1. Our Rabbis taught, “Begin with blessing.” The greatest blessing possible is the fulfillment of the promise alluded to in this week’s Torah reading, Parshas Vayakhel, that the Jews be gathered in from all four corners of the world.

And a foretaste of this is already being experienced at present, for Jews from many different nations are gathering together in our Holy Land. Furthermore, this ingathering of exiles is being carried out “with mercy and kindness.” Instead of having to secretly flee from those countries, the Jews are being allowed to leave openly.

There are still countries where Jews are not granted permission to emigrate and they must flee under shades of concealment. Moreover, this flight endangers their safety. Nevertheless, the ingathering of those Jews who are allowed to reach Eretz Yisrael in a peaceful manner has a positive effect on the status of those whose aliyah at present involves danger. The spiritual influences generated ensure that ultimately, these Jews will also be released from danger and reach Eretz Yisrael where they can live with prosperity and peace of mind. And this is reflected in the manner in which the present immigrants to Eretz Yisrael have found prosperity and peace of mind when compared to the circumstances prevailing in the countries from which they have left.

Every concept present in the world at large must also be reflected in microcosm within the personal world of every individual Jew and applied in his divine service. Similarly, the concept of gathering in the dispersed members of our people must be reflected in a inner process of gathering in and unification, binding together our ten different conscious powers and unifying them as a single holy entity.

This is alluded to in the Torah reading of the previous week, Parshas Ki Sisa, which is also directly related to the Torah reading of the present week, for the first passages of that parshah are read again this week as Parshas Shekalim. That portion relates how “atonement for one’s soul” is attained by giving “ten gerah.” Nevertheless, these ten gerah are [half of] “a holy shekel.

Furthermore, beyond the ingathering of one’s own potentials, there is also a direct allusion to the importance of joining together with other Jews in the spirit of “Love your fellow man as yourself.” For a Jew is required to give only a half-shekel, and indeed, is forbidden to give more, “The rich may not give more1 ... than a half-shekel.”

What is the reason for this command? To teach us that our ten soul powers are only half a shekel and in order to be a complete entity, one must join together with another Jew.2

The half-shekalim were given for the census of the Jewish people. A census emphasizes the unique importance possessed by each individual. Together with that emphasis, however, comes the concept that every Jew’s true existence is bound up with that of his fellow man. Only when he fulfills the mitzvah “Love your fellow man as yourself,” can he reach his own individual fulfillment.

The Alter Rebbe highlights the importance of these concepts by placing the declaration,3 “Behold I accept upon myself the fulfillment of the mitzvah, ‘Love your fellow man as yourself,’ ” at the very beginning of the prayer service.4

The half-shekalim were used to bring the communal offerings on behalf of the entire Jewish people. Herein there was also an emphasis on completion and perfection, for the offerings and the utensils used to bring them were required to be “perfect and complete.”

This also serves as an allusion to the imminence of the time when we will again bring these offerings in the perfect and complete Beis HaMikdash, “the Sanctuary of G‑d established by Your hands.” At that time, the communal sacrifices will again be purchased from the half-shekalim which the Jews will give.

Although we are in exile at present, we can still perform a service representative of the giving of the half-shekalim, giving to tzedakah. Indeed, it is customary to give three half-shekalim to tzedakah before Purim. This custom is surely fulfilled by those who are 20 years old and even those who are merely Bar Mitzvah. And it is fitting that children be trained in its fulfillment and that they give of their own funds for this purpose. (Their parents, in turn, should help them so that they can make these gifts without feeling strained.)

And these gifts will hasten the coming of the time when, as mentioned at the beginning of Parshas Shekalim, “the heads of the Jewish people will be uplifted.” Similarly, as the conclusion of Parshas Ki Sisa mentions, Moshe’s face will shine. Since there is “a spark of Moshe within every Jew,” this phenomenon will be reflected in the countenance of every Jewish man, woman, and child in the Era of the Redemption. Their faces will shine and then, there will be no need for a veil, for G‑d’s essence will be revealed throughout the world.5

May this take place in the immediate future and may it be hastened by the distribution of money to be given to tzedakah at present, for Friday is a day particularly appropriate for giving tzedakah. And most importantly, the present time is particularly appropriate, indeed, the most appropriate time that could be, for the coming of the Redemption.6

Then “Moshe will gather,” i.e., Moshe, “the first redeemer and the ultimate redeemer,” will gather every single Jewish man, woman, and child, “a great congregation shall return there.” And we will proceed “with our youth and with our elders... with our sons and with our daughters” to Eretz Yisrael, to Jerusalem, and to the Third (and threefold) Beis HaMikdash. May this take place in the immediate future.