Half a shekel is the condition that one sets for oneself from within, in one’s own scrutiny and correction, so as to never come to a state of drawing lights for oneself, from above downward, but always receive lights from below upward, in rejection. This is how we discover Ein Sof (infinity).
The problem is that when we constantly draw for ourselves we can only see the layer closest to us, known as “this world.” All that stands behind this layer is worlds, Ein Sof, eternity, wholeness, which are hidden from us and are cut off from us. If we perceive reality not by drawing to ourselves but by exiting ourselves we will suddenly discover Ein Sof.
Is it we who determine the half shekel?
Without the half shekel we cannot begin to work with the Torah. Each of us must give the half shekel. We must set ourselves up in such a way that from this moment on our instrument for the revelation of Godliness will be the half shekel—balance, only giving, and in as much equivalence of form as possible.
The golden calf is all the Zahav (gold), meaning Ze Hav (give this). It is the whole of the immense will to receive that exists within us for all the pleasures. All our desires exist simultaneously.
We work with the revelation of our egoistic desire, and therefore constantly return to it. The back of the neck is like Pharaoh, the posterior side of creation. When the big will to receive appears, it actually helps us.
A stiff-necked people is not necessarily bad; it is a good thing, too. We have huge Kelim, with which we can attain godliness. A person with small desires does not belong to Israel; Israel must be very egoistic. The nations of the world, however, have small Kelim, and therefore cannot obtain Godliness. The people of Israel is called a “stiff-necked people,” meaning that we have something with which to progress, something to correct and go with.
The most important thing for us is to keep advancing, stick to the goal and advance toward it. Regardless of what will happen, even the golden calf or three thousand slain or other conditions, everything passes. And in spite of everything we will reach the goal.