Parshat Chayei Sarah teaches us about the first shidduch (match-making) in Jewish history – the marriage of Rivkeh and Yitzchak. Avraham’s most trusted servant, Eliezer, journeys to his master’s ancestral homeland to find a wife. When he sees Rivkeh, he knows, with God’s help, that this is only the person fit to become the next matriarch of the Jewish people. Among the gifts he presents her with is, “a golden nose ring, weighing half a shekel…” (Bereshit 24:22). What is the significance of the half-shekel? According to Rav Soloveitchik, the half-shekel gift she received symbolizes the half-shekel the Jewish people would eventually annually provide first for the Tabernacle, and then later for the sacrifices of the Beit HaMikdash. And the import of the half shekel is that it “reflects our basic outlook on man” (The Rav Speaks). According to the Netivot Shalom, the half-shekel comes to instruct us that “every individual is only a half. The other half is found in his or her community… One person alone, even if they give their all, can’t accomplish anything. Rather, it is only with the strength of the other half, the community, that they can reach their goals” (Parshat Ki Tisa, 230). The half-shekel, then, represents our human need to connect with others.
Rivkeh was a woman whose humility, chesed and tzedek was obvious to all. However, what made her such an Eshet Chayil was the simple fact that she sought others to help her achieve her spiritual goals. As the Rav writes, “One must never forget that despite greatness in Torah and in wisdom, [one] cannot decide and answer every question. There is no Jew, even the greatest in his [or her] generation, who has nothing to learn from even an ordinary Jew. ‘Who is a wise person? One who learns from everyone!’ (Pirkei Avot 4:1). Rivkeh’s initial greatness resided in her ability to seek out others, reach out to others and become a part of others. True, she was unique among her generation, society and family, but that didn’t keep her from trying to develop and improve herself by understanding the perspectives of others.
While we cannot perform the mitzvah of the “half-shekel” today, we all, like Rivkeh, can reach out and seek the fellowship, feedback and views of others to help us inform our positions, decisions and actions. The half-shekel of Rivkeh teaches us the importance of togetherness. So, this Shabbat, let us take hold of this lesson and follow the lead of Rivkeh – to reach out, find out, and hold onto others, so that we can achieve the goals and higher callings we have for ourselves.