Thursday, March 6, 2014

Giving the half-shekel


On the Fast of Esther, we customarily contribute to tzedakah three coins which are each minted as "half" coins, such as half-dollars in lands where those are available. This contribution is meant to commemorate the half-shekel contributions solicited from men over the age of 20 in Parshas Ki Tisa, as well as the subsequent annual half-shekel donation by adult men toward the coming year's communal korbanos. Women could choose to give that annual donation, but were not obligated to do so.

Preferably, the coins we use should each contain at least 9.6 grams, or .31 troy ounces, of pure silver. One who does not possess such "half" coins may give three silver coins which are minted as "whole" coins instead, intending to contribute half of their value as the formal half-shekel contribution. One who lacks silver may donate currency of equal value.

The custom is generally understood to include men from the age of 13, and in many places women are accustomed to give the half-shekel as well. Our practice is also to give on behalf of the children in our household, and some even give on behalf of a fetus.

(Mordechai Megilah 777; Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 694:1; Magen Avraham 694:3; Kaf haChaim Orach Chaim 674:19-28; Mishneh Berurah 694:5; Aruch haShulchan Orach Chaim 694:8; Piskei Teshuvos 694:4)

Have a great day,

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