Cause and Effect


On the first of Adar, the announcements go out regarding shekalim and kilayim.

Talmud, Shekalim 1:1

On the first day of the month of Adar, the bet-din (court of Torah law) would dispatch messengers to every Jewish community regarding two mitzvot pertinent to that time of the year: shekalim, the half-shekel that each Jew contributed annually toward the communal offerings in the Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple), and kilayim, the anti-hybridization laws which prohibit the cross-breeding and mixed planting of different species.

Every morning and afternoon, a collective offering by the entire community of Israel was offered in the Beit HaMikdash. The Torah instructs that each Jew should give exactly half a shekel (“the rich man should give no more, the pauper no less”[6]) annually, so that all should be equal partners in these offerings. Also, the Torah specifically instructs that each year’s offerings should come from that year’s half-shekels, the year to be reckoned from the first of Nissan to the first of Nissan.[7] Thus, the bet-din sent out messengers one month before this date, on the first of Adar, so that the coins could be collected in time for the new round of offerings. To this day, we commemorate the event by reading from the Torah the section that speaks of these half-shekels (Exodus 30:11-16) on the Shabbat that falls on or before the first of Adar.

The second mission dispatched by the bet-din on the first of Adar concerned the laws of kilayim. The Torah commands a series of laws prohibiting the intermixing of various elements and species. These include laws against cross-breeding two species of animals, mixing wool and linen in the making of a garment, cooking meat with milk,[8] and sowing or planting together certain species of plants. It is regarding this last category that messengers of the court were dispatched on the first of Adar, this being the season when the winter sowing begins to make its appearance in the fields; these messengers issued warnings to cleanse the fields of all hybrid growth, and then took the necessary steps against those who failed to do so.

Nothing in Torah is incidental. The fact that these two proclamations were issued on the same day implies an intrinsic connection between them. Indeed, they represent the respective spiritual and physical expressions of the same concept.

The laws of kilayim express the idea that the boundaries of creation are to be respected and safeguarded.[9] Wheat and grapes, or wool and linen, or meat and milk, are each “kosher” elements, which the Jew is permitted and encouraged to make use of toward positive and G-dly ends; but they must be kept separate and distinct. As soon as they are sown, spun or cooked together, they constitute a corruption of the order that that G-d established in His world. They are now assur (“forbidden” and “imprisoned”), and can no longer serve man in his sanctification of the physical creation.[10]

What is true of the physical world also applies to the spiritual reality: here, too, are boundaries and distinctions that must not be violated. A case in point is the spiritual essence of time: each hour, day, week, month and year has its spiritual quality, unique to it alone; in the words of the Talmud, “Once its time has passed, its offering is no longer valid.”[11] Thus there are mitzvot that can be observed only during the day, and mitzvot regulated to the night; mitzvot pertaining to certain hours of the day, or certain days of the week, month or year. There is also the delineation between years, expressed by the law that one year’s shekalim should not be used for another year’s offerings. For though each year seems but a repetition of the cycle of months and dates of its predecessor, each, in truth, possesses a distinct quality and spiritual essence. As Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi writes in his Tanya, “Each year there descends [from On High] a new and renewed light that has never yet shone, which illuminates … all worlds, supernal and terrestrial, that derive their vitality from it.”[12]

Mirror and Priority

This also explains the order in which the above-quoted mishnah lists the two missions that went out on the first of Adar. From a purely technical standpoint, it would seem that the announcement regarding the kilayim was the more urgent one: after all, there remained a full month to the Nissan deadline for the shekalim, while every additional moment that a kilayim-growth remains in a field constitutes a grave violation of Torah law. Furthermore, the shekalim that arrived at the Beit HaMikdash after the first of Nissan could still be included, retroactively, in all offerings of the year: as the Talmud relates, the offerings of the new year were “credited” to all who, for whatever reason, failed to send their half-shekel in time and would do so in the course of the year.[13]

Nevertheless, the Talmud puts shekalim before kilayim, implying that the spiritual delineation of boundaries represented by the shekalim precedes the physical differentiations of kilayim. For while the spiritual and physical realms mirror each other, one must never forget which follows from which–which is the cause and which is its effect. In all matters, the spiritual must precede and determine the material, not vice versa, G-d forbid.

Thus the Torah says: “Tithe, so that you shall prosper.”[14] For the fruitfulness of the earth and its generous supply of its inhabitants with all that sustains life derives from its spiritual counterpart–the generosity of man to man. When man observes the mitzvah of charity, this creates the spiritual conduit through which all earthly blessings might flow.

Based on a letter by the Rebbe to a free loan society, Adar 1, 5724 (February 14, 1964)[15]

Adapted from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe by Yanki Tauber

[6]. Exodus 30:15.

[7]. Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 7a.

[8]. See Shaloh on Exodus 23:19; Rabbeinu Bechayei, ibid.

[9]. Talmud, Chulin 60a; Nachmanides on Leviticus 19:19; Zohar III, 86b. See Peace: A Definition, WIR, vol. VI, no. 22.

[10]. See Tanya, ch. 8.

[11]. Talmud, Berachot 26a (as per Tosfot, ibid.). Cf. Zohar III, 94b: “Every day has its function.”

[12]. Iggeret HaKodesh 14.

[13]. Talmud, Shekalim 3:4; Ketubot 108a.

[14]. As per the Talmudic play on the words asser te’asser (Deuteronomy 14:22), Talmud, Shabbat 119a.

[15]. Igrot Kodesh, vol. XXIII, pp. 114-116.


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