Sunday, June 15, 2008

Continuing to Miss the Point

In my previous post, I spoke of the missed opportunity taking place, as Israel unveils the Isaiah Scroll at the Israel Museum, the oldest biblical manuscript in existence, for the first time since 1967. Unfortunately, it seems that it does not represent an isolated incident.

A number of months ago, an extremely rare coin was found in Jerusalem. This coin (pictured above) represents only the 8th of its kind ever found. The coin was one of those used during the Second Temple period, whereupon members of the Jewish people would contribute a half-shekel piece at the Temple in Jerusalem.

Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) gives a surprisingly detailed account of the significance of this coin:
The origin of the commandment to pay the half-shekel head tax to the Temple is in the weekly Biblical reading “Ki Tisa”, in the Book of Exodus: “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his soul to the Lord when you number them … half a shekel … the rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less… you shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall appoint it for the service of the Tent of Meeting; that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the Lord, so as to make atonement for your souls.”

At the time of the Temple’s construction, every Jew was commanded to make an obligatory donation of a half shekel to the edifice. This modest sum allowed all Jews, of all economic levels, to participate in the building of the Temple. After the construction was completed, they continued to collect the tax from every Jew for the purpose of purchasing the public sacrifices and other needs of the Temple. The collection began every year on the first day of the month of Adar when the “heralding of the shekelim” took place, and it ended on the first day of the month of Nissan, the beginning of the new fiscal year for the Temple, when the purchase of public sacrifices was renewed.
Unfortunately, the MFA continues with its description:
It was most likely a shekel of Tyre that Jesus and Peter used to pay the Temple head tax (a half shekel each): "Go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money. That take, and give unto them for me and thee" (Matthew 17:27). Moreover, Tyrian silver coins probably comprised the infamous payment to Judas Iscariot, when "they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver" (Matthew 26:15).
Why is it that so many in the Jewish world, in general, and in the Jewish State, in particular, seem compelled to shy away from or feel the need to qualify anything that strengthens the Jewish right and connection to the Land of Israel, and of the relevance of Judaism and its traditions today?

Let the Vatican make the case for Christianity. Israel, as the Jewish State, and the MFA in particular, should focus on making the case that Israel is the Homeland of the Jewish people - not through apologetics, but through pride.


Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Despite the MFA its still a Jewish State.

Ben-Zion said...

That's for sure, Baruch Hashemm! Thankfully our right to be here does not depend on them.