1. There are four special Torah readings which take place before the month of NisanShekalim, Zachor, Parah and HaChodesh. Every concept in Torah contains a lesson in how we should lead our lives; the word “Torah” in fact stems from the word “lesson” (hora’ah). This is especially true for the four parshiyos, which have been singled out from the regular order of Torah readings to be repeated in this specific order. Parshas Shekalim, since it is the first of the four, has special significance among them. Its lesson is of general significance, and conveys the fundamental and primary principles which should guide our G‑dly service.

The basic idea of giving Shekalim is that of tzedakah (charity). This is particularly true today after the Beis HaMikdash has been destroyed, and the mitzvah of giving shekalim in its original form is no longer possible. Today this mitzvah is commemorated through giving a coin worth half of the standard currency (similar to the half-Shekel) to tzedakah on the Fast of Esther.

Tzedakah represents all the mitzvos, “outweighs” them all” and is called the mitzvah by the Jerusalem Talmud. In addition, tzedakah must be done constantly, for two reasons:

a) G‑d created a world order in which there is giving and receiving. This was the reason that need and want are present in the world — in order that there be the possibility of performing tzedakah and kindness.

Tzedakah, therefore, is an intrinsic part of the creation. This is reflected in the fact that a command to give tzedakah was not really necessary: it is a logical imperative, and therefore binding on all human beings. It is even part of the nature of animals, which are kind to their children and, often, even to others.

Since tzedakah is an essential feature of the nature of the world, it is present as long as the world still exists, i.e. constantly.

b) Everything G‑d gives to the world is similar to His “tzedakah.” His gracious endowment of our very life and sustenance is clear proof of His great kindness. Nevertheless, this kindness is granted middah k’neged middah — commensurate to our actions. We must therefore involve ourselves in charitable acts in order to merit His “tzedakah.” And since we are constantly dependent upon His tzedakah, our charitable acts must also be constant.

This explains the fundamental importance of Parshas Shekalim over the over three special parshiyos. It is connected with tzedakah, which is constant, and applies in all places and situations.

2. These two explanations actually correspond to two different dimensions of tzedakah. Tzedakah in the simple sense is possible only when the recipient is lacking something. However, this is only when a person gives tzedakah. There is a second type of tzedakah — G‑d’s tzedakah — which comes even when the recipient is not really lacking anything at all. Instead of merely taking one out of an impoverished state, His tzedakah could be compared to granting someone wealth.

This idea can be seen from Jewish law, which states that one must give tzedakah in proportion to one’s ability. It is well known that G‑d Himself fulfills all the mitzvos, and therefore He must give tzedakah in proportion to His limitless, unfathomable greatness. The same idea finds expression even in our performance of this mitzvah. One category of tzedakah is that of gemilus chassadim — giving an interest-free loan. Gemilus chassadim does not have the same qualifications of tzedakah which is in the form of a donation. In order for a person to be eligible to receive a donation, halachah requires that he be needy. If his total worth is 200 zuz or more, he is not permitted to receive donations; only if it is 199 (which is the numerical value of tzedakah) zuz or less. Gemilus chassadim, on the other hand, can even be given to a wealthy person.

These two dimensions of tzedakah are actually interdependent, for only when the lower form (to fulfill a lack) is carried out does G‑d do His part and give a boundless blessing from Above.

The explanation of this is as follows: only in a low situation (where there is something lacking) is it necessary for G‑d to give a boundless revelation. We see this from the Talmud’s (Megillah 13b) statement that the shekalim given by the Jewish people in the generation of Haman nullified his evil decree. This must have permanent significance, for the Torah is not a history book. What lesson can we derive from the effect brought about by their shekalim?

The explanation of this is that in order to nullify the powerful evil embodied by Haman, it was necessary to have a revelation that completely transcended the order of worlds (seder hishtalshelus). When there is no such threat, a lower revelation will suffice; but the severity of the lack elicits a limitless, revealed response from G‑d. We therefore see that this level which transcends seder hishtalshelus is revealed only where there is lack. Similarly in our case: the higher dimension of tzedakah (G‑d’s response) is closely connected with the tzedakah given to fulfill someone’s want.

These same two dimensions of tzedakah are reflected in the two types of shekalim — that given for the communal sacrifices (terumas hamizbe’ach) and that given for the construction of the base of the Mishkan (terumas ho’adonim). The general function of sacrifices is to achieve atonement, as the verse itself says (Ex. 30:15), “to atone for your souls.” Atonement is necessary only where there is something lacking, and therefore corresponds to the first dimension of tzedakah — the level of G‑dliness commensurate with the worlds. The second type of shekalim, however, involved the construction of the Mishkan, which was constructed as the place for G‑d’s presence to be revealed. This revelation from Above — even where there is no lack per se — matches the second dimension of tzedakah, the infinite G‑dly revelation.

We can find these same two dimensions within the Mishkan itself. There are two opinions as to the primary function of the Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash. The Rambam holds that its main purpose is the offering of sacrifices, while the Ramban finds foremost importance in its role as the place for the revelation of G‑d’s presence — especially above the Aron, the Holy Ark which contained the tablets.

[Their variant conclusions reflect the varied nature of their works. The Rambam intended his Mishneh Torah purely as work of halachah, governing how people should act. He therefore stressed the service performed in the Beis HaMikdash, that of the sacrifices.

The Ramban, on the other hand, was explaining the Chumash, which contains the command, “Make for Me a Mikdash so that I shall dwell among you.” He therefore stressed the G‑dly revelation (the fulfillment of the promise, “I shall dwell”) in the Mishkan. This fits particularly well with the general spirit of the Ramban’s commentary, which (as he writes in the introduction to this work) contains Kabbalah. This revelation of Pnimiyus HaTorah is closely related to the revelation of G‑dliness.]

The offering of sacrifices therefore corresponds to fulfilling a lack (atonement) and bringing a revelation commensurate with the world. The revelation of G‑d’s presence corresponds with bringing down an infinite revelation which transcends the worlds. And since the Mishkan contained both, it must also have a third level of revelation higher than both of them — a G‑dly revelation that has the power to unite the finite and infinite together.

Since everything has its source in Torah, it must contain these two dimensions of finite and infinite revelation. We find them reflected in the aspect of Torah which existed in the Mishkan, the Aron, which contained the two tablets.

We find something curious in the verses which describe the Aron (Ex. 25:10,17,21). First the Torah describes the construction of the Aron and the placing of the tablets inside. It then describes the Aron’s cover, the kapores. It then repeats the placing of the tablets as follows: “And you shall place the cover above the Aron and place in the Aron the testimonies [i.e. the Tablets] that I will give you.” This expression is most curious, since it speaks of the tablets being placed only after the Aron was covered, implying that the tablets were placed on top of the Aron rather than inside!

The Or HaChayim HaKadosh says that this alludes to the fact that the tablets represented a higher spiritual level than the kapores. From this we see the two dimensions discussed above embodied in the tablets. The tablets within the Aron represent the first level, that of a finite level of G‑dliness being drawn down into the world. But there is a second dimension of Torah which is higher than the previous level. This is Torah not as it comes down to affect the world, but as it is itself united with G‑d. A similar idea is reflected in the existence of keruvim above the Aron. The two keruvim represented G‑d’s love for the Jewish people, a love which transcends even G‑d’s connection with Torah.

We find these two categories of finite and infinite within Torah even in our generation. Pnimiyus HaTorah is infinite in comparison with Nigleh; so too more recent revelations of Chassidus Chabad in comparison with earlier works in Pnimiyus HaTorah.

This can be understood in view of the Alter Rebbe’s famous parable of a king whose son became deathly ill, his only cure being to crush the most precious jewel of his crown, mix it with water and feed it to him. When he finally gave the cure, the son’s mouth was firmly closed; yet he still poured the mixture over his mouth in the hope that perhaps a single drop would enter and save his life. The same applies to the revelation of Chassidus, which is G‑d’s cure to awaken us from the darkness of exile and give us new life and energy in serving G‑d.

To analyze this further: being faint and weak alludes to two opposite traits. On the one hand it indicates a lack of life, corresponding to the first type of tzedakah — filling an emptiness. On the positive side, though, the word “weak” (chalosh) also means “lottery” (goral), which, as explained regarding Purim and Yom Kippur, represents a tremendously high revelation. Within the person, this is reflected by the fact that all his senses and faculties are hidden within him and raised to a higher internal level.

In the parable, the son swallows the cure, which becomes part of him. The same applies to Chassidus, which becomes internalized and brings an awakening and energizing of the individual. This applies in the both extremes we have been mentioning: a) It fulfills that which was lacking, and b) Brings a tremendous revelation from Above. Consequently, even someone who is “unconscious,” G‑d forbid, is awakened from his faint and proceeds to then pick up and drink all the other drops which did not find their way into him. As mentioned above, the highest revelations come to the place of need, and accomplish not only a fulfillment of that need but the greatest form of revealed good. The most complete revelation of this is the revelation of a dimension of Torah higher than both Nigleh and Pnimiyus, which will be experienced fully in the Messianic Age.

3. The practical lesson from all this is as follows: Parshas Shekalim stresses tzedakah, as does the month of Adar (which we bless this Shabbos), which contains Purim and the mitzvah of matanos l’evyonim. Every individual must therefore add in tzedakah. This applies in the physical sense, through giving money, food and drink. It also applies in the spiritual sense, through helping another person, giving advice, learning with him, etc.

The main thing, however, is the tzedakah of G‑d, which includes His revelation of Pnimiyus HaTorah, including both its study and it being brought to others. May it be G‑d’s will that the increased study of Chassidus bring us to the immediate revelation of Mashiach, then we will be able to learn the secrets of Torah directly from him, since he is both a king and a teacher (melech and rav). This is indeed part of the king’s function — to provide all the needs of his subjects.

The appointment of Melech HaMashiach has in reality already occurred, as we say in the verse (Ps. 89:21), “I have found My servant Dovid; I have anointed him with My holy oil.” All that is needed is for the people to accept him as king and for the actualization of the total unity (hiskashrus) between the king and the people — with the complete and total redemption.