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Divrei Yoel Parshas Shekalim


Adapted by Zefanyah Yosef Porter

The Shabbos preceding Rosh Chodesh Adar is referred to as Parashas Shekalim. For maftir, the parashah of the shekel hakodesh is read in commemoration of the half-shekel head tax collected in the times of the Beis Hamikdash. The Ramban has an interesting comment on Parashas HaShekalim: he tells us that the shekel was called the "shekel hakodesh," because it is used for all measurements in the Torah. Its function in areas of halachah and mitzvos causes it to be given the title "kodesh" by the Torah. The Ramban goes on to tell us that the Hebrew of the Torah is called "Loshon Hakodesh" for the same reason. Hashem created the world with this Hebrew, the Torah is written with this Hebrew, and in general, all holy words are in this Hebrew. This is a great lesson indeed! An ordinary piece of metal merits the exalted title of "kodesh" when used for holy purposes by Hashem. Biblical Hebrew is so sanctified that we no longer speak it unless in the context of davening or learning! (See Chasam Sofer on Orach Chaim 85.) The tremendous power of source and use is thus clearly seen. By a Torah standard, it is imperative to look beyond the surface.

While we see the great power of positive and holy acts to sanctify different facets of our lives, we unfortunately also see that evil actions and twisted roots wield tremendous power, and hence, we must distance ourselves as much as possible from all negative things. For every force on the side of holiness, there is a counter-force in the spheres of evil. Perhaps with this perspective, we can understand that the Ramban cited above sheds light upon the happenings of today, particularly in the realm of language. As Torah-true Jews, we have a language that is known to us --- Loshon Hakodesh. Those who do not believe in the Torah also have a "national language"--- Ivrit. Some people may believe that there is some kind of connection between the two languages, however this could not be farther from the truth. Not only is Ivrit, being a completely Zionist- fabricated language, not constructed or written like Loshon Hakodesh, but there is also a deeper truth about Ivrit. Ivrit is a language manufactured by the Zionists in order to throw off the yoke of Heaven. They created this language in order to have a nationalistic language, like all other countries, in a complete rejection of the Torah. They sought nationalism as a replacement for religion. So we see a vast, vast difference between the holy language of Loshon Hakodesh and the profane language of the Zionists. The Satmar Rebbe, ZY"A, was one of the greatest fighters against Ivrit. Another notable opponent of Ivrit was the great Rosh Yeshiva of Lakewood, R' Aharon Kotler, ZT"L.

The Satmar Rebbe, ZY”A, extensively discusses the issue of Ivrit in the third section of his sefer, Vayoel Moshe, “Maamar Loshon Hakodesh”. In Siman 26, the Rebbe explains that even if the Zionists had changed nothing from the Sephardic dialect of Loshon Hakodesh, it would still be forbidden for the Ashkenazim to learn it or to speak it since it was instituted by heretics. To illustrate this concept, the Rebbe cites a teaching from Sha'alos Uteshuvos Ohel Yaakov that regarding the suggestion that Birkas Kohanim should be performed every shabbos, the author concedes that in theory this might be correct, however we would not do it in practice since it was suggested by a wicked person. In Siman 29 of “Maamar Loshon Hakodesh,” the Rebbe explains that teaching and speaking Ivrit in America is far worse than doing so in Eretz Yisroel. Although the usage of Ivrit is avodah zarah whether spoken in Eretz Yisroel or in America, those living in Eretz Yisroel who learn and speak it have a slight excuse since there is both practical benefit and societal pressure to speak Ivrit. In America, neither of these reasons applies.


The Gemara tells us a compelling story. R' Chiya would travel from town to town and teach the children Torah. However, R' Chiya had a unique approach to teaching Torah that began long before the study session. The Gemara tells us that R' Chiya himself would prepare all the preliminaries to such an extent that he started by planting the flax with which to make the nets that he used to trap the animals , the skin of which he would flay to make the scrolls that he wrote, from which he would teach the children. Why did he go to all this trouble? The Meforshim tell us something very powerful: R' Chiya exerted all this effort so that the education would be 100% pure and holy. We can understand from this the great necessity to ensure that the education of our children is coming from a completely holy source, and conversely, the need to block and fight against all studies that do not come from a pure source.

In the time of the Satmar Rebbe, ZY”A, one of the great dangers posed by modern Hebrew was its introduction into the school system. The Rebbe fought vehemently against any word of Ivrit in schools. In addition, the Rebbe was a fearless fighter against any heretical studies and books both in and out of school. The Rebbe discussed this issue numerous times (e.g., Vayoel Moshe 50; in a drasha Parashas Korach 5726 / 1966; and Kuntres Chidushei Torah Uderashos Pirkei Avos Shiur 5696 / 1936). The Rebbe understood, just like R' Chiya, that if we want to have ehrliche generations that will not be swept along with the tide of heresy, we must make sure that the education of our children is pure --- pure from the source and pure in application. If this is the path we follow, we will have a “shekel hakodesh,” and we will have “Loshon Hakodesh”. Ivrit and Zionism are the polar opposites of all positive Torah education and learning, and this point is made abundantly clear in the parashah of Shekalim as we gaze through the lens of the Ramban.


As Jews who learn and believe in the holy Torah, we view something even as physical as money as something holy when utilized in the service of Hashem. Through the Torah's designation of the shekel as “kodesh,” since it is used for all measurements in the Torah, a seemingly ordianry coin is catapulted to the lofty title of “holy”. A similar (although not entirely comparable) situation exists regarding Loshon Hakodesh. This stands in stark contrast to a language of heresy, Ivrit, a language to which no religous Jews should have any connection. The Rebbe famously states in Divrei Yoel that it is better to bow down to a cross 100 times in a day than to learn Ivrit for even one moment. We learn from this that the root of Ivrit is so terrible, so sunk in impurity and in the power of the Satan, that the severity of learning it far exceeds idol worship, one of the severest transgressions of the Torah.

We must be vigilant to guard ourselves from all the negative forces of the world and to fight heresy with all our strength. If we want to be strong enough to fight against the ever-strengthening forces of the Satan, we must learn the lesson of this special week.