Parshas Shekalim - How did the shekalim save the benei yisrael from Haman?
The gemara says in Megillah (13b)
אמר ריש לקיש, גלוי וידוע לפני מי שאמר והיה העולם שעתיד המן לשקול שקלים על ישראל. לפיכך הקדים שקליהן לשקליו, והיינו דתנן, באחד באדר משמיעין על השקלים ועל הכלאים.
Reish Lakish said, “It was revealed and known before Hashem who created the world through his speech, that Haman would count shekalim against the benei yisrael to destroy them. Therefore Hashem commanded them to bring shekalim before Haman gave his shekalim as a bribe to Achashveirosh, and that is what we learnt in the mishna, “On the first of Adar beis din make an announcement that people should bring their shekalim for the korbanos in the beis ha’mikdash and that people should beware of kelaim growing in their fields.”
- Why does the gemara refer to Hashem as מי שאמר והיה העולם?
The Benei Yisaschar explains as follows:
The passuk in this week’s sedrah (35:22) says
וַיָּבֹאוּ הָאֲנָשִׁים עַל הַנָּשִׁים כֹּל נְדִיב לֵב הֵבִיאוּ חָח וָנֶזֶם וְטַבַּעַת וְכוּמָז כָּל כְּלִי זָהָב
And the men came in addition to the women, any person generous of heart brought brooches, earrings, rings, and pendants — gold objects of all kinds.
The gemara says in Shevuos (26b) says that we learn from this passuk that concerning nidrei hekdesh (donations to the beis ha’mikdash and korbanos) you have to give what you thought to donate, even if you never said you would do anything.
(דברים כ"ג, כ"ד) מוצא שפתיך תשמור ועשית אין לי אלא שהוציא בשפתיו וגמר בלבו מנין ת"ל (שמות ל"ה, ה') כל נדיב לב
The passuk says, “You should guard the words that come out of your mouth and do according to them,” I only know if he said words with his mouth (that he needs to keep to his word), how do I know if he even just decided to do something (but did not say anything) that he needs to keep to his thoughts, so the passuk comes to teach us, “Any person generous of heart.”
The Maharsha uses the gemara in Shevuos to explain the following gemara in Makkos (24a)
ודובר אמת בלבבו כגון רב ספרא
“The passuk in Tehillim praises someone who speaks truth in his heart, an example of this is Rav Safra.”
רב ספרא - בשאלתות דרב אחא (שאילתא לו), והכי הוה עובדא דרב ספרא היה לו חפץ אחד למכור ובא אדם אחד לפניו בשעה שהיה קורא ק"ש ואמר לו תן לי החפץ בכך וכך דמים ולא ענהו מפני שהיה קורא ק"ש כסבור זה שלא היה רוצה ליתנו בדמים הללו והוסיף אמר תנהו לי בכך יותר לאחר שסיים ק"ש אמר לו טול החפץ בדמים שאמרת בראשונה שבאותן דמים היה דעתי ליתנם לך
Rav Safra was saying shema and someone offered his a price for some merchandise. Since Rav Safra did not respond, the purchaser thought he wanted a higher price, so he kept on raising his offer. When Rav Safra finished saying shema, he said to the purchase that he would sell the merchandise to him at the original price he offered, since he had intended to accept that offer.
The normal understanding of this gemara is that Rav Safra was so truthful that he would adhere to whatever he had thought to undertake. The Maharsha however offers an alternative explanation of the gemara:
אף להדיוט היה מקיים מחשבתו כדין הקדש שקנה במשבה כדכתיב ״כל נדיב לב״ (שמות ל״ה, כ״ב)
Even with regards to mundane matters he would keep what he had thought to do, just as the halacha dictates in the case of hekdesh, as the passuk says כל נדיב לב.
It is evident from the Maharsha that the halacha that you have to keep to what you thought regarding hekdesh, is not because of the strictness of hekdesh, because if so, there would be no comparison between this halacha and everyday business dealings. Rather it is evident that the explanation of the halacha of כל נדיב לב is that dealings with hekdesh requires a greater level of truthfulness than dealings with an ordinary person. Therefore we can understand that Rav Safra applied this greater level of truthfulness to his dealings with ordinary people because he was a tzaddik.
Based on this Maharsha, the Benei Yisaschar explains as follows:
Haman said to Achashveirosh (Megilas Esther, 3:8)
וַיֹּאמֶר הָמָן לַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ יֶשְׁנוֹ עַם אֶחָד מְפֻזָּר וּמְפֹרָד בֵּין הָעַמִּים בְּכֹל מְדִינוֹת מַלְכוּתֶךָ וְדָתֵיהֶם שֹׁנוֹת מִכָּל עָם וְאֶת דָּתֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֵינָם עֹשִׂים וְלַמֶּלֶךְ אֵין שֹׁוֶה לְהַנִּיחָם
And Haman said to the King Achashveirosh, “There is one people scattered and divided among the peoples in all of the countries of your kingdom, and their laws are different from those of any other people, and the laws of the king they do not observe, and it is not worthwhile for the king to leave them.”
We have a general rule that the word מֶּלֶךְ in the Megillah refers to Hashem. Haman criticized the Jewish people for being inconsistent in their observance of the halacha, and therefore reasoned with Hashem that He should let them be destroyed. This reasoning however, could only be understood in the light of Haman’s claim to consistency from within his own perspective. That means, if Haman was honest, he could say to Hashem, “But the Jewish people deal dishonestly with you.”
To refute Haman’s basis for making this claim, Hashem commanded the benei yisrael to donate shekalim for the korbanos in the beis ha’mikdash. Since the money that they had earned during the course of the year was of sufficient quality and honesty to allow the korbanos to be purchased, it must be that the benei yisrael adhered to the level of honesty required for nidrei hekdesh (just as Rav Safra did, according to the Maharsha).
Therefore Hashem said to Haman, “You claim to be honest and the Jewish people dishonest. However it is evident from the fact that the money of the Jewish people is acceptable for the purchase of korbanos, that the standard of honesty that they adhere to is far higher than anything you can possibly imagine in your purely mundane dealings.”
The reason why the gemara refers to Hashem here as מי שאמר והיה העולם is that since the foundation of Bereishis is the dvar Hashem, which is kadosh, Hashem determined that the benei yisrael who are honest to the degree required for devarim she’bi’kedushah would survive in olam ha’zeh, and Haman, who had challenged them and was found lacking, would not.