Am Yisrael were commanded to bringמחצית השקל . Many meforshim elaborate why the Torah only demanded a half shekel for the rectification of their sin of making the Aigel. We would like to suggest the following. The sin of the Aigel happened during midday at twelve o’clock. In reality had they have waited another six hours the new day would have started and Moshe would have come down Har Sinai with the Luchos. The emphasis of the half shekel is to focus on the demerit that already at half time they became so weakened with the overwhelming feeling of doom to the point that they lacked emunah that they could retreat and salvage from their falling whatever they could.

The word מחצית contains the word מת orתם  surrounding the word חצי. These are one’s two choices when he is half through the averiah. Either one can gird himself with kedusha and stop as if he was מת or he can continue and finish the desire which is the combination of letters תם to complete. This indicates that one is not doomed until he finishes the act for he has the power of bechirah up until the very end. For instance when one involuntarily is suddenly faced with seeing an inappropriate sight he still has the bechirah not to look a second time. His responsibility is to control himself and refrain from a second look. He has to fight his yetzer harah not to persuade him into thinking he is already doomed because he saw the picture. He can make this undesirable scene “dead” מת, instead of “completing” it for the second time. The entire episode is a test whether he would allow a “second” glance to take place or not.

A similar episode with different results, occurred with Yosef went to Potifar’s house with the intentions to commit adultery according to one opinion in Chazal. The wife of Potifar grabbed him by his בגד  which the sefarim translate asבגידה  which means traitor or rebel. In essence they explain than when Yosef felt remorse over his intention and thereby refused to actualize his thoughts, she tried to seduce him into fulfilling his passions because he is already doomed and condemned due to his sensuous thoughts and desires alone. The passuk says וירץ ויצא החוצה that he ran and went out to the outside. He managed to escape the lure of the wife of Potifar by saying to himself החוצה  which finds its roots in the wordחצי . The actual aveirah was not yet completed and we are holding only at the halfway point. Yosef therefore chose to run and save himself self and not complete the other half.

By the Makkah of Barad (Hail) the Torah tells us that the plague stopped in midair as if the force of gravity ceased. Why couldn’t it just end like the rain that it stops when no more falls from heaven? We could answer that Hashem wanted to show Am Yisrael that even though there is a force of gravity; one can stop in the middle of the fall. So too Am Yisrael can be spiraling down to a bottomless pit of fifty levels of tumah, it too can be stopped even at the end of the fall.

We see from this that midway does not determine whether one’s arrival will be at the port of departure or by the destination. Interesting to note is that the root of the wordחצי is the letters צח which symbolize the 98 curses found in the Tochacha (Ki Sivo). Halfway could lead to the end which one will encounter curses. Taking the letter yud, which symbolizes chachmah, out of חצי, one is left with חץ an arrow. By removing wisdom from one’s head he will find himself that his passion will drive him swiftly like an arrow towards the end and the attainment of his lust. Or it could lead towards the beginning which would bring to him light and radiance (צח).

The Aigel that they formed and worshipped was a calf even though in Tanach the Aigel is described as an oxשור (Tehillim 106,20). An Aigel is halfway in its development into becoming a full grown ox. Klal Yisrael were locked into the avodah zarah and tumah of the halfway mark in that “half way” is considered already a done deal and finished. The tikkun is to realize that half is still only a half, and the choice on whether we will continue to free fall forwards or to retreat backwards is still in our hands.

This concept found in Torah has found its way even into baseball. Baseball giant Yogi Berra, beyond his legacy as a Hall of Famer, left behind a number of Yogi-isms that long ago seeped into the cultural lexicon. One of them, “It ain’t over till it’s over,” was an offhanded remark made during the 1973 season when the Mets were in last place during the pennant race. Against all odds, Berra helped manage the team back to the top, and the Mets won that year’s division title. The never-say-never optimism of Berra’s words resonated, and the phrase was—to put it in baseball terms—a home run.

Gut Shabbos,
Rav Brazil