On Parshas Shekalim, various shuls have a custom to insert Yotzros, additional prayers and piyutim into the Shabbos davening. A recurring chorus is the phrase “ אור פניך עלינו אדון נשא – ושקל אשא בבית נכון – ונשא” – “The light of Your face, shine on us please, our Master, because I will raise a shekel in your glorified house.”
The question is obvious – the Jews were only ever commanded to give מחצית השקל – a half-shekel – how does the prayer parallel what actually transpired?
The Gemara in Brachos 20b tells us that the angels queried Hashem regarding a contradiction: it is written that: כִּי ה’ אֱלֹהֵיכֶם הוּא אֱלֹהֵי הָאֱ־לֹהִים וַאֲדֹנֵי הָאֲדֹנִים הָאֵל הַגָּדֹל הַגִּבֹּר וְהַנּוֹרָא אֲשֶׁר לֹא יִשָּׂא פָנִים וְלֹא יִקַּח שֹׁחַד – G-d does not show favour and does not accept bribes (Devarim 10:17), however, elsewhere (the bracha of Brichas Kohanim) it is written יִשָּׂא ה’ פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם – “G-d will show you favor and give you peace” (Bamidbar 6:26). Hashem answered them that he must show favour to the Jews, because in the Torah it says that “וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבֵרַכְתָּ אֶת ה אֱלֹהֶיךָ” – “you should eat and be satisfied and bless your G-d” (Devarim 8:10), and yet the Jews recite Birchas Hamazon after a much smaller amount (k’zayis/k’beitzah). If the Jews go lifnim m’shuras haDin – above and beyond the letter of the law, how could Hashem not reciprocate?
The general attitude of a G-d fearing Jew is to perform mitzvos with zeal, and exceed the requirements necessary, as essentially all mitzvos are not defined by a legal quantity. But an exception would be the mitzva of מחצית השקל, regarding which the pasuk says that a rich person may not exceed, and a poor person may not claim his poverty as impeding his ability. How would a Jew possibly go lifnim m’shuras haDin?
There is a law that if 2 brothers, each obligated to give a half shekel, went together to donate their respective half-shekels, and gave a 1 shekel coin, they would be fined a penny extra (a kolboin), in spite of the fact that the coin they gave is perfectly divisible by two into two half shekels for two people. The extra penny is a commission to exchange the shekel into two half shekels, and does not count toward their contribution.
The Sar Shalom of Belz explains that everyone would try and donate their מחצית השקל in partnership with another Jew, resulting in each Jew needing to give an extra penny, and this would not transgress the pasuk that instructs the rich man to not exceed the מחצית השקל , as the extra penny goes to a separate account altogether!
This is what we mean when we say in davening ושקל אשא בבית נכון – As the Sar Shalom has explained, the Jews really did give a whole shekel – but as part a partnership, not an individual, thus answering our initial question, and this explains how we can ask for favour for doing what we are meant to do – the Jews found a way to do it better than they were expected.