Parashat Ki Tissa: Halakhah
Illustration Credit: Chaim File

Halakhah הֲלָכָה

Our parashah begins with the command of the מַחֲצִית הַשֶּׁקֶל (mahatzit ha-shekel), a donation of a half-shekel of silver to help support the building of the mishkan. These gifts provided the silver for the אֲדָנִים (adanim, sockets) that held up the whole mishkan.
Later on, this idea of a half-shekel gift was used to help support the בֵּית הַמִּקְדָּשׁ (Beit Ha-Mikdash, Holy Temple) in Yerushalayim. And the time to give it each year was in Adar, the month we’re in right now!
Did you know that even though there’s no mishkan or Beit Ha-Mikdash today, the practice of a half-shekel donation still continues in many communities? Here is one description of how it works:
יֵשׁ אוֹמְרִים שֶׁיֵּשׁ לִתֵּן קֹדֶם פּוּרִים מַחֲצִית מִן הַמַּטְבֵּעַ הַקָּבוּעַ בְּאוֹתוֹ מָקוֹם וּבְאוֹתוֹ זְמַן, זֵכֶר לְמַחֲצִית הַשֶּׁקֶל שֶׁהָיוּ נוֹתְנִין בְּאֲדָר. וּמֵאַחַר שֶׁשְּׁלֹשָׁה פְּעָמִים כָּתוּב תְּרוּמָה בַּפָּרָשָׁה, יֵשׁ לִתֵּן שְׁלֹשָׁה. וְיֵשׁ לִתְּנוֹ בְּלֵיל פּוּרִים קֹדֶם שֶׁמִּתְפַּלְּלִים מִנְחָה וְכֵן נוֹהֲגִין בְּכָל מְדִינוֹת אֵלּוּ...
Some say that, before Purim, you should donate half of the standard currency in your time and place, in memory of the half-shekel that they used to give each Adar. And since the word “terumah” (donation) appears three times in the parashah (of Ki Tissa), you should donate that amount three times. And the time to give it is before praying Minhah right before Purim, and that is the practice in these lands…
Until today, many communities make sure to put out three half-dollar coins starting on the afternoon before Purim. You can “buy” these coins by putting at least $1.50 towards tzedakah. You make your donation, pick up the three half-dollars for a moment to make them yours, and then donate them back so other people can do the same thing.
The donations often go to support the shul or other worthy causes. And by giving mahatzit ha-shekel before Purim to do good things in the world, we get a jump start against Haman, who tried to use his own money to do very bad things.
See if you can find some half-dollars where you live if you haven’t already, and Happy Purim!