The Minhag of Machatzis HaShekel

The general Minhag is to give a commemoration of the Machtzis HaShekel at Mincha time on Ta’anis Esther. It is customary to give three coins, each one of which has a face value of “one-half”, it whichever currency is used in that location. This would mean that in the US one would give 3 half-dollars, in Eretz Yisroel 3 half-shekels etc. Some opinions consider it preferable to give silver coins, or to buy and return them, when available.

This money should be given specifically to the poor, and not to other causes.

The basic Halacha only requires men above 20 years old, and some say 13, to give Machatzis HaShekel. However the prevalent Minhag is to give even on behalf of young children, and even for women and girls. While one is not obligated to give on behalf of young children, once he starts to do so he must continue in subsequent years.

6 thoughts on “The Minhag of Machatzis HaShekel

  1. So if I am giving on behalf of myself and 2 others, I can put in $5, and lift the 3 Machtzis Hashekels 3 separate times – on behalf of myself and the 2 others?

    Also, do you plan on writing something on Matanos L’evyonim? I am curious about the amount one is supposed to give.

    Thanks!

    • Yes, that is fine. You may even take back the extra half dollar you are owed if you wish.
      I don’t plan on writing an article on it this year. But briefly, the Mishna Berura rules that a Peruta is sufficient. Other Poskim require the amount of money needed to purchase a minimal meal, bread the size of three eggs. Others observe that ideally Matanos l’Evyonim should be greater than Mishloach Manos, which should be appropriate for the social status of the giver. This would imply an Inyan to give a significantly larger sum for Matanos l’Evyonim, though not a Chiyuv.

  2. In years where Purim is on Sunday, should the machatzis hashekel be given on Thursday, Ta’anis Esther, or at some point on Motza’ei Shabbos, like before megillah? I’ve heard of both minhagim (though I’m not sure when exactly those who follow the latter minhag give it).

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