Biblical Reasonings based on The Teaching of Qedamawi Haile Sellassie
Giving gifts and money spurs feelings of community and unity among Jews. It’s also a special “mitzvah” — good deed– on Purim.
There is a beautiful custom before reading the Hebrew Scrolls in the synagogue; to contribute three half-dollar coins (or their equivalent) to charity. This symbolizes the silver half-shekel which every Jew used to give as dues to the Temple in Jerusalem. The tradition hearkens back to the time, during Israel’s journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, when it was mandatory for all the Son’s of Israel to give a silver half-shekel, as a contribution, for the service of the Holy Tabernacle; as well as for atonement for “the Sin of the Golden Calf”.
But why does the Torah specify a half-shekel instead of a whole? The answer is that by giving only a half, each Jew realizes that he’ll never become “complete” unless he is part of the larger community. Accordingly, Jewish law states that everyone — rich or poor — is to give no more and no less than a half-shekel. This teaches that every Jew is equally important to our national mission. Just as removing one letter invalidates a Torah Scroll, so too the loss of one Jew hinders our destiny.
Sometimes it is through our enemies that we come to realize: Every fellow Jew is precious and integral to the future of our nation. The Talmud says that the biggest problem of the Jewish people at the time of Mordechai and Esther was a lack of unity. It was the wicked Haman who reminded us that we stand together as one people: In plotting genocide, he referred to the Jews as Am Echad (One People) — and planned that they should literally “hang together…sound familar?” In modern times as well, we’ve seen that the Haman’s, of today, thrive when there is Jewish disunity.
For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: (2 Corinthians 9:1)
ALL FOR ONE
On Purim (14 Adar I, 14 Adar II on leap years 15th in Jerusalem Roughly February-March), we send gifts to at least one friend, symbolizing the spirit of kinship which symbolizes our defiance against modern day Hamans. On Purim, we also give charity to at least two poor people. We reach out to each other, so that no one should miss the joy of the occasion.
It is particularly meritorious to send a gift to someone you need to make up with. Just as we would never consider distancing ourselves from a good friend based on our disagreements, so too we should never consider distancing ourselves from any Jew (or group of Jews) based on our differences. In fact, the Talmud says that the epitome of evil in this world — Amalek, from whom Haman descends — was born out of a Jewish refusal to accept others lovingly.
The Talmud says “Kol Yisrael Araivim — each Jew is responsible one for the other. If the ship is sinking, we’re all going down! But when there is love and unity amongst us, even the wrongdoers become righteous and our enemies cannot harm us! For this reason, on Purim we give charity, without investigating the validity of the need. (In contrast to the rest of the year, when we are obligated to ensure that our Tzedakah money is being disbursed properly.)
JAH treats us as we treat others. Purim, therefore, is an auspicious time to ask God to bestow gifts of health, unity and a speedy redemption for the Jewish people. Chag Purim Sameach! Happy Feast of Purim!
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