you actually saved yourself

Friday, 2 March, 2018 - 4:38 am

 They were two good friends, traveling together in a Moskvitch 412 at night on a frozen Ukrainian road. Suddenly, the ancient car coughed and stalled, refusing to go any further. They waited in the freezing cold for a car to go by. One of them began to turn blue, and almost froze, but his friend knew exactly what to do: he began to massage the bluish body hard in order to get the blood flowing again and keep him alive until help came.

When help did come after a long wait, the doctor said to the savior: “Bravo for saving your friend, but you should know that you actually saved yourself as well; if you hadn’t exerted yourself to massage him and save him, you too would have frozen to death.”

In Parashat Ki Tisa, we were commanded to give half a shekel.

This half-shekel is really a tax that every Jew was commanded to give once year, towards the expenses of the Beit Mikdash.

But why not bring a whole shekel? Everything in Judaism demands perfection, especially when it comes to giving to Hashem. An animal being sacrificed has to be whole, the bikkurim (first fruits) have to be beautiful, choice; so why half a shekel?

When the Torah comes to talk about the half-shekel, it starts by saying “each man should give an atonement for his soul”. When you give an atonement for your soul, you’re giving your own worth. And here is the main message: You are worth only half. The other half is the other person, and only together will you become a whole. Only the together is wholeness.

In simple words: Give half, because you are only half!

When you give to that other half, you are really giving to yourself. When you massage your friend in order to keep him alive, you are really, in those moments, doing those same acts, really and truly saving your own life. It is not for nothing that the word “natan” reads both ways, because when you give you are also receiving.


Shabbat Shalom,


Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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