Parsha Pekudei - Parshat Shekalim March 5, 2011 29 Adar I 5771 Rabbi Dr. Moshe P. Weisblum
Shabbat Shalom, everyone,
Last November, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was awarded the El-Qaddafi International Prize for Human Rights by Muammar el-Qaddafi at the third EU-Africa Summit in Libya. Established by Qaddafi in 1988, former recipients of the award, which carries a prize of $250,000 include Nelson Mandela, Fidel Castro, and Hugo Chavez. The prize is awarded annually to "international personalities, bodies or organizations that have distinctively contributed to rendering an outstanding human service and have achieved great actions in defending human rights, protecting the causes of freedom and supporting peace everywhere in the world."
At the time Mr. Erdogan received the award, he met top Libyan officials to enhance the flourishing bilateral relations between the two countries.
My dear friends, today we bless the new month of Adar Sheni. Two weeks from now we will assemble to read the book of Esther. One of the key characters of the story of Purim is King Achashverosh. Reading the text, it is that Achashverosh’s behavior was that of an unstable man, putting his first wife Vashti to death for his friend and Viceroy Haman, and then putting Haman to death in favor of his second wife, Esther.
I find the story of the megillah and King Achashverosh analogous to Qaddafi, the self–styled "king of kings of Africa". What are the similarities one might ask? Very simply: money, power, control, and egoism.
What is the source of Qaddafi’s power?
Oil – the dirty business of oil. What hypocrisy. Now, Qaddafi faces a revolt by his own people – wonder of wonders – and the great powers have switched sides, for fear of losing a precious commodity.
Just this week, Qaddafi killed 600 of his own people – yet China and North Korea have killed tens of thousands of their citizens, and no one really cares!
However, in the story of Purim, one single Jew, Mordechai, did not bow to Haman, and that was enough to trigger a death sentence for the entire Jewish population. Millions of people bowed to Haman but one single Jew refused, and Haman blamed all Jews. So many people are killed around the world, and no one cares. But G-d forbid, should one single Israeli inadvertently kills a Palestinian in self-defense, and the United Nations and the entire world rises in a furor of condemnation against the entire state of Israel!
Our sages tell us that the words Megillat Esther mean "to reveal the hidden." The word megillahcomes from the Hebrew word hester meaning "to be hidden". G-d’s name is not mentioned during the reading of the Megillah. The presence of the Almighty is hidden behind the scenes. Who would have believed that Haman, a man of mighty power, viceroy of the empire, would be hanged the next day and that same day a poor Jew, Mordechai, who had had a death sentence hanging over his head, would become the viceroy and the most powerful man in the empire.
Qaddafi has ruled in North Africa for decades. He is one of the richest men in the world, a mass murderer and oppressor of his people. But the hidden G-d watched and said enough. The people arose against the overwhelming odds of Qaddafi’s mighty army and were able to turn world opinion in their favor, even though Qaddafi so far, in control. Yes, the people of Libya have a long way to go, but so far they have used the world’s desperate need for oil – and hypocrisy – to their advantage.
Today we read two Torah portions, which on the face of it, may appear boring. The first is Pekudei, which deals with the fitting of the Tabernacle. The second Torah portion, Shekalim, deals with half a shekel contribution that each individual, rich or poor, is required to give. There is a power hidden message in these two Torah readings. The notion of the unity of the Jewish people represented in the Tabernacle is the secret of our survival. Despite all odds, when we unite, even if only in times of crisis, such as in the time of Haman’s evil decree, we become invincible, unbeatable. It is unfortunate that it is only in a time of crisis such as ancient Persia, the Holocaust, or the Six-Day War, that we are united. Yet, we pray that our hidden G-d will grant all of us wisdom and unity at all times. We pray that in this month of Adar G-d bestows upon us peace and change for the better, for us and for the whole world. Amen.