Philadelphia this week, has been one of community, one of reflection and of celebration, where individuals from all over the region, chose by the millions, to stand up and be counted!
Being counted is part of the theme of this special Shabbat. Parshat Mishpatim is one of four shabbatot that have a special name – this one Shabbat Shekalim. A Shekel is an Israeli coin. This Shabbat, includes special readings that tell us how each Israelite was commanded to give a half shekel to the House of Meeting. The giving of the money was the way the community would then take a census and determine its membership units. They did not count the people, they counted the contributions. They asked everyone to contribute one simple coin and by counting the entire collection they would know how many people were in the community. Everyone was asked to give the same and everyone counted.
The commandment to give money to support worship is one of the first commandments. The commandment is for everyone to participate. It is directly related to how we count members of the community. But the amount of the contribution is not the significant factor, it is the participation.
Our Haftarah portion takes place much later in Ancient Jewish history. King Jehoash (9th century BCE) commanded that money be brought to the Temple to make repairs. After a period of time he noticed that individuals were not doing so. He then had a box made, put it next to the alter in the Temple and asked that the priests put any money that individuals gave into that box. That box may have been the first pushke, the first Tzedakah box. This method was more a direct solicitation for needs of the community, it was initiated because without asking people, they were not giving on their own.
This Spring KI will be launching Hazak: An Initiative to Strengthen KI’s Future. It has been 10 years since our last major initiative, Shelanu, it is now time that we all come together again to continue to strengthen KI. The KI leadership will be sponsoring and serving a brunch on Sunday March 4 at 11:30 a.m. to kick-off Hazak, our 171st Birthday and the Temple Judea Museum’s “Raise the Chair” project. You will be receiving your invitation within the next week.
Contributing to houses of worship is a longstanding mitzvah in our community. 3,000 years ago our ancestors recognized that it was necessary to regularly ask for contributions as well as to hold special initiatives so that individuals could stand up and be counted.
At KI we are proud to be part of such a strong and vibrant community, we are proud to be a place where congregants find a fulfilling Jewish community that stands at the corner of tradition and innovation, we are blessed with so many congregants that donate their time and funds to make us strong. I hope you will join us on Sunday, March 4 to celebrate our Hazak Initiative.
Rabbi Stacy Eskoviz Rigler