Machatzit Hashekel on Tisha B’Av

Posted on August 8, 2011

Tonight is Tisha B’av. Everyone knows that we mourn the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash (the Temple) and it was destroyed because Jews showed sinat chinam (baseless hatred) towards other Jews. During this time period we try to work on ourselves and to have ahavat chinam (love for all Jews) and improve the way we act towards each other. I believe that most people know this but know we can all work on this and have an out of the box suggestion to make that I hope you consider and pass along to your rabbi and communal leaders.

On Purim when we go to shul (synagogue) we give a Machatzit Hashekel (half shekel) or really the equivalent in local currency. We give this because it commemorates the contributions that Jews made to the building of the mishkan (tabernacle) and to purchase animals for korbanot (sacrifices). The leftover funds were used for communal purposes including paying the judges salaries and taking care of the maintenance in the Beit HaMikdash. This is a Biblical law, all people participate and give the same amount, that of a half shekel.

To help work on our ahavat chinam and to help us be more sensitive to those around us I suggest that every person who goes to shul on Tisha B’Av give $5 to an agency that actively teaches and promotes Jewish unity or that shuls have a collection in a central location like they do on Purim.

Think of how powerful this can be! This can be a powerful example of Jewish unity. Everyone can participate. It can raise awareness of important community agencies that serve all Jews and teach the message of ahavat chinam. With every one’s $5 these agencies can better serve the community and each person that participates will make a concerted effort to actively play a role in combating shinat chinam and ensuring ahavat chinam.

To be clear I am borrowing the concept of Machatzit Hashekel from Purim but am not advocating that we use that phrase and/or that this become part of halakha (Jewish law). I simply think this is an idea that addresses a number of important issues and deserves to be explored and discussed.

I realize that this may not be implemented this year (or ever) and that it in many communities it may need board approval and may be a challenge to select appropriate recipient agencies. I am just suggesting this as a concrete way to help us be more sensitive to one another and to inculcate the values we are told to value always and especially during this time period into our lives.

If your community and/or your synagogue implement this idea please let us know, credit us and please include Areyvut among the agencies you support. Thanks in advance and best wishes for an easy and meaningful fast.

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