Silver Half and Golden Calf
A silver half and a golden calf are the two outstanding features of this weeks Torah portion. Our Sages saw an interesting relationship between the two not easily apparent from the order in which they appear.
The silver half-shekel which each male from age twenty and up was required to contribute to the construction of the Sanctuary and which served as the instrument of a national census also served as an atonement for the sin of the golden calf. If Jews who only forty days earlier had heard G-d speak to them were capable of ascribing their exodus from Egypt to a force represented by a golden calf, it was necessary for them to reestablish their direct relation with the Creator and Giver of the Torah by building, as it were, a home for Him on earth.
This was the role of the Mishkan, whose foundation was formed from those silver half coins, for many centuries. This was the function of the Beit Hamikdash in Jerusalem for close to a millennium. And this has been the role of the mikdash meiat (mini-sanctuary) the synagogue throughout the close to two millennia of exile.
The struggle for the soul of the Jewish State in our time is between the G-d-given religious lifestyle represented by the silver half and the man-made deities represented by the golden calf. It is to be hoped that just as our ancestors came to their senses and abandoned the golden calf and sought rehabilitation in the silver half, so too will their misguided descendants make a similar move which alone can guarantee Israel forever.