Parashat Pekudei Torah Reading: Exodus 38:21-40:38
The cycle of our Jewish year is marked by different types of milestones: Shabbat every week, intermittent holy days, festivals and fasts and a number of special Shabbatot (plural of Shabbat) that set the spiritual/theological stage for upcoming holidays.
The Shabbat that commences today at sundown is Shabbat Shekalim. Shekalim is the first of a series of special Sabbaths leading up to Passover (yup, Passover, folks!). Each special Shabbat is marked in the synagogue with a special maftir (concluding) aliyah which delves into the theme of the special Shabbat and continues with a uniquely designated Haftarah from the Prophets that otherwise would not be associated with that week's Torah reading.
The theme of Shabbat Shekalim is the very egalitarian demand of a minimal required contribution of a shekel by everyone in the community of Israel as described in the Torah. These funds were used for the upkeep of the Tabernacle in the wilderness and later, the Temple in Jerusalem. In other words, the concept of paying dues to your synagogue is rooted in the Torah!
I am fascinated by this as the theme of a special Shabbat that is meant kick off our spiritual preparation for Passover. Highlighting our interdependence, our shared responsibility for our central communal institutions may be important, but we might not think of this obligation as a source of spiritual energy. It is only through Shabbat Shekalim that we can appreciate the spiritual depth of this obligation: it is through our coming together as equals in community that we can lead full Jewish lives; it is through our creating and sustaining community together that each of us as individuals has the space and the resources to grow in our Jewishness.