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KiSisa Midrash Top
KiSisa Midrash Bottom
What do you do when a nation that's just witnessed Hashem face to face decides to make an Eigel Hazahav (golden calf) and destroy their everlasting covenant with Hashem, who just recently miraculously took them out of bondage? You make a census, of course! Strange but true, Hashem commanded Moshe "S'u et rosh Bnei Yisroel" - "Count the heads of Bnei Yisroel."

But this count would be no ordinary head count. According to Hashem's rules, each male member of Bnei Yisroel, over the age of twenty, and up to 60 years, would contribute "one coin" to the treasury of the Mishkan. With this coin, they would ransom their lives which had been forfeited during the chait ha'eigel (sin of the calf). In this way the people would "raise their heads," the literal meaning of Hashem's statement "S'u et Rosh."

Now, Moshe should have been totally relieved to find that his "clients' " sentence was down-graded from annihilation to a coin-toss, but, you know Moshe, he's all nerves when it comes to Bnei Yisroel. You can't pull surprises on his people. And so, Moshe wonders what the value of this coin will be. You see, in those days, people minted their own coins with different weights. So how much weight does it take to redeem a life?

Is it a kikar of silver, worth 3,000 silver coins? But would that kind of cash be excessive and turn the people away from Hashem? Then maybe it's like the hundred silver coins that is the punishment for a man who defames his wife. After all, the eigel episode did defame Hashem's name. Or maybe it's like the punishment for the owner of a goring ox, thirty shekalim, after all, the Bnei Yisroel did give up the Greatness of Hashem for a statue of a calf.

Imagine Moshe's surprise when Hashem revealed to Moshe a coin worth HALF A SHEKEL!

Now that we know the value of the coin, here's the "other half" of the story:

All the Bnei Yisroel had to do was to wait another half a day for Moshe to come down the mountain, but instead, they got "itchy" so they made the eigel to replace Moshe. The "Half" shekel represents the "half" day that they just couldn't wait.

Along the same line of reasoning, a half shekel is equal to a popular coin of that day worth six gramsin. Since the eigel was built during the sixth hour of the day, Hashem chose this value.

A half shekel is also worth ten gerot, reminding Bnei Yisroel that they broke all ten commandments when they worshipped the eigel hazahav.

Now, here's an interesting twist: Some say that the half shekel was to atone for the sale of Yosef by his ten brothers. Yosef was sold for ten silver dinarim. Ten dinarim is worth five shekels. Therefore, each brother got half a shekel out of the sale booty.

There's more to the story than just a coin calculation. Some sources say that the whole eigel episode is the fault of Yosef's brothers! You see, the sale of Yosef caused Yaakov and his family to settle in Mitzrayim. Yosef made his brothers swear that when Bnei Yisroel would leave Mitzrayim, they would take his body with them. When the Egyptians got wind of this, they buried Yosef deep in the Nile. How did Moshe retreive the casket? He wrote a little note to Yosef on a golden tablet. Yosef is known in the Torah by the nickname "ox". The note simple said "rise o' ox" Moshe tossed it into the water and the casket popped on out! Somehow, that tablet ended up in the hands of the Eirev rav. While Aharon was mixing the gold for the eigel, somebody slipped the tablet into the mix. That's how the form of a calf arose. So, you see, it all goes back to the sale of Yosef.

Finally, the half shekel reminded the Bnei Yisroel that "kol Yisroel areivim zeh lazeh" - All of Bnei Yisroel are responsible for one another" No one person is a whole. Each of us is like half a body which is completed when we take responsibility for the actions of one another.

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