(2 Kings 12:1-17)
March 12, 2005
This Shabbat begins the cycle of four special Shabbatot which precede Passover. On each of these Shabbatot a special Torah reading is appended to the regular Torah reading for the maftir or final aliyah and a special haftarah is read for the prophetic portion. This year, Shabbat Shekalim, the first of these Shabbatot, is also Rosh Hodesh. This means that three Torahs will be read, one for Parshat Pekudei, one for Rosh Hodesh and the last for Parshat Shekalim. Since two special events occur on this Shabbat, there are two possible \”special\” haftarot, but after due consideration, most authorities decided that the haftarah for Shekalim takes precedence.
The special Torah and haftarah readings for this Shabbat, were meant as a reminder that the fiscal year in the Temple begins in Nisan, the month of Passover and that it was now the time for everyone to pay the half shekel tax used for the communal needs of the Temple. The haftarah, which relates to the proper and legitimate use of these funds and of communal religious property, related Jehoash\’s charge to the priest: \”And Jehoash said to the priests: \’All the money of the hallowed things that is brought in to the house of the Lord… let the priest take it to them, every man from him that bestoweth it upon him; and they shall repair the breaches in the house.\” (verses 5-6) The later parallel account of this story, found in 2 Chronicles relates details as to why these repairs were necessary: \”And it come to pass after this, that Joash was minded to restore the house of the Lord… for the sons of Athaliah, that wicked woman, had broken up the house of the Lord, and also all the hallowed things of the house of the Lord did they bestow to the Baalim.\” (24:4;7)
Rabbi David Kimche (Provance 12th century) contrasts Jehoash behavior with that of his wicked predecessor, Queen Athaliah. She and her sons were responsible for the Temple\’s ill-repair and for its empty coffers because they had redirected the Temple\’s funds to idolatrous purposes. According to Kimche, the people stopped giving contributions to the Temple because of what they saw as the malfeasant use of their contributions. Jehoash\’s \”reformist\” movement restored the people\’s faith in their institutions and they again began contributing to the Temple\’s upkeep. He made it possible for the Temple to be repaired and the religious life of the Temple to be perpetuated.
The message is clear. Not only does the public have an obligation to support the institutions which underscore their existence but it is equally important that those who manage these institutions do so with the utmost honesty and principle. Only then will these institutions be worthy of the public\’s trust.
This study piece is offered as a service of the United Synagogue Conservative Yeshiva. It is prepared by Rabbi Mordechai (Mitchell) Silverstein, senior lecturer in Talmud and Midrash at the Conservative Yeshiva. He is a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
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