From the Shabbat before the Hebrew month of Adar (that is close to Nissan) until the Shabbat before Nissan there are four special parshiyot read in shul. First we read Parashat Shekalim, excerpted from the beginning of parashat Ki Tissa (Exodus 30:11 – 16). On the Shabbat before Purim we read Parashat Zakhor, the last few sentances of parashat Ki Tetze (Deuteronomy 25:17 – 19). The third special Shabbat is called Parashat Parah, taken from the beginning of parashat Chukat (Numbers 19:1 – 22). The fourth and final of the special parashiyot is known as Parashat ha-Chodes when we read from the middle of parashat Bo (Exodus 12:1 – 20).
Each one of these special kriyot is typically studied in a vacuum. Instead of analyzing the significance of any one of these sections I would to view them as a unit. Perhaps one can understand these four prashiyot as an attempt to build a Jewish society.
The first step that must be taken is to insure financial stability – Shekalim. We raise money for the ongoing expenses of the Temple. These monies were directed toward constant and communal offerings. In our language, this is te bread and butter of every society – roads, power lines, post offices, infrastructure.
The next step is to direct out military – Zakhor. We have to make sure that we are safe from all external threats. International policiy follows on the heals of a domestic budget. (It seems that fiscal responsability is prior to the military budget – perhaps a lesson for President Bush!)
Once we are secure, both financially and militarily, we must now focus on our spiritual well being. Within the Torah’s system, the Temple could not function when people were in contact with dead bodies. We needed a way to purify ourselves from this most powerful and constant impurity – Parah.
Now that we have made it this far, we bring the sacrifice par-excellance, the Korban Pesach – ha-Chodesh. This sacrifice, more than any other, is part our the national self definition as outlined in the Torah. It involves the Temple as well as the home. Every Jew must be connected in some way to the consumption of the meat. The ability to celebrate Pesach difines the Jewish People.
There are many things that one can note from the progression. First, not only does the Torah not denigrate physicality it even place it first on the list. Without money to run the building, the Temple can not function. Second, the centrality of the Paschal Lamb can not be over-emphasized. Third, when these four sections are taken as a unit we can see that the Torah has a plan for our entire society. Let us all hope and pray that we are able to put that plan into action in our own lifetime!