Could $2.84 & 5 Minutes Save Your Life?
Updated: Apr 5
Have you considered that the global pandemic of COVID-19 (coronavirus) came to the forefront of media attention during the Ki Tisa Torah Parsha? If those last four words sounded like Greek to you (although they are Hebrew), read the next paragraph. If not, skip it and go to the next one.
What a Torah Parsha?
A Torah Parsha is the specific portion of the first five books of the Bible that are read by observant Jews (and some Believers) in a given week. The books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) are divided into weekly sections so that one can read those five books in their entirety within a year. Each weekly division has a name - usually a word or phrase toward the beginning of the section.
About the Ki Tisa Parsha
In the week that we are talking about (March 8-14, 2020), the name of the Torah Parsha was Ki Tisa (translated, it means "When You Take") and that section of Scripture describes what to do when a census is taken.
"YHWH [the LORD] spoke to Moses, saying: 'When you take a census of the Israelite people according to their enrollment, each shall pay YHWH a ransom for himself on being enrolled, that no plague may come upon them through their being enrolled. This is what everyone who is entered in the records shall pay: a half-shekel by the sanctuary weight - twenty gerahs to the shekel - a half-shekel as an offering to YHWH. Everyone who is entered in the records, from the age of twenty years up, shall give YHWH's offering: the rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than half a shekel when giving YHWH's offering as expiation for your persons. You shall take the expiation money from the Israelites and assign it to the service of the Tent of Meeting: it shall serve the Israelites as a reminder before YHWH, as expiation for your persons.'"
~ Exodus 30:11-16
In the above passage, Creator specifically defines that the penalty for taking a census without paying the required amount is a plague. Folks, a global pandemic (i.e. the coronavirus) is a plague.
Is This Applicable Today?
Now in case you are tempted to dismiss this as an "Old Testament" practice that has no modern day bearing on today's Believer, whose "expiation" (atonement, propitiation) is Yeshua, consider this: The Torah outlines specific sacrifices for specific sins. Much of Israel's sins would have been atoned for through sin offerings, guilt offerings, the Yom Kippur sacrifice, etc. But this specific action (a census) holds a very different requirement - a monetary gift.
Creator's ways are higher than our ways. We may not understand everything He does or asks us to do. Yet, there are times when we who profess to be obedient servants of The Almighty must require that our logic bend its knee to The All-Knowing One.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
What's So Bad About a Census?
Well, when YHWH made a covenant with Abraham, he told him this:
And the LORD took him outside and said, “Now look to the heavens and count the stars, if you are able.” Then He told him, “So shall your offspring be.”
~ Genesis 15:5
So, when Creator told Abraham that his descendant would be as numerous as the stars (Genesis 26:4), and he told him in the above verse to count the stars, if he was able, perhaps this weighs in on why counting the descendants of Abraham can be toeing the line in our reverence to Elohim.
After all, look what happened to King David when he took a census of the people. His servant Joab asked him concerning the census-taking, "Why must you cause Israel to sin?” (1 Chronicles 21:3) He was made to choose a punishment - famine, war or plague. He chose the latter. The death toll was 700,000 souls.
So, could this plague be related to a census?
But Didn't COVID-19 Start In 2019... Before the Census?
Yes, it did. But here's food for thought: Consider the Biblical seven year shemitah (release). During the shemitah year, according to Scripture, the people would either be punished or rewarded based on their disobedience or obedience in the six years prior to the shemitah year. This principle is discussed in great detail in Rabbi Jonathan Cahn's book The Mystery of the Shemitah. Is it possible that in YHWH's great mercy, He allows grace (in the form of time) that He does not punish us for neglecting to pay the ransom price of the census until the end of time elapses when the next census is taken?
In U.S., a census is taken every ten years. So, 2020, 2010, 2000, 1990, etc. The coronavirus erupted in December 2019, just before the start of the next census. I wonder how many people did not pay the census ransom in 2010. We were guilty! Even though we've been in Torah studies for about fifteen years, we missed that one back in 2010.
Remember the H1N1 virus? Guess what year it broke out... 2009 - Just before the next census. Now, I'm not spending a lot of time investigating epidemic patterns throughout history. But I do believe that our Heavenly Father has been gracious to us in His mercy. What's different about the last couple of decades? More and more Believers have been coming into the accountability of knowing and embracing the Torah.
How Much Is a Half-Shekel?
The Biblical half-shekel went out of fashion when the Temple was destroyed. The New Israeli Shekel today is not equivalent to what the Biblical half-shekel was worth. So, when calculating the amount that is under discussion in the Exodus 30 passage, it's important to draw the distinction. Here's how I calculated in today's terms the value of a Biblical half-shekel:
1. Convert a Biblical half-shekel (made of silver) into ounces. I used this online converter.
2. Multiple the number of ounces (0.20) x the value of silver in ounces (varies daily - today it is down to $14.21 per ounce).
By today's calculations, the Biblical half-shekel is valued at $2.84.
A Few Details
Scripture does specify it is the men that pays the census price for themselves. It also qualifies that it is only the men over 20. So, guys, you might want to consider coughing up that hefty half-shekel.
What Do I Do Now?
Well, I can tell you what we did. We gave the ransom price. We paid the prescribed amount to The Temple Institute. Actually, we had to pay a little more because the minimum donation through their website is $25. We were happy to do it though, considering that we'd missed all of the censuses of our lives. I've written them to ask if they'd consider lowering it for people to pay the amount prescribed in Scripture for the census. Who am I to do this? I'm nobody. But maybe these Torah experts and great Rabbis might consider this small change (pun intended) for the sake of the world?
So, now you know how a gift of $2.84 and spending 5 minutes of your time reading this blog could save your life.
P.S. While we at FireKeepers International appreciate your donations, this is one donation that we do NOT want. Please, do not give FireKeepers International your census ransom as we believe it should go directly to the ones who will be building the next Temple. Thank you!