Saturday, 19 October 2013

Shekalim 2 a, b

A new masechet with a new focus.  We begin to learn about shekalim, the half-shekel tax paid by all Jewish men over the age of twenty.  As this daf begins, some of the more basic facts stand out for me.  Today I feel compelled to review those building blocks.

  • on Adar 1, Jews are reminded of the upcoming payment of shekalim
  • on Adar 1, Jews are reminded to check soon for kilayim, the sprouting of intermixed seeds
  • Purim falls of Adar 15 and work is allowed
  • on Adar 15, Megillat Ester is read in walled cities
  • on Adar 15, annual repair of roads (cities) and streets (alleys and/or country roads) begins
  • on Adar 15, annual repair of mikvaot begins
  • on Adar 15, graves are marked with a white line that resembles the colour of bones
  • on Adar 15, Jews search for kilayim in their crops
  • on Nissan 1, shekelim are due, paid to the Temple Treasury Chamber
  • Shekalim refers to the half-shekel paid in antiquity
  • Money for communal offerings were withdrawn from the Temple chamber at three times annually
  • In a year with Adar 1 and Adar 2, shekalim were announced at the start of Adar 2
  • All half-shekel donations must be in Jerusalem by Nissan 1, thus in Babylonia the shekalim proclamation must be made earlier to ensure timely arrival and thus full participation as Jewish citizens
  • Whether the amount for all is a shekel or a half-shekel, "the rich can give no more and the poor can give no less"
For a student who is quite unfamiliar with the practice of shekalim, this first daf is helpful as it provides an overview of its basic principals.  What I take from today's daf are a few key points:
  • Jews are to pay taxes to fund the upkeep of community services
  • That tax is per male adult regardless of income or status
  • An advance reminder is given to all communities
  • The date of collection is connected to the reading of Megillat Ester
There is an understanding of communal responsibility for communal services.  Further, there is an understanding that these services are for all community members and thus there should be equal financial contributions by all community members.  There is not any explanation yet as to why a rich person should pay the same as a poor person, though payment might be a hardship for the poor.  The Sages also do not address the reasoning behind only adult men paying for the services used by all (perhaps because they are the citizens with any funds?).

We'll see where the rabbis take us tomorrow.

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