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Why do we give a *half* Shekel to charity?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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


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It is customary to give Machatzit Hashekel - a half shekel (or half dollar etc.) - to charity on the Fast of Esther.1  

In the times of the Holy Temple the Half Shekel went to G-d, i.e. the Temple coffers. Today the Half Shekel we give to charity goes to a needy person. We give money to charity because we are not "independent" people. Every Jewish soul is part of a mega-soul which includes the soul of all Jews of all times. We are all one. When someone throws a rock at your chest your hand automatically moves to protect the chest by intercepting the rock. Not because the hand is doing a “favor" to the chest, but because they are both part of one body.

I am giving charity to the pauper because without him I am not complete
So too, when one Jew is in need the other Jews assists because they are both one. This is symbolized by the "Half" Shekel. I am giving charity to the pauper because without him/her, I am not complete. Similarly, we give to G-d -- i.e. the synagogue or Yeshiva -- recognizing that we are not complete without G-dlinss and spirituality in our lives.

See also  What is the Machatzit Hashekel? and Why do we give a Machatzit Hashekel on the Fast of Esther?

Footnotes

  • 1. See links at the bottom of aritcle.

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Yeshiva
(Pl.: Yeshivot) Religious school which teaches Jewish studies. Most Yeshivot offer secular studies too.
shekel
(pl. Shekalim) Currency used in ancient Israel. [Modern Israeli currency also carries the same name.]
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.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.