This parable was shared by Reuven Prager, a Levite on duty who researched and restored the making of the holy half-shekel back in 1997.
This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to Hashem. “Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to Hashem. “The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half-shekel, when you give the contribution to Hashem to make atonement for yourselves. (Exodus 30:13-15)
We are taught that the rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less. The first thing that comes to mind is rich and poor in pocket.The people who give more money to the church or synagogue get a pew up front with their name on it. Poor people stand in the back. In Jerusalem, religious people have a tendency to think of themselves as spiritually wealthy, and they look upon secular, non-observant people as being spiritually poor. The holy half-shekel comes to teach us, that the person who is so far away from G-d in his own eyes–because we are only far away from G-d in our own eyes, God is so close, a breath away–is worth a half-shekel. And the biggest rabbi who sits in a place of high authority is also only worth a half-shekel.
We’re told that the second temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred. What is baseless hatred? It is when I consider myself to be a whole shekel and another person to not even be worth a widow’s mite.
Equals cannot hate equals. We can only hate someone we think of as less than ourselves. If we can acknowledge that we are a half-shekel, and the person sitting across from us also a half-shekel, then we cannot hate one another. The holy half-shekel is the ultimate manifestation of equality of each and everyone of us have before G-d and before man.
If you would like to hear more from Reuven Prager, you might enjoy this: