1. This week brings together several events, each one of which provide important lessons in the service of G‑d:

a) The weekly portion, parshas Mishpatim, which continues the revelation of the giving of the Torah as our Sages declared, “Just as the first (commandments) were given at Sinai, these were given at Sinai.”

b) Parshas Shekalim, the first of the four portions read in preparation for Pesach. Parshas Shekalim describes the half-shekel which was original given by each member of the Jewish people to make the sockets for the Sanctuary. Subsequently, the half-shekel was given each year to purchase the communal offerings.

c) Today is also the Shabbos which blesses the month of Adar. Furthermore, it is the eve of Rosh Chodesh (which influences the Shabbos as evident from the fact that Tzidkasechoh Tzedek is not recited in the Minchah prayers).

The month of Adar is associated with the holiday of Purim when the Jewish people reaffirmed their commitment to the Torah as our Sages commented on the verse, “And the Jews carried out and accepted.” Our Sages explained that, at the time of the Purim narrative, the Jews “carried out” what they had “accepted” at Mount Sinai.

The fact that these three events fall on the same day implies that they share a connection. Although on the surface, they — particularly, the concepts of Mishpatim and Shekalim — may appear as diametrically opposite, there is an intrinsic bond between them.

This connection can be understood through the preface of this fundamental principle. The Mishnah defines a Jew’s purpose in life, stating, “I was only created to serve my Creator.” That service involves establishing a dwelling for G‑d in the lower worlds and is characterized by two basic thrusts:

a) Service with mundane matters, e.g., our service during the week when we are involved in the 39 labors which are necessary to provide ourselves with our needs.

b) Service in the realm of holiness, e.g., the service of Shabbos which does not involve effort in mundane activities. Rather, our energies are focused on holy matters, study and prayer. Even the physical activities which are carried out on Shabbos, eating, drinking, and the like, become expressions of holiness for they represent the fulfillment of a mitzvah, taking pleasure in the Shabbos.

The 39 labors which are forbidden on Shabbos are derived from the activities which were carried out in the Sanctuary. This implies that all of a Jew’s mundane activities are intended to make a sanctuary for G‑d in the world at large, i.e., to transform the world into a dwelling for Him.

Though these efforts involve the material substance of the world, it does not imply that the nature of that material substance changes. On the contrary, the intent is that the entire context of material things and mundane affairs be refined to the extent that they do not pose a contradiction to holiness, indeed, they become — to borrow a Talmudic expression — mundane food prepared in a manner of holiness. Nevertheless, even when this service is completed, these articles and activities remain material and mundane in nature.

We see this concept exemplified in the construction of the sanctuary where a certain portion of the Jews’ gold, silver, and the like, was donated and became part of the Sanctuary, the majority of the wealth they possessed, however, remained theirs.1 Similarly, though some of the material substance with which we are involved becomes transformed into articles of holiness, e.g., leather becomes fashioned into tefillin, the majority remain material in nature.

These two aspects of service are alluded to in the expression “Turn from evil and do good.” “Turning from evil” implies that the material substance of the world will not interfere with the service of holiness; “doing good” implies that the material entities themselves will express that holiness.

The above applies during the week when a person is involved with mundane activities. Shabbos, in contrast, is characterized by an all-encompassing atmosphere of holiness. Even one’s physical activities are mitzvos.

Based on the above, we can appreciate the lessons taught by Parshas Mishpatim and Parshas Shekalim which reflect these two approaches to service. Parshas Mishpatim deals primarily with the laws governing human relations, laws involving disputes between a person and a colleague. Thus, it is concerned with mundane matters and is intended, primarily, to negate the possibility of disputes and other undesirable occurrences. In this manner, it parallels the service of “turn from evil.” Though it ensures that the mundane activities will be carried out according to the Torah, they remain mundane and worldly.

[Because of the worldly nature of these laws, they can be comprehended by human intellect. Indeed, human intellect obligates that such laws be enacted2 and, therefore, the Torah must emphasize that these commandments were also given at Mount Sinai, i.e., that they are G‑dly in nature.]

Parshas Shekalim represents the other approach. The half-shekel given was a material coin. Indeed, it was an inanimate object, the lowest form of existence in this world, one in which even the potential for growth was not revealed. Nevertheless, this half-shekel itself became a holy entity. The half-shekels mentioned in the Torah were smelted down and used as the sockets, the foundation of the Sanctuary. Similarly, in subsequent years, the half-shekels were used to purchase the communal offerings3 and, furthermore, the half-shekels themselves were considered as consecrated property.

This concept can be further developed in the light of a halachic principle. The half-shekel “may not be given in [by combining] many gifts, i.e., today, one gives some, tomorrow, some.... Rather, it must be given in its entirety as one at one time.” Thus, the half-shekel is considered a single entity that becomes consecrated in its entirety, without a portion remaining for mundane use. Furthermore, the manner in which it is given, “at one time,” implies a service which is above a human being’s usual potential. Generally, a person proceeds step by step, ascending level by level. In contrast, the giving of a half-shekel represents a radical change, an immediate and total transformation.

Thus, the service Shekalim appears to be the direct opposite of the service of Mishpatim which involves mundane matters. The contrast between the two is further emphasized by the fact that, unlike the laws of Mishpatim, the obligation to give a half-shekel was not self-understood. Indeed, even after he received G‑d’s command, Moshe, who represents the ultimate of intellectual achievement in the sphere of holiness, remained in wonderment over this command until G‑d showed him a coin of fire actually demonstrating how the mitzvah should be fulfilled.

The combination of the lessons of parshas Mishpatim and parshas Shekalim on a single Shabbos teaches us that these are two stages in the service of G‑d. In the initial stages of service, one is primarily involved in “turning from evil,” i.e., one’s activities are primarily involved in insuring that the mundane aspects of life should not be in contradiction to holiness. Afterwards, one proceeds to a higher level, “doing good,” service within the realm of holiness itself.

This, however, is not the totality of the lesson to be derived from the combination of these two parshiyos. Indeed, we see that even a person who finishes the first stage of service, e.g., a tzaddik, is not totally involved in holiness. Rather, he must devote a certain portion of his activity to material concerns.

This demonstrates that these two services are complementary, each one making a necessary contribution — which could not be achieved through the other service — in the task of making this world a dwelling for G‑d. One might assume that the transformation of the mundane into the holy is what is essential for a Jew’s service. Though such efforts are necessary, for a Jew’s service to be complete, it must also include involvement in the mundane aspects of worldly activity.

To explain: The service of shekalim has an advantage because it establishes unity between man (and the world as a whole) and the level of G‑dliness which transcends creation. In contrast, the service of mishpatim involves only the levels of G‑dliness which are enclothed within creation. There is, nevertheless, an advantage to the service of mishpatim. Through this service, unity is established with G‑dliness within the context of the mundane realities of the world. In contrast, the perspective of shekalim requires a person to rise above the context of worldliness, to nullify himself to the influence from above (since it is only through such nullification that the worldly could be transformed into holiness).

Thus, the service of shekalim establishes the dwelling for G‑d from G‑d’s perspective alone. In contrast, the service of mishpatim allows the world to become a dwelling for G‑d within the context of its own sphere of reference. Accordingly, the establishment of a dwelling for G‑d must combine both services. It must reflect G‑d’s desire for a dwelling, a desire which transcends the limits of intellect. Simultaneously, however, G‑d wills that this desire also permeate through and be enclothed in the level of intellect so that the G‑dliness which transcends creation can become one with the world itself, as it exists on its own level.

This is possible only through the influence of G‑d’s essence. G‑d’s essence has no limitations whatsoever. Accordingly, it is able to bring about the fusion of opposites necessary to establish “a dwelling,” i.e., a place where the essence of G‑d is revealed, “in the lower worlds,” within the context of their own level. Thus, the combination of the parshiyos Shekalim and Mishpatim reflect the fusion of these two essential services.

On another level, the combination of these two services is reflected within each of the parshiyos themselves. As mentioned above, our Sages emphasized that the laws of parshas Mishpatim are a continuation of the revelation of Mount Sinai, showing that even those concepts which can be grasped and comprehended by human intellect must be influenced by the self-transcendence and self-nullification which characterized the reception of the Torah at Sinai.

The same concept is alluded to in the conclusion of the parshah, which describes how the leaders of the people, “saw G‑d and ate and drank.” This can be interpreted in a positive context. Their vision of G‑d permeated through and influenced their physical activities, eating and drinking.4

Conversely, parshas Shekalim relates how G‑d showed Moshe “a coin of fire.” Through Moshe’s sight, the concept was able to be grasped and internalized by him, and then through his efforts, by the Jewish people as a whole. Similarly, the gift of the half-shekel brought about atonement for the sin of the golden calf, i.e., it refined the lowest aspects of our beings and brought them complete atonement.

2. The fusion of the concepts of shekalim and mishpatim is further emphasized this year when they are read on erev Rosh Chodesh. Rosh Chodesh is an intermediary between the weekdays and Shabbos. Though work is permitted on Rosh Chodesh, it is not referred to as “a day of action.”5

In Kabbalistic terminology, the concept can be explained as follows: During the week, the Sefirah of Malchus receives influence from Za’er Anpin (G‑d’s emotional attributes). On Rosh Chodesh, Malchus receives influence from the Sefirah of Chochmah (wisdom), a higher level. On Shabbos, Malchus ascends to its source which is higher than Chochmah.

To explain these concepts in Chassidic terminology: During the week, our service focuses on revealing the G‑dliness which is invested in the world and is expressed through the ten utterances of creation. This level of G‑dliness leaves place for the perspective of worldliness and, therefore, our service is focused on mundane matters.

On Shabbos, the level of G‑dliness associated with the natural order is elevated6 and the transcendent levels associated with the name Y‑H‑V‑H are revealed. Since the worldly aspects of existence are nullified, it is forbidden to do work, even work that is associated with the refinement of the world. On Shabbos, there is no place for the mundane, the environment is one of all-encompassing holiness.

Rosh Chodesh represents a fusion of these two aspects. The aspect of G‑dliness which transcends the world (which is revealed within the level of Chochmah) is drawn down within the world (through Malchus). Thus, it is unlike the weekdays when only the aspect of G‑dliness which relates to the world is revealed; nor is it like Shabbos, when the revelation of the transcendent aspects of G‑dliness causes the mundane aspects of reality to be negated. Instead, on Rosh Chodesh, the transcendent aspects of G‑dliness are revealed within the context of the world.

There is another dimension of Rosh Chodesh which relates to the fusion of the mundane and the transcendent. In the mussaf service of Rosh Chodesh, we recite twelve expressions of blessing, reflecting how each Rosh Chodesh is associated with the other eleven Rashei Chadashim of the year.7 Thus, there is a connection between Rosh Chodesh Adar and Rosh Chodesh Sivan when the Jews camped before Mount Sinai, prepared to receive the Torah.8

As explained on many occasions, the giving of the Torah represents the nullification of the decree separating the higher realms from the lower realms. This implies that not only will the lower realms become negated and transformed to a higher level of existence, but that even within the context of existence on the lower realms, unity will be established with the higher realms.

This union is reflected in Rosh Chodesh which, on one hand, is not “a day of action,” i.e., there is a revelation of the G‑dliness which transcends the world. There is, however, no prohibition against work, demonstrating how that revelation permeates through the creation as it exists within its own context.9

3. The above shares a unique connection with the coming month, the month of Adar. As explained above, the central feature of the month of Adar is the holiday of Purim which is associated with the giving of the Torah. When the Torah was given, there was a great revelation which “forced” the Jews to accept it. Thus, there was a question regarding their commitment to Torah. To state the concept in terms of the ideas discussed previously, the Jews’ connection to Torah came because of the revelation from Above and was not expressed within the context of their own existence. In the Purim narrative, the commitment shown by the Jews which brought about the Purim miracle came when there was no Divine revelation and thus reflects how their self-nullification came willingly, as an expression of their own beings.

Accordingly, the celebrations of Purim also permeate through the realm of worldly existence as evidenced by the fact that there is no prohibition against work. Also, the celebrations of Purim surpass the celebrations of other festivals, lifting a person beyond the limits of intellect as our Sages declared, “A person is obligated to become so intoxicated on Purim that he does not know the difference...” This reflects the revelation of the highest levels of G‑dliness in a manner in which they permeate through the limits of our world. Accordingly, in the Messianic age, when the celebration of all the other holidays will be nullified, Purim will continue to be celebrated.

This reflects the revelation of G‑d’s essence which is associated with the complete mesirus nefesh shown on Purim, a commitment emanating from the level of yechidah. This concept is also related to the name of the holiday, Purim, which means “lots.” In Chassidic thought, it is explained that a lottery reflects a revelation of the utter transcendence of G‑d’s essence.

This revelation begins on the Shabbos on which the month of Adar is blessed and is intensified throughout the month, as our Sages stated, “From the commencement of Adar, we increase our celebration.” This concept is particularly relevant this year when Shabbos falls erev Rosh Chodesh Adar and thus, there are three successive days (Shabbos and the two days of Rosh Chodesh) when the happiness of Adar is emphasized. This creates a chazakah, a presumption that can be accepted as established fact, regarding the happiness of the days that follow until the ultimate of happiness is reached on Purim.

This happiness should be reflected in an increase in the study of Torah which is connected with happiness, as, the verse states, “the statutes of G‑d gladden the heart.” In particular, increases should be made in the three services of Torah, prayer, and deeds of kindness.

In this context, it is worthy to mention the importance of working to provide every Jew (beginning with those in one’s immediate surroundings and including even those in the distant corners of the world) with everything that is necessary to celebrate Purim in a complete manner. This, in turn, will increase the blessings which G‑d will grant each individual.

May the joy we experience in these, the last days of exile, hasten the coming of the ultimate joy,10 the coming of Mashiach. May we “join one redemption to another,” and connect the redemption of Purim to the Messianic redemption. May it come in the immediate future.