When No Perfect Candidate Exists
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
The Talmud teaches us that at the beginning of the month of Adar an announcement was made instructing each person to donate a half a shekel. This half a shekel was used to finance the daily offerings in the Temple. We commemorate this communal collection on the last Shabbat of the month of Adar and read Parshat Shekalim which speaks of the half shekel donation the community was instructed to bring to the Mishkan (portable Temple). Many commentators inquire as to the reason why a half a shekel is the mandated amount. Why not rather give a complete Shekel?
Presidential candidates pointing out the mistakes, flaws and weaknesses of other candidates has been the seasonal sport of late. Many a dusty skeleton has been extracted from the old vaults, some dating back more than thirty years. Additionally, the policy plans of the candidates are being analyzed, local and foreign policy alike. So personal flaws and policy seem to be foremost in our publics consciousness. I believe that the half Shekel has an important and relevant message. We all have closet skeletons, none of us are complete. A careful analysis of our own personal lives will also reveal character deficiencies. The humility required to admit this basic life truth is a fundamental lesson of the half shekel donation. I stand to be corrected but I do not recall one presidential candidate simply saying ‘I was wrong, it was a moral failure on my behalf which I deeply regret. I have corrected my ways in that regard.’ Our very own King David admitted moral failure and simply stated ‘I sinned.’ A great leader is not one who is infallible, a great leader is one who has the humility to admit fault and course correct.
The giving of the half shekel represents giving oneself over, warts and all, to the community for communal service. Whilst both personal character and policy are undoubtedly extremely important, it seems to me that the values of humility and self sacrifice required to serve in the best interest of the national community are unfortunately absent from our public consciousness. Humility and commitment to the the collective are the eternal messages of the half shekel.