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Parashat Ki Tisa- The Half That We Don’t See

Parashat Ki-Tisa begins with the Misva of "Mahasit Ha’shekel" – the mandatory half-shekel tax that was imposed upon all members of Beneh Yisrael. The first time this tax was collected, the silver coins were used to make the "Adanim," the sockets that formed the foundation of the Mishkan. All the other parts of the Mishkan were made from materials that the people donated voluntarily. The sockets, however, were supplied through a mandatory half-shekel flat tax imposed upon each and every member of the nation.

One Rabbi commented that the sockets which formed the foundation of the Mishkan represent the foundation of the Jewish religion. Of course, each and every Halachic detail is crucial and indispensable. But the foundation, the basis of it all, is faith in God. Without faith, sincere commitment to the Torah’s precepts is impossible. And this is why the sockets were supplied through a mandatory tax. When it comes to other Misvot, we find some commands that are directed toward certain members of the nation, and some that are binding upon all but with room for some to excel at a higher level than others. Some members will choose to focus more on some areas of Torah than other areas, and levels of commitment will, naturally, not be the same for everyone, as much as we should all be aspiring to excel. But when it comes to the foundation, we are all on the same page. We all share equally the same obligation to firmly believe in God’s existence and providence.

If, indeed, the "Mahasit Ha’shekel" donation represents faith, we can perhaps understand why it required donating a half-coin, rather than a complete coin. A prerequisite of faith is acknowledging that we see only half the picture. We do not have access to the whole picture; we can never truly understand why God runs the world as He does, why misfortune befalls the righteous while the wicked prosper. Oftentimes God’s decisions seem to us unfair, but this is because we see only half the picture, whereas He – and only He – sees the complete picture and has complete knowledge of what’s best for us and the world.

Later in the Parasha, we read that Moshe Rabbenu asked God to show him how he runs the world, the answer to the age-old question of why the righteous often suffer while the wicked prosper – "Har’eni Na Et Kebodecha" ("Show me, if You please, Your glory" – 33:18). God answered Moshe that no man can access this knowledge. Even Moshe Rabbenu, whose level of prophecy far surpassed that of any other prophet, who spoke to God "face to face," in whatever sense that can happen, was not given the answer to this question. Indeed, even Moshe saw only part of the picture.

This should be a great source of comfort for us when we encounter times of hardship and distress. All of us – even Moshe Rabbenu – are in the same "half-shekel" group. We are not supposed to have the answers to all the questions, and we will never understand why God does what He does. The foundation of the Mishkan, of the Torah, is the acceptance of the inherent limitations of our understanding, and believing that the full picture is known only to the Almighty.

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