Vol 1.31 - Tisa Spanish French Audio Video
13 God showed Moses a fiery coin: As was seen previously,6 God instructed the people to donate materials to the Tabernacle to atone for their involvement in the incident of the Golden Calf. It is in this context that the half-shekel poll-tax is described in this verse as "the atonement money…to atone for your souls."7
Moses was perplexed by the notion that the soul can be redeemed from such a severe sin by a mere piece of silver. Silver and soul are polar opposites: the soul epitomizes the spiritual and silver epitomizes earthliness. Not only is silver taken from the earth, the lowest of the four fundamental "elements"—fire, water, air, and earth8—it is usually found deep within the earth; it is the lowest of the low. Since the whole reason the soul needs to be redeemed is because it has succumbed to earthliness, how can too much earthliness be cured by more earthliness?
So Moses was shown a coin of fire—not by an angel, but by God Himself, for God is not bound by the rules of any order, natural or otherwise. God demonstrated that, in the case of the half-shekel, opposites can become one: silver, the lowest element (earth), becomes fire, the highest element. God's point was not that the source of the half-shekel is spirituality, for that is true of every physical object, nor was His point that the half-shekel becomes a vehicle for spirituality, for that is true of any object used to fulfill a commandment. Rather, God's point was that even the physical half-shekel can be transformed into "fire" and thereby have the power to redeem a soul.
This transformation occurs by virtue of the essence of our souls, which are a part of God. The soul's essence never sins; only the superficial aspect of the soul manifest in the body is susceptible to the ploys of the evil inclination. If we involve the essence of our souls and our entire being in what we do, we can harmoniously blend fire and silver.
A coin given without feeling is indeed cold and unremarkable. But a coin given with the warmth and enthusiasm of the soul's essence is fire—live spirituality—and can atone for the gravest sin. This was the coin of fire shown to Moses.
A parable (some say from the Baal Shem Tov): A person studied to be a goldsmith and silversmith. His teacher taught him all the details necessary to become an expert. But assuming it obvious, he left out one detail: to light the fire.
The lesson embodied in the half-shekel applies to all the commandments we perform. If we perform them with spiritual vitality and enthusiasm, they become coins of fire.9
This does not imply, however, that commandments performed without any apparent enthusiasm are worthless. The essence of every Jew's soul burns with the desire to do God's will; this desire can be temporarily concealed, but it is never absent. Even if we must force ourselves to do God's bidding, our act is still a "coin of fire" by virtue of the inner essence of our soul. Even when we approach another Jew on the street and ask him to put on tefilin or fulfill some other commandment, and he does so just to do us a favor or so we'll leave him alone, his act is still a "coin of fire" by virtue of the inner essence of his soul.10
Allegorically, silver coins and fire are opposites. Fire, which constantly soars upward, is a metaphor for our ardent yearning to transcend our limits and become one with God. The silver coin, in contrast, which is earthly and stable, represents the recognition that we must submit to God's will and therefore remain focused on the physical realm in order to fulfill His plan for creation.
The challenge is to set our "coins" on "fire": to submit to our mission of bringing Divinity into the world with the same fiery enthusiasm we naturally experience in our anxious yearning for transcendence. Normally, we only get enthusiastic about what we want. Therefore, the only way we can "set our coins ablaze" is by calling upon the essence of our soul, the point of consciousness where we are a part of God Himself. When our own consciousness merges seamlessly with God's, we can infuse our submission to His will with fiery enthusiasm, for His desire has become synonymous with our desire.11
|Date Modified:||Date Reviewed:|