Parshat Shekalim, Israel, Pesikta Rabbati, Pesikta de Rav Kahana, PR, Second Temple, sin, the golden calf, census, collection, shekel, Oxford University Press, Temple, aggadic midrashim, Pesikta de-Rav Kahana, Arnold Goldberg, biblical verses, Abraham Goldberg, destruction of the Temple, Byzantine period, Shekalim, literary compositions, Bernard Mandelbaum, Temple tax, the Virgin Mary Arnon Atzmon, Jewish Studies, Rav Kahana, Pesikta Rabbati Arnon Atzmon, shekels, Flavius Josephus, Haftorah for Parshat Shekalim, Song of Songs Rabbah, Flavian Rome, Cambridge University Press, Parshat Shekalim Parshat Shekalim
JSQ Jewish Studies
QuarterlyVolume 22 (2015) No. 4 Yair Furstenberg The Midrash of Jesus and the Bavli's Counter-Gospel Martha Himmelfarb The Mother of the Seven Sons in Lamentations Rabbah and the Virgin Mary
Arnon Atzmon From Census to Atonement: Parshat Shekalim in Pesikta de Rav Kahana and Pesikta Rabbati Ayelet Seidler literary devices
in the Psalms: The Commentary of Ibn Ezra Revisited Mohr Siebeck
From Census to Atonement: Parshat Shekalim in Pesikta de Rav Kahana and Pesikta Rabbati Arnon Atzmon* A. Introduction
: The Biblical and Post-Biblical Background of Parshat Shekalim In the section of the Torah traditionally entitled Parshat Shekalim (Exod 30:1116), God directs Moses to enact a special procedure in taking the census, which is meant to prevent a divine plague that would be the result of simply counting the people. Rather than counting heads, Moses is to collect a half-shekel from each Israelite. There are two main interpretive possibilities as to why the children of Israel were instructed to donate the half-shekel. The first possibility is that they needed to conduct a census, which would have been dangerous if done by a simple counting of heads. According to this understanding, the proceeds of the head count, which were to be used for Tabernacle upkeep, were merely a by-product of the census. However, an alternative understanding sees the main objective of the commandment to raise funds needed for the upkeep of the Tabernacle; according to this argument, the census was only a by-product. In either case, the text itself does not create a binding norm for such a collection. There is no perennial commandment to take a census through a collection of half-shekels, nor does the Torah mandate an annual collection of a half-shekel in order to fund the Temple service.1 While there are some echoes elsewhere in the Bible concerning a census and/or the use of the proceeds for the building or maintenance of the Tabernacle or Temple, nowhere is there an explicit reference to an annual half-shekel tax collected from every Israelite in order to maintain *I would like to express my gratitude to Beit Shalom Kyoto Japan for their financial support. 1See Gerald J.Janzen, Exodus (Louisville: Westminster John Knox
, 1997) 21921; William H.C. Propp, Bible: Exodus 1940 (Anchor Bible, vol. 2A; New York: Double day, 2006) 5348. Jewish Studies Quarterly 22, 352376 DOI 10.1628/094457015X14437790456195 ISSN 09445706 © Mohr Siebeck 2015 Author's e-offprint with publisher's permission.
(2015) Parshat Shekalim in Pesikta de Rav Kahana and Pesikta Rabbati 353 the place of worship. According to Exod 38:2527, the "silver of those who were counted of the congregation" was used to construct the sockets in the Tabernacle. Two other censuses were taken by Moses in the wilderness (Num 1:15 and 26:15), but neither of them mentions a collection of money. 2 Kgs 12:718 describes a collection of funds for the maintenance of the First Temple during the reign of Jehoash, but it does not mention a census. However, the Chronicler connects this story with the "tax imposed on Israel in the wilderness by Moses" (2 Chron 24:9). In this author's eyes, Jehoash's collection was a continuation of a tradition begun by Moses himself. Neh 10:3, a text describing the beginning of the Second Temple period, mentions the collection of funds for "ser vice in the house of our God," but there the amount is a third of a shekel, and Nehemiah does not describe this collection as the continuation of ancient biblical law. Scholars have debated whether Nehemiah's enactment was short-lived or whether it served as the basis for the later commandment of the half-shekel, a custom known from the Second Temple period.2 Post-biblical literature begins to use this passage from Exodus as a basis for a prolonged historical polemic concerning its connection with the annual collection of the half-shekel and its use as funding for the daily Tamid offering.3 Whoever established this practice seems to have based it on the biblical precedent of the collection of the half-shekel in 2Historical evidence as to the collection of the half-shekel is found from the end of the Second Temple Period, in the writings of Josephus, Wars of the Jews 7:218: "on all Jews, wheresoever resident, he (Vespasian) imposed a poll tax of two drachms, to be paid annually into the Capitol as formerly contributed by them to the temple at Jerusalem" (trans. Thackeray, Loeb Classical Library). See a lengthy discussion in Martin Goodman, "The `Fiscus Iudaicus' and Gentile Attitudes to Judaism in Flavian Rome," in Flavius Josephus
and Flavian Rome, ed. J.Edmondson etal. (Oxford: OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
, 2005) 16777; Marius Heemstra, "The `Fiscus Judaicus': Its Social and Legal Impact and a Possible Relation with Josephus' Antiquities," in Jews and Christians in the First and Second Centuries, ed. P.J. Tomson and J.Schwartz (Leiden: Brill, 2014) 327347; Mikael Telbe, "The Temple Tax as a Pre-70 CE Identity Marker," in Formation of The Early Church, ed. J.Adna (Mohr Siebeck: Tьbingen, 2005) 1944. 3The Temple tax (didrachmon) and its transformation into the loudaikon telesma levied by the Romans, and later perhaps into the aurum coronarium collected by the Tiberian patriarchs are well attested in historical literature, but they are not the main concern of this article. Concerning these issues, see Amnon Linder, "The legal status
of the Jews in the Roman empire
," Cambridge History of Judaism, vol. 4, ed. Steven T.Katz (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) 137139; and Naftali S.Cohn, The Memory of the Temple and the Making of the Rabbis (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania
Press, 2013) 113118. Author's e-offprint with publisher's permission.
the wilderness.4 According to some sources, the anchoring of the practice in the biblical passage was meant to intimate that the custom of collecting the half-shekel and its use to purchase Tamid offerings was observed uninterruptedly from the biblical period.5 Some of the Second Temple sources contain ample testimony as to the opposition that this practice aroused among other sects. An alternative interpretation is found in Qumran literature, where the census described in Exodus 30 was indeed an eternal enactment; however, every person was counted only once in his life, upon reaching majority age.6 The New Testament also echoes opposition to the collection of the half-shekel tax from the masses.7 Finally, according to the Scholion commentary on Megillat Taanit, a later source that does contain some authentic Second Temple traditions, the Boethusians/Sadducees opposed the custom of the half-shekel as well
4Tradition ascribes this enactment to the Pharisees, although the historical accuracy of this ascription is questionable. See Sara Mandell, "Who Paid the Temple Tax When the Jews Were under Roman Rule?" HTR 77/2 (1984) 223232. Some scholars have dated this enactment to the end of the Second Temple period. Ephraim Urbach provides a relatively early dating, to the period of John Hyrkanos; see E.E. Urbach, "Mahtzit Ha-shekel" (Hebrew), Hahalacha (Givatayim: Yad Latalmud and Massada, 1984) 4042. While the evidence he presents is not definitive, the fact that Qumran literature offers an alternative application of the biblical command the giving of the half-shekel as a one-time rite of passage demonstrates that the obligation did exist from the end of the second century BCE or at the latest, the early first century BCE. 5See Jacob Liver, "The Half-Shekel Offering in Biblical and Post-Biblical Literature," HTR 56/3 (1963) 17398. 6Jacob Liver, "The Half-Shekel in the Scrolls of the Judean Desert Sect" (Hebrew), Tarbiz 31/1 (1962) 1822; Moshe Beer, "The Sects and the Half-Shekel" (Hebrew), Tarbiz 31/3 (1963) 2989; Hanan and Esther Eshel, "4Q471 Fragment 1 and Maamadot in the War Scroll," Hikrei Eretz: Studies in the History of the Land of Israel, ed. Z.Safrai etal. (Hebrew; Ramat-Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1997) 22334. 7Referring to Matt 17:2527, in which the half-shekel Temple tax collectors come to Peter's house and ask him if Jesus, their master, pays the Temple tax. Through a parable, Jesus denies the obligation of a Jew to pay this tax: "From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others? When Peter said, From others, Jesus said to him, Then the children are free." Despite his principled opposition, Jesus does instruct his disciples to use a coin found in the belly of a fish he has just caught to pay the fine, "so that we do not give offense to them." This passage has received wide scholarly attention
, but the most relevant for our issue is David Flusser, "Matthew 17: 2427 and the Dead Sea Sect" (Hebrew), Tarbiz 31/2 (1963) 1506, who views this parable as echoing Jewish opposition to the payment of the shekel tax. For other readings, see Edward J.Carter, "Toll and Tribute: A Political Reading of Matthew 17:2427," Journal for the Study of the New Testament 25 (2003) 41331; Ayse Tuzlak, "Coins out of Fishes: Money, Magic, and Miracle in the Gospel of Matthew," Studies in Religion 36 (2007) 27995. An excellent treatment of this story is found in Jonathan Klawans, Purity, Sacrifice and the Temple: Symbolism and Supersessionism in the Study of Ancient Judaism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006) 229231.
Author's e-offprint with publisher's permission.
(2015) Parshat Shekalim in Pesikta de Rav Kahana and Pesikta Rabbati 355 as the financial participation of all of Israel in the financing of the daily sacrifices.8 Echoes of these Second Temple polemics concerning the collection of shekels to finance daily sacrifices found their way into the Mishnah. For instance, mShekalim 1:4 cites a dispute between the sages and the priests who refused or perhaps even prohibited priests from being obligated to pay the half-shekel.9 Similarly, the previous mishnah hints at opposition to paying the tax when it notes, "once they [the money-changers] sat in the Temple they would begin to exact a pledge [from those who had not yet paid]." A parallel in Tosefta 1:6 expands the explanation of this practice: When they sat in the Temple they would begin to exact pledges from Israelites for their shekels, so that that public sacrifices would be offered from them. A parable to one who had a wound on his leg and the doctor tied him down and began to cut off his leg to heal him.10 So too the Holy One, blessed be He, took pledges from Israel for their shekels so that public sacrifices could be offered from them, for public sacrifices appease [God] and atone for Israel with their Father in heaven. So too we have found in connection with the shekels collected from the children of Israel in the wilderness, as it says, You shall take the expiation money from the Israelites (Exod 30:16).11 In the rabbinic imagination, the annual shekel collection is a painful procedure, but one that eventually brings healing, i.e., atonement. Most importantly, the rabbis draw an analogy between the collection of the shekels in the Second Temple period and the collection of shekels in the wilderness, hinting at the antiquity and continuity of the custom. 8See the edition of Megillat Taanit by Vered Noam (Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Tzvi, 2003) 16573, as well as Eyal Regev, The Sadducees and Their Halakhah (Hebrew; Jerusalem: Yad Ben-Tzvi, 2005) 1328, and Eyal Regev, "The Sadducees, the Pharisees and the Sacred: Meaning and Ideology in the Halakhic Controversies between the Sadducees and Pharisees," Review of Rabbinic Judaism 9 (2006) 13140. 9See Meir Bar-Ilan, "Polemics between Sages and Priests Towards the End of the Days of the Second Temple" (Hebrew), Moreshet Israel 8 (2011) 39. Cana Werman surmised that according to one priestly opinion, the half-shekel was not an obligation but merely a custom accepted by the people. She then goes on to connect this position with the position found in Qumran. See Aharon Shemesh and Cana Werman, Revealing the Hidden (Hebrew; Jerusalem: Mossad Bialik, 2011) 127. 10 My translation assumes that this refers to an actual amputation of the leg by the doctor (similar to the story cited in Sifra Emor 1). Nevertheless, it is possible that the phrase mehatekh be-besaro should be translated less "dramatically" as referring not to amputation but to a simpler and milder surgical procedure
. See Saul Lieberman, Tosefta Ki-Fshutah, Pt. 4 (New York: JTS Press, 1962) 661, n.18. 11Saul Lieberman, Tosefta: The Order of Moed (New York: JTS Press, 1962) 201202. Author's e-offprint with publisher's permission.
According to the Mishnah, the sages enacted a public announcement of the shekel collection on the first of Adar (Shekalim 1:1). Announcing the collection on this date would provide sufficient time to bring the shekels to the Temple before the first of Nissan, the date on which sacrifices would begin to be purchased with these funds.12 At some point in history, presumably after the destruction of the Temple, the actual donation of the half-shekel was replaced with the practice to read the "section about the shekels (parshat shekalim)" in the synagogue, as is described in mMegillah 3:4: "On the first of the month of Adar that falls on the Sabbath they read the section about the shekels."13 At some point the rabbis thought it essential to ensconce in Jewish historical memory both the shekel collection itself and the connection between it and the half-shekel census collection in Exodus 30. The Toseftan parallel to this mishnah adds that "they would read the Haftorah from the section concerning the shekels in connection with Jehoida the priest," a reference to 2 Kings 12, the story of the collection of the shekels during the reign of Jehoash.14 This reading further bolsters the connection between Exodus 30 and the annual collection of the half-shekel to finance the daily sacrifices. An additional expression of this trend, albeit later, can be detected in a dispute found in bMegillah 29b as to the identification of the "section about the shekels" read in the synagogue. According to Rav, they would read the section in Numbers 28 about the daily Tamid offering, assumedly again in order to strengthen the connection between the shekel collection and the financing of the daily sacrifice. In contrast, Shmuel's opinion, which became the accepted halakhah, was that they should read Exodus 30, in order to anchor the practice of collecting the shekels in its "source" the original shekel collection that took place in the wilderness. In clarifying Shmuel's position, the Talmud questions how the Second Temple collection of the shekel to finance public sacrifices could be derived from Exodus 30/38, where the money is de signated for the financing of the sockets used in the Tabernacle. The answer is found in a quote ascribed to R.Joseph: "There were three
12See Hanoch Albeck, Seder Moed (Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
: Mossad Bialik and Dvir, 1952) 184. 13According to Ephraim Halivni, who posited that at an earlier stage both practices existed in parallel, if the first of Adar fell on the Sabbath they would read the passage in the synagogue, but if it fell on any other day of the week, they would "announce the shekel-collection." At a later stage, assumedly after the destruction of the Temple, they would read the portion in the synagogue in any case. See E.B. Halivni, "Parashat Shekalim and Parashat Parah: When?" (Hebrew), Sidra 16 (2000) 1719. 14According to a tradition preserved in Pesikta Rabbati, the Haftorah would connect specifically to the census taken of Israel. See n.47, below.
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(2015) Parshat Shekalim in Pesikta de Rav Kahana and Pesikta Rabbati 357 collections: [the one collected] for the altar, went to the altar; [the one collected] for the sockets, went for the sockets; [the one collected] for the upkeep of the Temple, went for the Temple." This underlies the rabbinic reading of Exodus 30 as including a collection of funds to finance the public sacrifices offered daily on the altar. The polemics concerning Parshat Shekalim and its interpretation continued even in a much later period, long after it became only of interpretive and theoretical significance. Yoram Erder demonstrated that medieval Karaitic interpretations of this passage were in fact a continuation of ancient interpretations that rejected the rabbinic understanding and annual implementation of the half-shekel collection.15 In this article I demonstrate the various shifts that occurred in the understanding of Exodus 30 and its relation to the half-shekel enactment as they are mani fested in aggadic midrashim from the early and late Byzantine period. I discuss these shifts both in terms of the different points of emphasis rabbis placed on various aspects of the passage and in terms of the use of the passage and its implications as part of interreligious polemics. B. The Midrashim on Parshat Shekalim Parshat Shekalim was not directly expounded upon in Tannaitic midrashic collections, neither in Mekhilta nor in Sifre Numbers.16 In contrast, there are a number of sources from the later aggadic midrashic collections, composed during the Byzantine period, in which the passage is expounded upon in a systematic and thorough fashion. These are found in Parshat Shekalim in Pesikta de-Rav Kahana (PDRK) and Pesikta Rabbati (PR). They belong to a literary genre
called "homiletic midrashim" (s. piska, pl. piskaot). The literary compositions that belong to this genre do not interpret a continuous series of biblical verses, as earlier midrashic compositions do. Rather they contain topical homilies (derashot) focused for the most part on the central theme of the Torah reading, especially its first verses. Numerous studies have been dedicated 15See Yoram Erder, "Second Temple Period Sectarian Polemic Concerning the Half-Shekel Commandment in Light of Early Karaite Halakhah" (Hebrew), Megillot: Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls 89 (2010) 328. 16See Menahem Kahana, "The Halakhic Midrashim," Literature of the Sages, ed. S.Safrai etal. (2 vols.; Assen: Van Gorcum, 2006) 2.6872. Author's e-offprint with publisher's permission.
to uncovering the editorial process through which these homilies were composed.17 My analysis below is based on the assumption that each extended midrashic passage contains an integral and complete literary unit with a logical structure, reflecting a coherent editorial agenda, rather than a haphazard collection or accretion of individual smaller units.18 The editor's agenda is expressed mainly in the opening and closing sections of the passage. It is less present in the interpretive derashot on selected verses of the biblical section (parashah) itself, where the editor tends to draw from earlier sources and leaves less of his own mark. The rhetorical structure of the opening discourses (petihtaot) and the conclusions (hatimot) allows for a greater degree of creativity, for in these sections the editor is free to select verses from elsewhere in the Bible and use them to build his message.19 Furthermore, by their very nature the petihtaot and hatimot carry broader significance on the entire portion of Torah and therefore reflect a greater degree of literary intervention on the part of the editor, both in terms of his choice of his material and his reworking of it.20
17The most foundational articles on the subject remain Joseph Heinemann, "Profile of a Midrash: the Art of Composition in Leviticus Rabba," JAAR 39 (1971) 14150; and Lewis M.Barth, "Literary Imagination and the Rabbinic Sermon; Some Observations," World Congress of Jewish Studies 7 (1977) 2936. Compare Richard S. Sarason, "Toward a New Agendum for the Study of Rabbinic Midrashic Literature," Studies in Aggadah, Targum and Jewish Liturgy, ed. E.Fleischer and J.Petuchowski (Jerusalem, Magnes: 1981) 5573; Burton L.Visotzky, "The Misnomers `Petihah' and `Homiletic Midrash' as Descriptions for Leviticus Rabbah and Pesikta de-Rav Kahana," JSQ 18 (2011) 1931. 18See for instance the programmatic words of Dina Stein, "On the Twice-Told Tale: A Poetics of the Exegetical Narrative in Rabbinic Midrash" (Hebrew), Tarbiz 76 (2007) 603. 19The study of the structure of the homilies in aggadic midrashim has made great advances in recent years due to the development of analyticals used to dissect recurring literary structures. The scholar most responsible for these advances is Arnold Goldberg; see his article "Form-analysis of Midrashic Literature as a Method of Description," JJS 36 (1985) 15974. 20Over thirty years ago Norman Cohen arranged a synoptic comparison between the piska in PDRK and its parallel in PR; see Norman J.Cohen, "Structure and Editing in the Homiletic Midrashim," AJS Review 6 (1981) 120. His aim was to prove that the editors of the Tanhuma literature, in this case PR, loosened the structure found in classical midrashim in order to allow for a tighter and flowing thematic presentation. His findings concerning this particular piska were instructive, although I remain unconvinced concerning his overall thesis. In any case, my interest here is entirely different than his.
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(2015) Parshat Shekalim in Pesikta de Rav Kahana and Pesikta Rabbati 359 C. The Piska Shekalim in Pesikta de-Rav Kahana The first source I will analyze, PDRK, is a Palestinian aggadic midrashic composition whose editing is ascribed by scholars to the fifth or early sixth century
CE. It differs from other classical compositions in that it is structured around Torah readings for special calendrical occasions (holidays and special Sabbaths) and does not follow a particular biblical book.21 The structure of the Shekalim piska is quite typical for homiletical derashot. It opens with six petihtaot, continues with interpretive derashot on the first two verses of the passage, and ends with an uplifting hatimah.22 In one of the interpretive derashot on the words "half a shekel," several opinions are cited as to why this amount was set: R.Judah says: Since they sinned at the halfway point of the day, therefore they should give a half-shekel. And R.Nehemiah says: Since they sinned in the sixth hour, therefore they give half a shekel, which can be exchanged for six grammas. R.Joshua b. Nehemiah in the name of R.Yohanan b. Zakkai: Since the children of Israel transgressed the Ten Commandments, each and every one of them must give [the equivalent of] ten gerahs.23 Underlying these Tannaitic derashot, found already in the Yerushalmi (Shekalim 2:3, 46d), is the notion that the sin of the golden calf was 21For a basic scholarly survey on the subject, see W.G. Braude and Israel Kapstein, Pesikta De-Rab Kahana: R.Kahana's Compilation of Discourses for Sabbaths and Festal Days (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul
, 1975) xxxiiici; H.Strack and G.Stemberger, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash, trans. M.Bockmuehl (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992) 31921. Even after the composition was reconstructed, a criti cal edition created and it received substantial scholarly attention, basic questions
still remain concerning its formation, its editing and the order of its piskaot. In his article "Pesikta De-Rav Kahana and Paieda," in Higayon leYonah, ed. Joshua Levinson etal. (Hebrew; Jerusalem: Magnes, 2007) 165178, Menahem Hirshman tries to delineate the general aims of the midrashic composition, which he posits are concerned with the Temple. This evaluation, which is essentially true, seems to exacerbate the question that stands at the heart of my analysis: Why did PDRK's editor choose in this instance to omit this central issue and focus on a different polemic? I should note that other scholars have also viewed PDRK as a polemical text, e.g., Lou H.Silberman, "Challenge and Response: `Pesiqta Derab Kahana' Chapter 26 as an Oblique Reply to Christian Claims," HTR 79 (1986) 24753 22On the structure of piskaot in PDRK, see Abraham Goldberg, "Review of Bernard Mandelbaum, ed., Pesikta de Rav Kahana" (Hebrew), Kiryat Sefer 43 (1967) 6879. Goldberg ascribes significance to the ratio between the number of petihtaot and the number of interpretive derashot in each piska. He theorizes that the larger the ratio of the former to the latter, the greater likelihood that the piska is "authentic." 23Ed. Mandelbaum, 32. Author's e-offprint with publisher's permission.
the impetus for the collection of the half-shekel. According to both R.Judah and R.Nehemiah, the half-shekel alludes in some way to the timing of the sin, either at mid-day or the sixth hour (which are equiva lent).24 According to the tradition ascribed to R.Yohanan b. Zakkai, the half-shekel, whose weight is listed as ten gerahs of silver in the continuation of the verse, signifies the sin itself, a transgression of the Ten Commandments.25 All of these derashot are somewhat surprising, for the Bible itself does not allude to any connection between the sin of the golden calf and the half-shekel. Even more problematic, in the order of the biblical passages the command to give the half-shekel precedes the Israelites' sin with the golden calf.26 In these derashot the sages expand the meaning of "expiation money" and "as expiation for your souls" (both phrases in Exod 30:16) beyond their simple sense as expiation for the sin of taking a census, "that no plague may come upon them through their being enrolled."27 In their view, the commandment to give a half-shekel is part of the atonement process for the sin with the golden calf. In order to allow for this interpretation, these Tannaim must accept the principle found in other sources that biblical events are not presented in their chronological order.28 The connection between the commandment to give the half-shekel and the sin of the golden calf is prominent in the petihtaot of this piska. The first petihta is as follows:
24See Mandelbaum, 32 n.5. 25Other opinions that connect the half-shekel to the sin of selling Joseph are not relevant to our discussion. 26In his explanation of 4Q159, Aharon Shemesh noted that the connection between the sin of the golden calf and the half-shekel is already found in Second Temple literature; see Shemesh and Werman, Revealing the Hidden, 43 n.7. 27In derashot based on the juxtaposition of biblical passages (a topic I do not address here), the midrash compares the atonement conferred by the half-shekel with the atonement conferred on the Day of Atonement; see Michael A.Fishbane, "Census and Intercession in a Priestly Text (Exodus 30:1116) and in Its Midrashic Transformation," in Pomegranates and Golden Bells, ed. D.P. Wright etal. (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1995) 10910. 28The basic formulation of this notion already appears in Sifre Deuteronomy 1 (ed. Finkelstein, 6): "R.Banyah says: The Israelites worshipped idols and [therefore] they should be finished off. Let the gold of the Tabernacle come and atone for the gold of the calf." While this Tannaitic midrash provides a causal relationship between the gold of the calf and the gold of the Tabernacle, it does not relate explicitly to the timing of the commandment or the chronological order of the events. Only in much later sources is the idea phrased explicitly (e.g., Tanhuma Terumah 8).
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(2015) Parshat Shekalim in Pesikta de Rav Kahana and Pesikta Rabbati 361 Many say to my soul, There is no deliverance for him through God. Selah. [But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, He who uplifts my head] (Ps 3:4). [...]29 The Rabbis interpret the verse as referring to the nations of the world. Many this refers to the nations of the world [...] that say to my soul, that is, they say to Israel: A people who heard from its God on Mount Sinai, You shall have no other gods before Me (Ex 20:4), and then, at the end of 40 days later, said of a calf, This is your God, O Israel (Ex 32:4) can such a people expect salvation? There is no salvation for it in God ever. Israel replied: And You, O Lord, agreed with them and wrote in Your Torah, He that sacrifices unto any god, save unto the Lord only, shall be utterly destroyed (Ex 22.19). [You] are a shield about me: You protected us through the merit of our forefathers. You are my glory, for You caused Your presence to dwell in our midst [...] He who uplifts my head. Instead of making us liable for the removal of our heads, you gave us an uplifting of the head, through Moses to whom You said, When you lift up the heads of the children of Israel (Exod 30:2).30 The petihta is structured upon a verse from Psalms in which David's enemies tell him that he has no hope of being saved. Nevertheless, God defends David and even "uplifts his head." The interpretation cited here reads the verse as a dialogue after the sin with the golden calf between the nations of the world and the people of Israel. "Many say" refers to the nations of the world, who claim that after the sin with the golden calf the people of Israel have no hope for salvation. Israel responds that God is still their shield, He still causes His divine presence
to dwell in their midst, and even "holds their heads up high." The conclusion is based on a word play contrasting the "removal of heads" with the "lifting up of heads."31 The central motif in this derashah is "the lifting up of the head" given to Israel after the sin of the golden calf. The process of atonement for Israel included the building of the Tabernacle where God's presence would dwell, as well as the command to donate the shekels that "lift up the head" of all of Israel. This derashah reflects an apologetic against the common theological claim made by the "nations of the world" ("they" in the verse) that Israel irreparably lost its covenant with God when they sinned with the golden 29The text omitted here connects this verse with the events of David's life, which is not relevant to our discussion. 30The derashah is found in almost an identical form in Midrash Psalms (Buber 19b20a). Judging from its structure, it seems to have been transferred there from PDRK. 31The double entendre in the phrase "lifting up/counting heads" is already found in Joseph's interpretation of the baker and butler's dreams (Gen 40:13, 19). Author's e-offprint with publisher's permission.
calf.32 Anti-Jewish rhetoric using the golden calf and other such biblical episodes as a polemic against Israel is found already in the Roman-Pagan Period
and was greatly expanded in the Byzantine-Christian era.33 As has been pointed out, this derashah belongs to a branch of Jewish dis- course intended to protest vigorously against the Christian reading of the sin of the golden calf.34 The editor of the midrash here perceived the derashah to be of such importance that he placed it first in the series of petihtaot, thereby dictating the ideological direction of the rest of the unit. The fifth petihta reveals an editorial agenda similar to the first, and it too concludes with the motif of "the lifting up of the head" of the children of Israel: Righteousness (tzedakah) lifts up the nation; but loving kindness (hesed) is a sin for [other] peoples (Prov 14:34) [...] R.Eliezer says: Righteousness lifts up that is, Israel; but loving kindness is a sin for [other] peoples even acts of loving kindness become a sin for the nations for they boast of such deeds. R.Joshua says: Righteousness lifts up the nation that is, Israel; but sin is a boon (hesed) for [other] peoples: That is, when Israel sins, it is a boon for the peoples of the world because they can then enslave Israel [...] The rabbis say: Righteousness lifts up the nation: With the freewill offering that Israel brings for the service of the Tabernacle and the Tent of Meeting, the lifting up of their heads was given them through Moses, who said: When you lift up the heads of the children of Israel (Exod 30:12).35
32As noted already by Cohen, "Structure and Editing", 8. See also Arthur Marmorstein, "Judaism and Christianity
in the Middle of the Third Century," HUCA 10 (1935) 237. 33For instance, Tertullian writes that the Jews lost all the merit they had in Scripture due to their idol worship throughout the generations, such as the sin of the golden calf, idol worship during the period of Jeroboam and other such instances (Against the Jews, end of Ch. 1); see The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 3, ed. Alexander Roberts (New York: T and T Clark, 1926) 1512; also Michael Mach, "The Separation of Christianity from Judaism in Light of the Debate on Bible interpretation
in the Second Century" (Hebrew), WCJS 10/2 (1989) 24. 34See Smolar and Aberbach, who survey the Christian claims and the Jewish responses in L.Smolar and M.Aberbach, "The Golden Calf Episode in Postbiblical Literature," HUCA 39 (1968) 91116. They do not mention this derashah, nor its specific claim. 35Ed. Mandelbaum, 2025. Compare bBava Batra 10:2. Concerning this section of the baraita, its wording and its meaning in light of Jewish concepts of charity, see E.E. Urbach, "Political and Social Tendencies in Talmudic Concepts of Charity" (Hebrew), Zion 16 (1951), mainly 18. Urbach tends to detect a shift from the earlier concept of R.Johanan ben Zakkai concerning Roman charity to the later concepts of his students, who were far more critical of Roman behavior.
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(2015) Parshat Shekalim in Pesikta de Rav Kahana and Pesikta Rabbati 363 This petihta is built on a difficult verse from Proverbs that draws a contrast between righteousness, which carries and uplifts the nation, meaning Israel, and loving kindness, which somewhat puzzlingly is accounted a sin for the nations, that is the nations of the world.36 The rabbis use this strange contrast as an opportunity to draw a distinction between "the people of Israel" and "the nations of the world." According to R.Eliezer, the righteous acts of the nations are flawed, for they are accompanied by arrogance. According to R.Joshua, the "sin" in the verse refers to the sins of Israel which provide the nations with hesed, which he interprets as the "benefit" or "profit" the nations gain by their enslavement of Israel. Thus according to R.Joshua the central idea is that the sins of Israel provide the nations of the world with an opportunity to enslave Israel. This idea echoes the theological polemic of the Christians against Israel: Israel sinned with the golden calf and as a result was rejected by God. The interpretation of "the rabbis" at the end of the derashah does not provide a full interpretation of the verse; rather, it is based only on the first clause. In my opinion, this interpretation connects with that of R.Joshua and continues its general course of thought (even though other interpretations intervene). In other words, according to R.Joshua the nations benefit (that is, derive hesed) from the sins of Israel. To this idea the rabbis add a type of corrective: "Righteousness" (identified as freewill offerings to the Tabernacle) lifts up the heads of Israel. The very existence of the Tabernacle atones for Israel by erasing their sins. As a response to the claims made by various nations against Israel, the midrash answers that God Himself removes their sins and even lifts them up, as is expressed in the verse, "When you lift up the heads of the children of Israel." In sum, while this fifth petihta has many structural similarities with the first petihta, the flow of its derashot is freer and less focused. The linguistic connection between the phrase from Proverbs, "lifts up a nation," and the verse of the main Torah reading, "When you lift up the heads of the children of Israel," is less tight than the connection drawn in the first petihta with the verse, "lifts up my head." Close analysis of the structure of this petihta may allow us to reconstruct its creation. The final derashah on the verse from Proverbs with which the entire fifth 36According to the usual meanings of these words, tzedakah and hesed are parallel, which makes the verse and the contrast it draws between them difficult to understand. Therefore most interpreters read hesed as having a negative meaning. See, for example, Richard J.Clifford, Proverbs: A Commentary (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1999) 148. In any case, I am interested here in the rabbinic understanding of the term. Author's e-offprint with publisher's permission.
petihta concludes and which connects it with the Torah reading does not cover all of the words of the verse, only the first phrase. This detail demonstrates that the derashah ascribed to the anonymous "rabbis" was secondary to the earlier derashot ascribed to named sages. It is possible that this derashah was created by the editor himself, based on the first petihta of the entire piska. Through it, he continues with the same theme he emphasized in the opening petihta: Parshat Shekalim is about the atonement, the "lifting up the head," of the children of Israel after the sin with the golden calf. An additional motif developed in these petihtaot is that God "set right Moses's words" when he instructed the Israelites in the mitzvah of the shekels. This motif is found in the second and sixth petihtaot, both of which also mention the motif of atonement after the sin of the golden calf. In the second petihta: R.Yaakov b. Yuda in the name of R.Yonatan of Bet Guvrin opened (interpreted the verse): The way of a lazy man is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is paved (Prov 15:18). The way of a lazy man: this refers to Esau the wicked. Like a hedge of thorns: He is similar to this thorn that you tear loose from here and it attaches itself there; so too Esau the wicked takes both sides, [saying,] Bring your head tax, your tribute, your arnona tax, and anyone who does not will be fined. But the path of the upright is paved: This is the Holy One, Blessed be He, [...] for he set right Moses's words, and said, When you lift up the head of Israel. The petihta is based on a verse from Proverbs that contrasts the way of the lazy, which is similar to a hedge of thorns slowing down his progress, with the path of the "upright," which is paved and quick.37 R.Jacob interprets the abstract verse as referring to concrete historical event
s. The "lazy one" is the Roman Empire, symbolized by the wicked Esau who "takes both sides,"38 directing Israel to bring their taxes and threatening them that if they do not, they will be fined and punished.39 This stands in contrast with the upright ways of God, who ensures that His tax is collected gently "He sets right the words of Moses" to request money from the Israelites in a gentle and uplifting way "when you lift up the head."
37On the unusual contrast between "lazy/sluggard" and "upright," see Michael V.Fox, Proverbs 1031 (Anchor Bible vol. 18B; New Haven: Yale University
Press, 2009) 599. 38The term is used here in a similar manner to Ruth Rabbah 1:3 (ed. Lerner, 12), based on the phrase "The way of a man may be tortuous and strange this refers to Esau the wicked, who turns this way and that and attacks Israel with decrees." 39According to Lieberman, this was a common complaint in the provinces and does not signal any particular persecution; see Saul Lieberman, "Palestine in the Third and Fourth Centuries," JQR 36 (1946) 349.
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(2015) Parshat Shekalim in Pesikta de Rav Kahana and Pesikta Rabbati 365 The midrashic process here is to isolate the phrase "when you lift up the head" from the biblical context of a census and emphasize the Moses's tone and words when collecting the shekels. The darshan attempts to convince his audience that there is no similarity between the taxes collected by the Roman authorities, the enemy, and the halfshekel tax, so that its collection will be accepted willingly.40 It is possible that the well-known opposition to the Roman head tax (the Roman census) may have drifted into Jewish opposition to a Jewish head tax, the half-shekel. Thus the darshan staves off the opposition by advancing a positive contrast between the two. Within the framework of the larger passage, this petihta continues the tone dictated in the opening petihta, but instead of emphasizing the uplifting power of the atonement, it focuses on the uplifting power of Moses's language. The sixth petihta is similar to the second, and also includes the motif of "set his words right." R.Yudan began his discourse: The tongue of a righteous man is choice silver, but the mind of the wicked is of little worth (Prov 10:20).41 [...]42 Another interpretation: The tongue of a righteous man is choice silver: This is the Holy One, blessed be He, who saw to it that Moses used choice words and said, When you lift up the heads of the children of Israel. This interpretation covers only the first clause of the verse cited by R.Yudan. The "righteous" one is God, who ensured that His commandment regarding the collection of silver shekels would be delivered by Moses in gentle, well-chosen language. We can assume that the darshan drew the connection between the "choice silver" in Proverbs and "atonement silver" in Exodus 30. The editor placed this petihta here, after the fifth petihta concerning "the lifting up of [Israel's] heads after the sin of the golden calf," again constructing the complete idea that after the sin with the golden calf the children of Israel went through a process of rehabilitation and that in doing so they were addressed carefully, with gentle words. Up until now we have seen that the unit of petihtaot is comprised of two pairs of petihtaot, one in the beginning and one at the end, that 40The contrast between the half-shekel and the Roman tax is also found in Mekhilta, Bahodesh 1 (ed. Horovitz-Rabin, 203): "You were unwilling to pay Shekel to Heaven (i.e., the temple), a beka per head; now you have to pay 15 shekels in the kingdom of your enemies"; see Alexander Carlebach, "Rabbinic References to Fiscus Judaicus," JQR 66 (1975) 5761. 41See Clifford, Proverbs, 1156. 42The text omitted here interprets the verse from Proverbs as referring to concrete historical figures, Jeroboam and the prophet Jedo. Author's e-offprint with publisher's permission.
express a similar idea: after the sin with the golden calf, Israel was uplifted by being gently asked for a tax that would simultaneously serve as atonement for their sin. In the middle of this unit, between the opening and closing pair, there are two additional petihtaot describing the transformation that Israel underwent from their humiliation at the sin with the golden calf to their rise when they received atonement. R.Yonatan began his discourse: But man shall bow down, and a mortal be brought low, [and will You not lift him up?] (Isa 2:9). But man shall bow down: This refers to Israel [...] And a mortal be brought low: This refers to Moses [....] Moses said before the Holy One, blessed be He: Master of the Worlds, I know that Israel bowed down to the calf, and I too was brought low, [but] will You not lift them up? He said to him: I will lift them up, when you lift up the heads. R.Yonah of Bozrah began his discourse: For God is a judge: This one he brings down and this one he raises up. (Ps 75:8) [... He] interpreted the verse as referring to Israel. With this they were brought down, and with this they were lifted up. With this they were brought down, for this man Moses (Ex 32:1), and with this they were lifted up, This is what everyone entered into the records should give (Ex 30:13). The first petihta is based on a verse from Isaiah with an unusual ending, "will you lift them up."43 R.Yonatan reads the verse as relating to Israel and Moses who were humiliated when Israel worshipped the golden calf. In his eyes, the concluding phrase of the verse is a rhetorical question asked of God by Moses, to which God responds positively, "I will lift them up." The second is based on a verse from Psalms that describes the absolute dependence of human beings
on God's justice, who lowers down and lifts up as He desires. According to R.Yonah, the verse refers to Israel's humiliation at the worship of the golden calf and their elevation when God commanded them to bring the shekels. The derashah takes advantage of a lexigraphical connection of "this," a word that appears in both contexts and in the verse in Psalms. These two petihtaot are similar in structure, and both describe the rehabilitation process
that the children of Israel underwent from their debasement at the sin with the golden calf until God chose to restore them upon commanding them to bring the half-shekel. By positioning these two petihtaot at the heart of the larger petihta unit, the editor highlights their message as central to their entire piska. The structure of the whole unit is as follows:
43For a summary of various interpretations of the verse, see John Oswalt, Book of Isaiah, Chapters 139 (New International Commentary; Grand Rapids
: Eerdmans, 1986) 1245.
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(2015) Parshat Shekalim in Pesikta de Rav Kahana and Pesikta Rabbati 367 [A] You ... He who holds my head high/you gave us an uplifting of the head [B] the path of the upright is paved/he set right Moses's words [C] man shall bow down/I will lift them up [C1] He brings this one down/with this they were lifted up [A1] Righteousness exalts the nation/lifting their heads high [B1] T he tongue of a righteous is choice silver/saw to it that Moses used choice words By choosing these petihtaot and organizing them in such a fashion, the editor presents the reading of Parshat Shekalim as an event designed to provide national and spiritual uplifting for Israel. To accomplish this, he focuses on the atonement for the sin with the golden calf that Israel received through the shekels, all the while emphasizing the gentle language used by God. To a certain extent we might say that the editor himself used "gentle words" to the people of Israel he was careful to mention sin in a low-key manner, always emphasizing the process of atonement that the children of Israel underwent. The editor's goals should be understood in light of the serious attacks leveled on Jews during the Byzantine era by Christian Church
fathers, in whose eyes the episode of the golden calf was a reason for the rejection of Israel by God. The rabbinic preachers and/or the editor of the larger midrashic composition perceived a need to "lift up the heads of Israel" against such attacks. The choices that editor made as to what themes he emphasized and which he placed at the margins of the piska are worthy of note, for there are some classical themes connected to Parshat Shekalim that were the focus of debates over the centuries, which he did not emphasize. Thus, the entire point of the census appears only in the interpretive derashah on the phrase "according to their enrollment" (in sections eight and nine, which are not discussed here), and the issue of the use of the half-shekel to finance the daily sacrifices is not mentioned at all. Instead of focusing on these themes, the editor chose to include a series of parables illustrating God's love for the people of Israel, placing them as a type of interpretive derashah to the words, "the children of Israel" (section seven).44 In this way, he continued the interpretive trend he began in the unit of introductory petihtaot. 44This series of parables appear in Leviticus Rabbah 2:4 (ed. Margoliot, 4042), where they are related to the words, "Speak to the children of Israel." They interpret the multiple times that these words are found as an expression of God's affection for Israel. It is quite clear that they were imported into PDRK from Leviticus Rabbah. Author's e-offprint with publisher's permission.
The piska's hatima also emphasizes the gentle approach God adopts when asking Israel for "redemption money," as well as the praise that Moses bequeaths to the people of Israel: God does not make excessive demands on Israel. And when Moses heard this, he began to praise Israel and say, Happy is the people for whom the Lord is their God; happy is the people who have it so (Ps 144:15); Happy is he who has the God of Jacob as his help (Ps 46:5). These verses of praise for Israel serve as an appropriate conclusion to the entire piska, whose main purpose is to "lift up the heads of the children of Israel."
D. Piskat Shekalim in Pesikta Rabbati The second source I will analyze, Pesikta Rabbati (PR), is similar in organization to PDRK in that both contain derashot for special holidays and Sabbaths. However, in its literary characteristics it belongs to the corpus of midrashic compositions known as Tanhuma-Yelamdenu midrashim.45 This corpus is considered to have been edited after the classic period of midrashic composition.46 The tenth piska in PR is dedicated to the Torah portion known as Ki Tisa.47 This piska contains a significant amount of material parallel to PDRK, and it is possible that the editor of PR even used the earlier composition as a source. Nevertheless, there are unique features in PR, both in terms of material not found in PDRK and in the presentation 45I refer only to the main section of PR, which appears in most textual stemma of the composition. This unit is composed of Tanhuma-style petihtaot which open with the stock phrase, "Let our master teach us" or "This is what was said in the Holy Spirit
." See Binyamin Elitzur, "Pesikta Rabbati: Pirkei Mavo" (PhD diss., Hebrew; Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1999) 15, 3463. Concerning the structure of homilies in the Pesikta Rabbati, see Rivka Ulmer, "Pesiqta Rabbati: A Text Linguistic and Form critical analysis
of the Rabbinic Homily," JJS 64 (2013) 6497. 46To use Marc Bregman's phrase, "post-classical." For a brief description of the history of the study of Tanhuma-Yelamdenu, see Marc Bregman, The Tanhuma-Yelamdenu Literature (Hebrew; Piscataway: Gorgias, 2003) 2296. While Bregman did conduct a thorough study of this corpus, many foundational questions concerning its formation and the editing of the particular compositions that comprise this corpus remain unanswered. 47Piska 11 is based on the reading of I Kgs 4:20, "Judah and Israel are numerous like the sand on the shore." This seems to have been the Haftorah for Parshat Shekalim, at least according to this unique evidence. This reading emphasizes the theme of the "counting of the children of Israel." The Bavli alludes to a different Haftorah for this portion.
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(2015) Parshat Shekalim in Pesikta de Rav Kahana and Pesikta Rabbati 369 of parallel material. The piska is composed of petihaot and interpretive midrashim, but lacks the clear and consistent distinction between the two genres that is found in PDRK. I will begin my analysis with the first three derashot of the piska. These form an independent unit in which the creative activity
of PR's editor is easily evident. While they are partially based on material taken from elsewhere, they have been reworked in PR to create a coherent ideological statement concerning the significance of taking a census of Israel. As is typical in PR, the unit opens with a "let our master teach us" (yelamdenu rabbenu) petihta. This style of petihta is the most noteworthy literary form in Tanhuma literature, and it is what shapes the meaning of the entire unit.48 Analysis of this particular petihta reveals the goals and points of special emphasis that the editor of PR stressed throughout the entire piska. The petihta is rather long and deals with various topics connected to Parshat Shekalim. Let our master teach us: How many times a year do they make an appropriation from the chamber? Thus our rabbis taught: Three times a year ... (mShek 3:1). And to where would this appropriation from the chamber go? They would purchase with it daily sacrifices from all of the shekels collected from Israel. Why? So that all of Israel could participate in it [the offering of daily sacrifices]. They would begin on the first of Adar to collect, and on the first of Nissan they would make the appropriation. In order not to press Israel, they would warn them from the first of Adar. The yelamdenu question with which the editor chose to begin the piska focuses on the halakhic details related to the commandment to bring the half-shekel. The distance usually found between the halakhic question that opens the discourse and the main topic of the derashah, a distance that provides a measure of cleverness and interest in the midrashic process, is utterly lacking. The question is answered with a quote from the Mishnah explaining what was done with the collection of shekels in the Temple. This leads to some further clarification as to the use of these shekels to purchase daily offerings, so that these offerings would come from "all of Israel."49 This emphasis may allude to the opposing Sadducean elitist viewpoint according to which public daily offerings 48See Rivka Ulmer, "The Halakhic Part of the Yelammedenu in Pesiqta Rabbati," in Approaches to Ancient Judaism 14, ed. Jacob Neusner (Atlanta: Scholars, 1998) 5980. 49MShekalim 4:1 notes that the collection was used to purchase daily offerings and other needs as well. The version preserved here is unique. Author's e-offprint with publisher's permission.
came from voluntary donations of the wealthy, a position referred to in the Scholion commentary of Megillat Taanit.50 After clarifying the purpose of the half-shekel collection, the darshan continues with the question of when the donation was to take place, as well as the announcement on the first of Adar preceding it.51 It seems that here too we can sense the sages' struggle against widespread opposition to this penalizing "tax." In the continuation, there is a derashah that contrasts the Roman "fine" with the Jewish "half-shekel."52 We have already seen this derashah in PDRK, but in PR it has been edited to better fit the context: Solomon said: The way of a lazy man is like a hedge of thorns (Prov 15:19). R.Yaakov b. Yose: The verse refers to God and Esau. The way of a lazy man: this is Esau [...] But the Holy One, blessed be He, is not like this: The path of the upright is paved. It is made smooth before Israel, for they let them know about [the half-shekel tax] on the first of Adar, and it is collected on the first of Nisan. This is [what is meant by] The path of the upright is paved. The body of this derashah is mostly similar to the parallel in PDRK, except for a few small stylistic differences characteristic of Tanhuma literature. The main difference is found at the end, in the ascription of the "path of the upright is paved" to God. In PDRK the conclusion accorded with the overall character and point of the larger framework, emphasizing the gentleness of God's request from Israel: "This refers to the Holy One, blessed be He ... who set right Moses's words and said, When you lift up." In contrast, in PR the conclusion connects the derashah with the early public announcement of the shekel collection. In other words, whereas in PDRK the intention of the derashah was to point out how caring God was when He gave the commandment, in PR the point is that the actual collection was carried out in a considerate manner. Here too we can detect an echo of the earlier sages' struggle to bolster the collection of the shekels among various societal sectors. While this collection certainly no longer occurred when the editor of PR was operating, the issue still continued to occupy the rabbinic mind on a theoretical/interpretive plane. The petihta now continues with two more comments concerning the benevolence of the collection:
50See n.8, above. 51Compare yShekalim 1:1 (71a): "Do they not make the announcement about the shekels so that Israel could bring their shekels in time?" BMegillah 29a explains that the announcement was made "so that they would bring their shekels to the Temple." 52See Flusser, "Matthew."
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(2015) Parshat Shekalim in Pesikta de Rav Kahana and Pesikta Rabbati 371 If you were to say they collect more than they can give, they don't collect a large sum, just half a shekel [...] And if you were to say that this half was collected for the shops of the Temple, it was only collected to atone for Israel, for they would purchase daily offerings with them. Here the darshan emphasizes two positive aspects of the shekel collection. First of all, the amount was low, certainly within the capability of every sector of society. Second, the money was not used for the administrative costs of running the Temple, but rather for the daily sacrifices that directly serve to atone for Israel. The polemical nature of this derashah, or at least an echo of the ancient polemics from the Temple period, again reflects the sages' struggle against opposition to the half-shekel collection, as well as its use in financing the daily sacrifices. Moving toward the conclusion, the petihta continues to discussing the census itself: The Holy One, blessed be He, said: I see that any count in which Israel will be counted will cause them a loss. But what can I do? I will establish a way for them to be healed, so that any time they are counted, they will have a means for atonement. And what will their atonement be? The atonement through the shekels. How do I know this? From that which they read on this matter, When you lift up. The editor chose to conclude the petihta with an explanation of the biblical command to give "each man atonement for his life to God when they are counted." God "establishes a means for Israel to be healed," so that in any future census no harm would occur. The "antidote" is the atonement gained on donating the half-shekel.53 The midrash's words are in essence a paraphrase of the continuation of the verse itself, "and there will be no plague on them when they are counted," merely adding a comment concerning future censuses. It is possible, although difficult to prove, that this line echoes the dispute over whether the command to take a census was a one-time directive, or an eternal commandment. In summary, the yelamdenu petihta interprets the half-shekel commandment in the realistic framework in which it is found in the Mishnah. The words of the Mishnah replace the biblical verses as the basis for the derashah, which taken in its totality defends the enactment itself and explains how it was implemented. The derashah rejects various forms of opposition to the half-shekel commandment and emphasizes the atoning power of the daily sacrifices, purchased with the proceeds. In its conclusion, the petihta deals with the biblical/historical aspects of the census and continues to discuss the atoning characteristics of the shekel. 53This imagery is certainly taken from Tosefta Shekalim, cited above, n.11. Author's e-offprint with publisher's permission.
These aspects of the commandment are also the focus of PR in the two derashot that follow the opening petihta. The opening line of the second petihta follows the typical pattern found in PR, "R.Tanhuma b. Rabbi Abba began his discourse thus." This long derashah is not found at all in PDRK. When you count the heads of the children of Isral: R.Tanhuma b. Rabbi Abba began his discourse thus: This is what was said through the holy spirit by Solomon: Your navel is like a round goblet, let mixed wine not be lacking, [Your belly is a heap of wheat, hedged with roses] (Song 7:3) [...] Your belly is a heap of wheat: R.Levi said: Why was the congregation of Israel compared to wheat? When the head of a household reckons his accounts with a member of his household, what does he reckon? What does he say to him? [...] Note how much wheat you are bringing into the storehouse. Why? For it is sustenance for the world. Thus the Holy One, Blessed be He, is the head of the household, for all the world is His [...] And the member of his household is Moses [...] The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to him: Should you bother counting the nations? [Certainly] not, for they are compared to straw [...] But Israel is compared to wheat, for they are grain for the world: your belly is heap of wheat. Therefore the Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Moses, Pay attention to counting Israel to know how many there are, When you count the heads of the children of Israel [...] Another interpretation: R.Yitzhak says: Why wheat? Just as wheat, when it goes into the storehouse, goes in measured and counted, and when they take it out of the storehouse, they take it out by counting and measuring, and when they plant it, they plant it by counting and measuring, so too when they [the Israelites] went into Egypt, the Holy One, blessed be He, counted them [...] When He took them out, he counted them [...] And when they went into the wilderness, He counted them again. So too here, When you count the heads. The petihta is based on a verse from Song of Songs
that uses various images as metaphors for parts of a woman's body.54 The importance of wheat to humanity causes the various darshanim to view it as an apt metaphor for the people of Israel. The petihta contains two such dera- shot, both of which serve as appropriate conclusions. This double closure may attest to the pairing of petihtaot, which originally stem from two different sources. Each of these two emphasizes a different aspect of a similar idea. R.Levi emphasizes the counting of Israel and the fact that other nations are not counted, whereas R.Yitzchak emphasizes the number of times that Israel was counted. Both continue the same trend
54A parallel is found in Song of Songs Rabbah 7:1, where the structure is also that of a petihta on Ki Tisa. In other words, the editor of PR did not take an interpretive derashah from Song of Songs and transform it into a petihta. Rather, the derashah was created as a petihta on Ki Tisa and then found its way into Song of Songs Rabbah.
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(2015) Parshat Shekalim in Pesikta de Rav Kahana and Pesikta Rabbati 373 as in the conclusion of the yelamdenu petihta: the census taken of Israel in the wilderness attests to their great importance in the eyes of God. The derashah that follows continues in the same vein. This derashah, ascribed to R.Levi, uses a parable to answer why God so frequently counts specifically the people of Israel. The parable deals with a king who does not bother counting storehouses, for they do not personally belong to him, but rather to the royal treasury. In contrast, he is particularly diligent in counting a small box of gold that he acquired as his own personal treasure after it stood by him in times of great trouble. In other words, the king feels a personal connection to the object that he acquired through great effort and pain. So too God counts Israel on every occasion, for they are His treasure, and they caused him great pain. It is interesting to note that the affection the king or God accords to his small treasure is a result specifically of the pain caused to him by this very treasure, and it was this pain that turned the treasure into his own. The difficulty Israel caused to God their sins is what brought them close to God. This derashah provides a narrative perspective on the ideology espoused in the previous petihta concerning the multiplicity of censuses of the children of Israel as expressions of God's caring for them. In summary, the first three derashot form a unit expressing a consistent ideology comprising two main themes. First, the collection of the shekels was intended to finance the daily sacrifices, which atone for Israel's sins; it was not an oppressive tax and therefore took into consideration as much as possible the needs of the people. Second, the multiple times when the children of Israel were counted in the Torah reflect God's love for them. These two motifs are connected in the derashah that concludes the yelamdenu petihta: God enacted a permanent collection of atonement money to serve as an antidote for future censuses. These motifs are well-anchored in the dominant tendency found in rabbinic literature to argue in favor of the relevance of the census and shekel collection for Jews throughout the generations. The continuation of the piska in PR contains a significant amount of material that is parallel to PDRK but has been edited in accordance with PR's agenda, which differs from that of PDRK. Two of these tendencies are: An emphasis on the severity of the sin with the golden calf, which contrasts with the gentle treatment the subject is accorded in PDRK; and an emphasis on Moses's role in the atonement process following the sin. The editor of PR added narrative drama by amplifying the humiliation of Israel after the sin of the golden calf and sharpening the gap between their humiliation and Moses's restoration. Accordingly, he emphasized the role that Moses played in attaining atonement for Israel. Author's e-offprint with publisher's permission.
This they shall give [...] Come and see just how precious Israel is, for even their sins bring them to lofty heights, all the more so their merits [...] What caused Parshat Shekalim? The sin over the calf. And if their sin brought on a mitzvah, all the more so their merit: Every part of you is fair, my beloved; you have no blemish (Song 4.7). This derashah develops the idea that even denouncements of Israel demonstrate God's affection and applies it to the sin of the golden calf. This is a revolutionary notion, granting positive value to the sin itself. The midrash then draws its conclusion: "And if their sin brought on a mitzvah, all the more so their merit." This derashah serves as a fitting conclusion for the entire unit of derashot connecting Parshat Shekalim to the sin with the golden calf, illustrating well the overall agenda of the larger unit. As a whole, the unit offers an optimistic pedagogical message: good can come even from a transgression.55 Within such a framework it was possible for the editor to insert midrashic descriptions of the sin with the golden calf without diminishing its severity. In summary, the piska Shekalim in PR is composed of two separate units. The first, comprising the first three derashot, is an independent unit reflecting the unique outlook of the editor of PR. It is built out of a yelamdenu petihta followed by three derashot that present different aspects of the mitzvah of giving the half-shekel, as well as the aims of the various censuses taken of Israel throughout the Torah. It is possible to sense in this unit a polemic against common conceptions that reject the interpretation of Exodus 30 as being an eternal commandment. The editor either made use of earlier midrashic material, or he himself shaped the material to offer a defense against opposition to the rabbinic conception of the half-shekel that still existed in his generation, opposition that is found in early Karaitic literature.56 It is likely that the Karaitic opposition was not invented by the Karaites themselves but was inherited from earlier opposing groups.57 The second unit is mostly taken from PDRK but has been substantially reworked in order to augment the descriptions of the sin with the golden calf and to emphasize Moses's role in uplifting Israel in the aftermath. The editor does not hesitate to magnify the gravity of the sin, in all likelihood because by his time the Christian anti-Jewish polemics that
55A similar idea is found in PR Piska 12 (ed. Friedman, 50:2). 56See above, n.8. 57The connection between Pesikta Rabbati and Karaism was already researched nearly 100 years ago, mainly with regard to Piskaot 3437. See Bernard J.Bamberger, "A Messianic Document of the Seventh Century," HUCA 15 (1940) 425431 and the literature cited in his notes.
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(2015) Parshat Shekalim in Pesikta de Rav Kahana and Pesikta Rabbati 375 focused on the sin played a lesser role than they did in an earlier period. In place of a defense of Israel against Christian supersessionist claims, the editor uses sharp descriptions of the sin to highlight his main pedagogical message of the unshakable connection between God and the people of Israel. It is also possible that the stress placed on Moses's "rabbinical" leadership was intended to strengthen the contemporary status of the rabbinic leadership that existed during the period of the editor. E. Summary Parshat Shekalim in the Aggadic Midrashim Rabbinic sources retain the memory of the Second Temple period, when Jewish sects polemicized against each other concerning the interpretation of Exod 30:1116 and its connection to the controversial annual collection of the half-shekel tax and the use of the proceeds to finance the daily sacrifices. Echoes of these polemics between the Pharisees and opposing sects can still be found throughout rabbinic literature. Midrashic literature on this passage is contained only in aggadic compositions from the Byzantine period and onwards, the earliest of which is PDRK. In the opening petihta unit of piska Shekalim, central rabbinic themes connected to the biblical verses such as the census and the use of the proceeds to fund the worship in the Tent of Meeting are almost completely absent. Somewhat surprisingly, the polemics concerning the annual half-shekel tax and its use have been marginalized, replaced by a series of derashot that interpret the statement "When you count the heads of the children of Israel" as a call by God to metaphorically uplift the heads of Israel by offering them atonement for their sins. I suggest that the editors of PDRK focused on this theme as a response to attacks against Israel by church fathers who claimed that in the sin of the golden calf Israel had irreparably broken its covenant with God. PR, which was composed towards the end of the Byzantine period, returns to the polemical aspects more directly connected with the biblical portion. In this composition the census itself is a central theme and is understood as expressing the importance of Israel in the eyes of God. The composition expands the description of the severity of Israel's sin and develops the theme of Moses's "rabbinical" style leadership. Reflected in the choice of these themes is that Christian anti-Jewish propaganda which emphasized the sin of the golden calf had by this historical period become less important, leaving the editor free to focus Author's e-offprint with publisher's permission.
more on the theme of the half-shekel that is inherent in the biblical passage.58 Furthermore, it is possible that this focus is a result of contemporary polemics concerning the meaning of the passage later documented in early Karaitic literature. The diverse points of emphasis and focus that darshanim and midrashic editors chose to place on various aspects of Parshat Shekalim are thus a result of the changing points of tension in the evolving discourse surrounding the passage. Further examples of this phenomenon may be found in future research on the parallel passages in these two midrashim.
58It is also possible that the differences between the piskaot in PDRK and those in PR are connected to literary/genre differences between the two compositions. PDRK remains closer to the interpretation of individual verses and hence focuses more on the words "When you lift up," without delving into the role this phrase plays in the larger biblical context. In contrast, PR relates more to the overall themes of the passage. Nevertheless, the difference in genre cannot alone account for the absence of central themes such as the census itself in PDRK, for even a petihta focusing on individual words is likely to reflect larger themes of the passage, just as the petihta "Your belly is a heap of wheat" does in Song of Songs Rabbah. Author's e-offprint with publisher's permission.