On the First of Adar we make announcement regarding the Holy Half Shekel (Mishna Shkalim 1:1)
Beged Ivri says:
Giving tzedakah on Purim is a meritorious act and the fulfillment of the Rabbinical commandment “zecher l’mahatzith hashekel” (in remembrance of the Holy Half Shekel). Fulfilling this, however, is not fulfilling the Biblical commandment of “netinat mahatzith hashekel” (Shmot 30:11-16); giving the Holy Half Shekel (Exodus 30:11-16).
This can only be accomplished by giving the required amount of silver (today 7.76 grams - ¼ troy ounce, of .999 silver) into the Chest for New Shekels in Jerusalem.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches that the commandment of the Holy Half Shekel is the very basis for our entire Service to HaShem, because the silver from our very first contribution of the Holy Half Shekel in the desert of Sinai was used to make the adanim, the silver sockets that held up the very walls of the mishkan (Tabernacle), thereby literally serving as the basis of our entire Service to HaShem, i.e. the mishkan.
The peddlers of Galut continue to teach that we do not fulfill the commandment today, b’zman hazeh (in these times), and they quote ad nausea the second to last line of Tractate Shkalim which reads that we only fulfill the commandment of shkalim “bifnei habayit” (in the presence of the Temple.) Those with a more activist bent stretch “bifnei habayit” to mean “lifnei habayit” (before the Temple) as a justification for beginning active preparations for the Third Temple.
Universally ignored, and seemingly unkown is the last line of the tractate, which states: “hamakdish shkalim sh’lo bifnei habayit, harei kodesh who” (one who sanctifies shkalim not in the presence of the Temple, BEHOLD IT IS HOLY. Its real. That is the basis of what we started 16 years ago. Its Holy – its real!
Even those working today to create physical realities for the Temple, fall over themselves apologizing that what they are creating is not Hekdesh – its not real! And here is the crux of the issue. Geulah – Redemption. We are all witness to the ingathering of the Exiles, the restoration of Jewish sovereignty over the Land of Israel. The Zionists pretend its real. The Charedim pretend its not.
The answer lies in the last line of Tractate Shkalim. If you give it TODAY it is HOLY, it is REAL. And as soon as you give it, as soon as there is Hekdesh – Sanctified Property everything changes. Everything! A whole new set of halachot (religious laws) comes into play.
And if the peddlers of Galuth will say “yikes! Hekdesh! Throw it into the Dead Sea!” I say “over my and my Tribe’s dead bodies!” Why be so afraid of Hekdesh? Are we still in the Warsaw Ghetto? Is it possible that in our own sovereign Land of Israel, with a strong army, and huge police force, and tens of thousands of batlanim in yeshivot shirking their civic responsibility, that we can not safeguard Hekdesh, that we can come to meilah chas v’shalom (misappropriating Sanctified Property G-d forbid). The only way we could come to meilah today is by way of laziness. Laziness is not an excuse!
The Holy Half Shekel is the start button. Push it. Make it the basis of your entire Service to G-d. Make it Holy. Make it REAL!
Do it now. Do it today.
Reuven ben Yosef ben Ya’akov ben Yisrael HaLevi
The Pentateuch and Haftorahs
Commentary by Dr. J. H. Hertz, C.H., OBM
Late Chief Rabbi of the British Empire
5733 - 1972
11-16. The Law of the Shekel
Whenever a census of the warriors was taken, every adult Israelite was to pay a Half-Shekel.
12. their number. Their mustering, as an army before going to war.
a ransom. Heb. Kopher. This technical expression for 'ransom' occurs three times in the Torah, and each time it refers to the money paid by one who is guilty of taking human life in circumstances that do not constitute murder. Thus, the owner of the ox that had killed a man after the owner had received warning that the animal was dangerous, was charged with the death of a man; but as his crime was not intentional, he was permitted to pay a ransom (Kopher). Such a ransom was forbidden in the case of deliberate murder. This is the conception that underlies the law of the Half-Shekel in this chapter. The soldier who is ready to march into battle is in the eyes of Heaven a potential taker of life, though not a deliberate murderer. Hence he requires 'a ransom for his life' (B. Jacob). when thou numberest them. The soldier is to be impressed with the fact that, high as the aims for which he goes into battle may be, war remains a necessary evil. The ransom is, therefore, to be paid at the time of the mustering, long before the actual fighting begins.
plague. Heb. Negeph. This word comes from the same root as the Heb. word for 'slaughter in battle'; and a noted Karaite commentator translates the phrase, 'that they suffer not defeat in battle.'
when thou numberest them. According to the above explanation, this phrase would begin v.13.
13. every one that passeth. Before the officers mustering the forces for battle.
Shekel of the Sanctuary. The full weight Shekel used in connection with sacred things.
offering to the Lord-. Heb. Terumah, 'contribution'; the same phrase is used in Num. XXXI, 52.
14. twenty years. The Israelite's military age.
15. and the poor shall not give less. All souls are of equal value in the eyes of G-d. Hence, all are to give the same ransom.
to make atonement for your souls. Heb. Lekapher al Nafshoteichem. This phrase is an amplification of Kopher, and is repeated in the next verse. Even a rationalist commentator like Ehrlich rightly sees in the use of this last phrase one of the sublimest teachings of Scripture, unparalleled in any other sacred Book, ancient or modern. The same phrase is used in connection with the Midianite battle in Num. XXXI, 52. After signally defeating the Midianites, the victorious warriors come to the Tabernacle, bringing jewels and other valuable booty as an offering in order to make atonement for their souls before the Lord. 'Other peoples sing songs of triumph after a victory over their enemies; why then did these warriors offer sarifices of atonement for their souls at such an hour?' asks Ehrlich; 'it is another indication of the horror of shedding human blood that the Torah inculcates. It is the same feeling that prompted the Jewish Sages to tell that the angels, when about to break forth in song over the Egyptian hosts drowning in the Red Sea, were silenced by G-d in the words, "My creatures are perishing, and ye are ready to sing!"'
16. for the service. The silver of the Shekels was used for the bases of the pillars of the Sanctuary, and also for the hooks to keep the boards together (XXXVIII, 27).
a memorial. i.e. that the Lord remember the children of Israel in grace, and grant them atonement for the blood shed in battle.
In later ages, the Half-Shekel became an annual tax devoted to maintaining the public services of the Temple; the daily worship was thus carried on by the entire People and not by the gifts of a few rich donors. The fact that the rich were not to give more, nor the poor less, than a Half-Shekel taught that, 'weighed in the balance of the Sanctuary' (which is the lit. meaning of B'Shekel HaKodesh), differences of rank and wealth do not exist. The fact, furthermore, that only a Half-Shekel was to be paid, taught that an individual's contribution to the community was but a fragment. For any complete work to be achieved on behalf of the Sanctuary, the efforts of all, high and low, rich and poor alike, are required.
The Jews outside Palestine were, throughout the ancient world, as zealous in their contribution of this Temple tax as the inhabitants of Judea. Anti-Semites, in consequence, even raised the cry that the Jews 'were sending too much money out of the country'. One of the Roman Provincial Governors, who seized these offerings, was defended by Cicero in an anti-Jewish speech. After the destruction of the Temple, the Jews of the Empire were compelled to pay this contribution to the Temple of Jupiter at Rome! When this iniquitous tax was eventually abolished, the contribution from the Jews in the Diaspora was used for the support of the Rabbinical Academies in Palestine.
At the present day, the memory of the Half-Shekel is still kept alive by the reading of Exodus XXX, 11-16, on the Sabbath before the month of Adar, with a special Haftorah, Shekalim; and by donating half the value of a current silver coin to some worthy charitable cause on Purim. With the rise of the Jewish Nationalist Movement, the payment of the Shekel, i.e. of an amount roughly equivalent to it in some modern currency, was revived as a token of sympathy with the aims of that movement.
(Editor's note: This was written before the restoration of giving an actual pure silver Holy Half Shekel in 5757/1998.)
For complete information about the restoration of this vital commandment please go to: http://www.begedivri.com/shekel.htm
Ain Zo Agada for Beged Ivri, by Binyomin Allen
Our ultimate goal is for the Israel Defense Forces' Chief Rabbinate to take responsibility, by law, for distributing a pure silver Holy Half Shekel to each and every soldier serving in the IDF, annually, the funds for this to be raised through this and other organizations so as not to detract from the scarce resources available to maintain the military defense of Israel.
For the last five years we have been distributing Holy Half Shekels randomly to soldiers in the IDF, corresponding to the number of shekels sponsored. This year, with the establishment of FBI - Friends of Beged Ivri, FBI "agents" have begun seeking sponsors to donate Holy Half Shekels to soldiers serving in the IDF. We anticipate that this year we will be able to begin to give Shekels to base commanders, base by base, until it reaches a level of participation that will require the IDF to take over responsibility for distribution to its own soldiers.
from Parshat Ki Tissa
Then the LORD said to Moses, “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the LORD a ransom for his soul at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the LORD. All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the LORD. The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the LORD to atone for your lives. Receive the atonement money from the Israelites and use it for the service of the tent of meeting. It will be a memorial for the Israelites before the LORD, making atonement for your lives.”
"Love the idea. What a blessing for the soldiers to have this coin with him/her and know it is a piece of biblical history just as for the armies of ancient Israel."
~ Clarence WagnerRead More