The Holy Half-Shekel|
The Opinions of the Sages
The most difficult task facing our team in Jerusalem is how to
extract from the Gedolei HaDor (Religious leaders of the
generation) their active approval and participation in the
project to restore the custom of giving the Holy Half-Shekel.
Although those who adhere to the Piskei Halachah (Religious
rulings) of the Gedolei HaDor today are a minority amongst the
House of Israel, until the Gedolei HaDor accept a custom into
practice, it does not become part of "Judaism" - plain and
simple. It is imperative that the Sages today give their
All recent innovations that have become part of Judaism, i.e.,
the re-emergence of Hebrew as a spoken language, even the
foundation of the state - were produced by initiators as facts
on the ground, and then sanctioned by the Sages, after the fact.
We knew from the outset, that if we had tried to restore the
Half-Shekel by first obtaining the approval of the Sages, we
would not achieve our goals. By creating facts on the ground, we
have established a new Halachic environment, and all questions
today, are now Halachah LaMaseh (Religious laws that are
relevant for practice today) and not theoretic abstractions.
The first Sage we approached was HaRav Shlomo Min HaHar. We
received his okay for the coin design. (HaRav Min HaHar gave the
P'sakei Halachah by which we restored Biblical Weddings; i.e.,
the Aperion, Jerusalem of Gold, and Chupat Chatanim.)
We have received the blessings of both Chief Rabbis of the State
of Israel, HaRav Israel Meir Lau and HaRishon L'Zion HaRav
Eliyahu Bakshi Doron, for the bringing forth of the Half-Shekel.
We have now compiled a list of eight questions that we have
submitted to the following Rabbanim:
HaRav Shlomo Min HaHar - Posek HaDor B'inyanei Zecher L'Churban,
(the ruling Sage on matters done in rememberance of the
Destruction of the Temple)
HaRav Shlomo Riskin - Dean of Ohr Torah Institutions, Rav
HaRashi of Efrat
HaRav Nachman Kahana - Rosh HaYeshiva
HaRav Chaim Sheinberg - Rosh HaYeshivat Torah Ohr, Posek HaDor
We will post their Halachic responses as we receive them.
The questions are (last updated in Iyar 5765):
- What is the last day to give the Half-Shekel each year?
- If it's after the third Trumat HaLishka ceremony prior
to Rosh HaShanah, what is done with the coins?
- When are the funds withdrawn from Shearith HaLishka?
- Is there a similar ceremony for withdrawing Shearith
- What Bracha is said at Trumat HaLishka by the Torem?
- If a package containing Hekdesh is sent through the
mail, may the canceled stamps on the packaging be enjoyed?
- Would it be proper to make silver trumpets for the Beit
HaMikdash with the Motar Trumat HaLishka in the Chief
Rabbinate's safe, come Rosh Chodesh Nissan 5759 (if the Temple
is not built before then)?
- Is there a limit to how many make-up shekalim one can
put into SHEKALIM YESHANIM?, i.e. this year I gave my
Half-Shekel for the first time, and I was 39, which means from
age 20 till 38 I didn't give. Can I now give 18 coins to make up
for the years I missed?
- Is there a Chovah to make up those years?
- Motar Trumat HaLishka L'Klei Sharet; If silver trumpets are
to be made from funds of Motar Trumat HaLishka, must the trumpets be
made from mundane money - and then the Kedusha transferred to
the trumpets thereby releasing the silver Half-Shekels to
- By what process is the Kedusha transferred from the silver
Half-Shekels to the silver trumpets?
- May those Half-Shekels, after the Kedusha has been
transferred from them, then be resold?
- From the time of the Midbar through the entire First Temple
Era, the commandment was fulfilled by giving a fixed weight's
worth of silver bullion, in nugget form, weighed on a scale
against stone weights. With the introduction of coinage to the
world in the sixth century BCE, and its appearance in the Middle
East in the fourth century BCE, the custom was adopted in the
Second Temple Era to be fulfilled with a particular coin,
comprising the necesary weight and silver purity. Because of the
demand for the necesary coin to fulfil the commandment, the coin
commanded a premium beyond its bullion value. The following question
relates to how Hekdesh may obtain maximum value when exchanging
the silver Half-Shekels for goods and services;
We have established that the Half-Shekel today is 7.8 grams of
.999 silver, with an approximate intrinsic value of $1.50 U.S., a
production cost of aproximately $3.40 U.S., and a retail sales
value of $10. U.S., with wholesale values at $8.00 or $7.00
depending on quantity.
The question is, at what rate does Hekdesh exchange the coins
for goods and services?
- May Hekdesh counter-stamp the coins and sell them directly
to collectors at a premium?
- If Hekdesh exchanges the Half-Shekels for goods and
services, may the person receiving them sell them for more than
the value they were calculated at; i.e., if Hekdesh were to sell
a large quantity of coins and they were exchanged based on
intsrinsic value, production cost, or wholesale value of new
coins - may the recipient sell them for more and keep the
- What is the first day of the year to give the Half-Shekel?
- On what day is the chest for NEW SHEKELS emptied of coins that were deposited between Rosh HaShanah and Rosh Chodesh Adar?
- If someone were to place their Half-Shekel for the new year into the chest for NEW SHEKELS before the coins were removed from last year, does that person fulfil their obligation for the current year?
- Does the existance of a Half-Shekel given as a NEW SHEKEL among coins of Motar Shearith HaLishka have any effect on their disposition, or must that coin be removed from Motar Shearith HaLishka and transferred to NEW SHEKELS?
- Must that particular coin be removed or may any identical coin be removed in its stead?
- May the proceeds from Trumat HaLishka Aleph, Bet, & Gimel be combined when they are in a state of Motar Trumat HaLishka, (i.e., may the proceeds from the three lock-boxes of Half-Shekels from last year be combined into one box marked Motar Trumat HaLishka)?
- Must the three Gizbarim, seven Amarcolin, and two Katlikin who are over Hekdesh all be Kohanim?
- If a non-parental relative gives a Half-Shekel on behalf of a nephew or niece who is a minor, must they continue to do so until the child reaches the age of 20, as would a parent?
- a) If coins were delivered to a Shaliach as Shekalim Chadashim, and the Shaliach only arrived to Jerusalem after the following Purim, would they place the coins in Motar Shearith HaLishka from the previous year or Old Shekels of the current year?
b) If someone delivers a Half-Shekel to an agent in Cheshvan, after the 3rd and final Trumat HaLishka for that year, and the agent delivers the Half-Shekel only after Pesach the following year, does the Half-Shekel go to Motar Shearith HaLishka from the previous year, or to Old Shekels in the current year?
- If Rosh Chodesh Nisan falls on Yom Rishon, would Trumat HaLishka be performed on the preceeding Yom Chamishi?
- If someone gives a larger or smaller amount of silver than what everyone else gives - does that person fulfil their obligation (seeing as we're all to give the same amount)?
- It happened that someone attempted to give silver coins larger (9 gm vs. 7.8 gm) than what everyone else had been giving for the last three years. The Chest for New Shekels itself refused the coins, as the aperature of the chest was designed to accept the new standard 7.8 gm coin. The three larger coins were stuck in the aperature, with no part of the coins entering the 'airspace' of the chest. Seeing that they can not be considered Half-Shekels for fulfilling the Commandment because they differ from what everyone else is giving
a) What is the status of these three coins as Hekdesh?
b) To which fund do they go?
- If a parent gave Half-Shekels for a child until that child reached the age of 20, may he stop giving on behalf of that child - if he knows that that child will not continue to give on their own responsibility?
- a) Can someone give on another's behalf, and have it accounted as if the person in whose name it was given, fulfilled the Commandment?
b) Would that obligate the person in whose name it was given - to continue to give it, since once you begin to give, you may not stop?
- If a father of 10 gave Half-Shekels on behalf of some of his children, and come the next year he doesn't remember on how many children's behalf he gave, must he now give for all his children, since having begun to give on behalf of a number of them, he may not desist?
- If someone gives a one troy ounce .999 silver ingot on behalf of four people, have they fulfilled the Commandment (one Half-Shekel weighs 7.776 gr, i.e.
¼ troy ounce)?