the funds collected for the Temple are properly utilized and that the intended restoration of the Temple takes place. The story notes, in particular, the integrity and reliability of those who oversaw the work done in the Temple: \”No check was kept on the men to whom the money was delivered to pay the workers, for they dealt honestly (ke be\’emuna haem osim).\” (v. 16)
This verse plays an interesting role in a halachic debate noted in the Talmud regarding the accountability of those who manage tzedakah funds: \”Our Rabbis taught: The collectors for charity are not required to give an account of the moneys entrusted to them for charity, nor the treasurers of the Sanctuary of the moneys given for holy purposes. There is no actual proof of this [in the Scriptures], but there is a hint of it in the words: \’No check was kept on the men to whom the money was delivered to pay the workers, for they dealt honestly.\’\” (Bava Batra 9a) The Tosafot, sages from 12th century France, chimed into this discussion to explain why they thought the verse from our haftarah could not be used as an actual proof for this Talmudic ruling. They concluded that the administrators in the Temple were exceptionally righteous and therefore did not represent all those who administer funds. In this way the Tosafot questioned the universal applicability of the Talmud\’s ruling.
Echoes of this discussion resonate in later halachic debate. Rambam (Maimonides) records the Talmudic prescription as is. (Hilchot Matanot Aniyim 9:11) Rabbi Joseph Karo, in the Shulchan Aruch follows in his stead. (Yoreh Deah 257:2) The Askenazi authority, Rabbi Moshe Isserles, however, qualifies this teaching, adding perhaps the more realistic attitude already found in the Tosafot quoted above. He states: \”In any case, in order that these gabbaim should maintain their integrity before God and Israel, they should give a regular accounting. This refers to gabbaim who have a reputation for honesty. But those who are not considered honest and those who acquired their position through force must give a regular account as do those who have been appointed over the community. The community also can remove said person from this position and appoint another as it sees fit even if there is no fear of malfeasance. (Ibid.)
Rabbi Elijah, the Gaon of Vilna (18th century Lithuania) cites a midrash found in the Tanhuma Pekudei 3: \”an honest man\” – this refers to Moses who was made treasurer over the Sanctuary. Despite having authority over the Sanctuary\’s funds, according to the Gaon, Moses called for oversight and transparency to insure that his actions were considered beyond reproach. Moses should serve as a model for all of us.