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Why do we give the Machatzit Hashekel on the Fast of Esther?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

Library » Holidays » Purim » Fast of Esther | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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The Talmud1 says: It was known to Him who spoke and the world was created, that in the future Haman would give talents of silver [to Ahasuerus] for [the right to exterminate] Israel. Therefore He [commanded the Jews to] precede their Shekels to [Haman's] Shekels, as we have learned "on the first day of Adar it was announced that the Shekels be given." Since the Mitzvah of Machatzit Hashekel, which preceded Purim, was instrumental in foiling Haman's plot against the Jews, we too give the Machatzit Hashekel before Purim.

See also What is the Machatzit Hashekel?

Footnotes

  • 1. Talmud tractate Megillah 13b

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Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Purim
A one-day holiday celebrated in late winter commemorating the miraculous deliverance of the Jewish people from a decree of annihilation issued by Persian King Ahasuerus in the year 356 BCE.
Haman
Descendant of anti-Semitic tribe of Amalek and prime minister of the Persian Empire in the 5th century b.c.e. Schemed to annihilate all the Jews, and the holiday of Purim was established when the plot was foiled.
Ahasuerus
King of the Persian Empire in the 4th century BCE. Husband of Esther, heroine of the Purim story.
Adar
The twelfth month on the Jewish calendar. This month (which falls out approx. February-March), is the most joyous month on the calendar due to the holiday of Purim which is on the 14th and 15th of this month.
Machatzit Hashekel
Half a Shekel (ancient Jewish currency). When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, every Jewish man was required annually to donate half a silver Shekel to the Temple coffers.