The Holy Half-Shekel

The Half-Shekel is a Torah Commandment first introduced by Moses in 1289 B.C.E. In the Book of Exodus, chapter 30:11-16 we read:

Mered Shekel And the Lord spoke to Moshe, saying:
When you take the sum of the children of Yisrael after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul to the Lord, when you number them; that there be no plague among them, when you number them.
This they shall give, every one that passes among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary, (a shekel is twenty gera), a half shekel shall be the offering of the Lord.
Every one that passes among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give the offering of the Lord.
The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give the offering of the Lord, to make atonement for your souls.
And you shall take the atonement money of the children of Yisrael, and shall appoint it for the service of the Tent of Meeting; that it may be a memorial to the children of Yisrael before the Lord, to make atonement for your souls.

Historic Overview

Half-Shekel introduced by Moses 1289 B.C.E.
Reintroduced by King Yoash 800 B.C.E.
Halted by Nebuchanezer 586 B.C.E.
Reintroduced by Nehemiah 445 B.C.E.
Halted by Titus 70 C.E.
Banned by Hadrian 135 C.E.
Reintroduced after 1,863 years 1998 C.E.
See the Correspondence Archive

The Half-Shekel was donated anually, with some interuptions for 1,424 years until the custom was forcibly stopped by the Roman Emporer Hadrian in the year 135 C.E. Given even after the destruction of the Temple and sent in by the Jewish communities of the Diaspora, Hadrian banned the fulfilment of this Divine Commandment for he realized that as long as the Jews donated the Half-Shekel, we had a sense of sovereignty over Jerusalem. What an appropriate time in history for the Half-Shekel to make its reappearance.

Tractate Shekalim of the Mishnah describes in detail everything relating to the Half-Shekel, how the public was informed, how it was collected from Jewish communities in Israel and abroad, its transferrance to the vaults in Jerusalem, its appropriations, and permitted uses for the needs of Jerusalem in preparation for the pilgrimage festivals. The last paragraph of the Mishnah informs us that all the above is valid only in the presence of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. However, the Mishnah continues; 'one who sanctifies a Half-Shekel before the Temple is rebuilt, behold it is HOLY!' And real and valid. This last line is written for our generation, the generation that has returned to Eretz Yisrael and who has re-established Jewish Sovereignty over the Land of Israel and Jerusalem. We can now bring a new level of Holiness to the world, a level of Holiness that has not existed on planet earth for thousands of years; Temple Holy, sanctified property given over to God.

In the Book of Second Chronicles, chapter 24:4-16, we read of an earlier generation that restored the Half-Shekel in their day:

And it came to pass after this, that Yoash was minded to repair the house of the Lord.
And he gathered the priests and the Levites, and said to them, Go out to the cities of Yehudah, and collect money of all Yisarel to repair the house of your God from year to year, and see that you hasten the matter.
But the Levites did not hasten it.
And the king called for Yehoyada the chief, and said to him, Why hast thou not required of the Levites to bring in out of Yehudah and out of Jerusalem the tax of Moshe the servant of the Lord, and of the congregation of Yisrael, for the tabernacle of the testimony? ...
And at the king's commandment they made a chest, and placed it outside at the gate of the house of the Lord.
And they made a proclomation through Yehudah and Jerusalem, to bring in to the Lord the tax that Moshe the servant of God laid upon Yisrael in the wilderness.
And all the princes and all the people rejoiced, and brought in, and cast into the chest, until they had made an end.
Now it came to pass, that whenever the chest was brought to the king's officers by the hand of the Levites, and when they saw that there was much money, the king's scribe and the high priest's officer came and emptied the chest, and took it, and carried it back to its place.
Thus they did day by day, and they gathered a great sum of money.
And the king and Yehoyada gave it to such as did the work of the service of the house of the Lord, and hired masons and carpenters to repair the house of the Lord, and also workers in iron and brass to mend the house of the Lord.
So the workmen worked, and the work prospered in their hand, and they restored the house of God to its proper condition, and strengthened it.
And when they had finished it, they brought the rest of the money before the king and Yehoyada, and of it were made vessels for the house of the Lord, vessels for service and for offering, and spoons, and vessels of gold and silver.

You will find all the various teachings relating to the spiritual significance of this commandment, and as our translation work continues we will bring you everything that we can find that sheds any light on this vital centerpiece of our restored national Service.

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