This week is the first of the ארבע פרשיות, four special Parshiot that usher in the holiday season of Purim and Pesach.
We read פרשת שקלים that discusses the annual donation expected of every Jewish male between the ages of twenty and sixty.
This commandment existed from the time of the desert and initially had nothing to do with Purim.
This collection was made in order to cover the expense of the public sacrifices offered daily in the Beit Hamikdash. The half Shekel was given by rich and poor alike. This way the entire nation had a share in these sacrifices.
Later, Haman promised the king 10,000 shekalim for the privilege of annihilating the Jewish people. Already in the desert, the half Shekel was meant for atonement for the sin of the Golden Calf.
All shekalim collected from the previous year had to be used up before the end of Adar, to make way for the new shekalim.
This Mitzva was designed to bring unity to all of כלל ישראל as they shared in the same Mitzva. This unity was to carry them through the holiday season.
Because of its importance, we donate a commemorative half Shekel to remember this beautiful Mitzva. Shabbat Shalom