On the morning of February 1, 2003, the Columbia Space Shuttle, returning from its STS-107 mission, was destroyed upon re-entry, 16 minutes before its scheduled landing. All its crew members perished, including Ilan Ramon, a combat pilot in the Israeli Air Force, who was the first Israeli astronaut. Prior to his departing to space on Space Shuttle Columbia, where his mission included the manning of a multispectral camera for recording desert aeroso, he arranged to take kosher food as well as a Kiddush cup, a Torah Scroll, and a dollar from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, of righteous memory.
When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, each Jew contributed an annual half-shekel to the Temple. The 1st of Adar marked
the beginning of the collection of the shekalim. In commemoration, the Torah reading of the Shabbat that falls on or before Adar 1 is supplemented with the verses (Exodus 30:11-16) that relate G-d's commandment to Moses regarding the first giving of the half-shekel.
"Parshat Shekalim" is the first of four special readings
added during or immediately before the month of Adar (the other three being "Zachor", "Parah" and "Hachodesh")
This Shabbat is Shabbat Mevarchim ("the Shabbat that blesses" the new month): a special prayer is recited blessing the Rosh Chodesh ("Head of the Month") of upcoming month of Adar, which falls on Sunday and Monday of next week.
Prior to the blessing, we announce the precise time of the molad, the "birth" of the new moon.
Click here for molad times.
It is a Chabad custom to recite the entire book of Psalms before morning prayers, and to conduct farbrengens (chassidic gatherings) in the course of the Shabbat.