Machatzit HaShekel



To the Rav:
We have a family of sixteen kids and one on the way, Baruch Hashem BLi Ayin Hara. Purim is approaching and my budget is a little tight this year. Usually the expenses on Purim are astronomical and I need to cut down somewhere. My wife feels that we put as much effort as possible into making Purim fun for the kids, so she asked if maybe I could cut down on the Machatzit HaShekel. It is only a minhag and it ends up costing alt.  How much do I actually have to give?



If one is able, he should give nine grams of pure silver (about 22 nis) a person from the family above thirteen. One who cannot give the value of a Chatzi Shekel for those older than thirteen he should give half a shekel each for the family and for the parents give the equivalent of nine grams per parent. If one can’t do that give at least that much for the Baal Habayit. If you still can’t find the money give for yourself just give a half a shekel per person. Ashkenazim just give three half Shekels per male.

First, we must explain from what age one should give Machatzit HaShekel:
The Mishna in Shekalim 1:3 writes: who do we obligate to give Leviim, Yisraelim, Geriim, former Avadim, but not slaves, women or children. Every child whose father started giving must start giving year to year.
The Bartenura explains that ‘Ketanim’ in the Mishna here means under twenty even if he is mature. The basis is in the passuk in Ki Titza, “…from twenty and up should give the donation to Hashem.
The Tosfot Yom Tov however argue and say the basic understanding of the Mishna is like everywhere in in the Torah a Katan is under thirteen. Therefore, the obligation to donate the Machatzit HaShekel starts from age thirteen. This is how the Ramban explains the passuk in Ki Tisa and so ruled the Rambam.
The Yerushalmi Shekalim Halacha 1:1 state: (The Machatzit HaShekel) is also based on passuk,” To atone for yourselves” that one who is old enough for mitzvot needs Kappara.

The Torah Temima writes in Parshat Ki Tisa hat woman are also required to give Machatzit HaShekel since they were in the miracle of Purim. Meaning, the reason we give Machatzit HaShekel nowadays is to preclude Haman’s Shekalim with ours.

The Kaf Hachaim 694:27 writes that women are obligated in the custom of giving Machatzit HaShekel, since they also need atonement. However, in Teshuvat HaGeonim R’ Saadiah Gaon exempted women from this mitzvah.
The Mishna Berura 694:5 writes that the custom is to give for an unborn fetus. As it says “Kol Ha’Over’” are the same letters as ‘Uber’.
R’ Ovadia Yosef rules that one must give Machatzit HaShekel from twenty, and it is good to give from thirteen years. He does not mention a fetus; however, he does write that women should bring Machatzit HaShekel as well.
How much to give:
The Kesef Mishna Hilchot Keli Mikdash3:3- The Machatzit HaShekel is 2 Dinars. A Dinar is a coin which weighed one Derham (an Arabic weight) and half, so it is three Derham’s of silver. Every Derham is three grams of silver so it is nine grams of pure silver. (Look in Kaf Hachaim 694:20)
The Rema writes that he minhag is to give three half coins of the big denomination in our countries.
The later Poskim commentaries have different understandings of the Rema.
The Tzitz Eliezer (13:74) understood firm the Maharsham that the Rema meant any current currency in that country. Meaning today it would be three Half Shekels in Israel, three half-dollars in the US. Equaling a shekel and a half. So rules the Biur Halacha.

The Teshuvat Beit Dovid (YOD 118) explains the Rema meant to be stringent. That if a half a coin of the common currency is more than the amount of the Machatzit HaShekel then one should give that, but since today is worth less than one must give the amount of nine grams of silver.
R’ Ovadia Yosef writes (Chazon Ovadia Leil Purim Halacha 3) that one must give the amount of nine grams of pure silver and it is also good to give three half shekel coins. If such an amount is difficult than giving three half shekels for each member is sufficient.