Shabbat Parashat Shekalim

The Sabbath of the Shekels

The Sabbath of the Shekels is named for the special Torah reading that is added to the Shabbat morning Torah service, Shekalim is always read on Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of the month of) Adar or on the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh Adar.

In addition to the regular weekly Torah reading, Exodus 30:11-16 is read, which commands that a census be taken of the Jewish people through the giving of a half-shekel by all men over the age of 20. The money was then to be used for the work in the Tabernacle and later for the communal sacrifices in the Holy Temple.

    • Each person had to give a half-shekel at the time of the census (i.e. no “payment plans”).
    • Everyone gave the same amount – the rich could not give more and the poor could not give less.
    • The census counted every male over the age of 20 under the assumption that every male over the ago of 20 had established a household, thus the census counted all Jewish households.

Why we read Shekalim at the very beginning or just before the month of Adar :

    • In the time of the Temple, the half-shekel was contributed during the month of Adar, so the reading of Shekalim served as an announcement of the upcoming obligation. The contribution was made in Adar, because the fiscal year of the Temple began in the month that followed, Nisan.
    • The sages teach that Haman A chashverosh offered 10,000 silver pieces for the right to destroy the Jews, assuming this would off-set the total sum of the Jews’ half-shekel donation in the wilderness.


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