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    Half a shekel – Purim

    When you go to shule for the Purim service you might find a collection plate marked Machatzit HaShekel – “Half a Shekel”.

    The practice of donating half a shekel is at least 700 years old and comes from the command to give a half-shekel of silver towards the community expenses of that year (Orach Chayyim 694:1).

    The custom is to give half of the current coin, e.g. half a shekel in Israel and half a dollar in the US. The half-shekel and half-dollar do not work out to the same result but the important thing is the idea of a half. If a person wishes to give a higher amount there is no objection.

    In most places the donation is given on the eve of Purim. In others the donation is given in the morning before the reading of the Megillah.

    Counting the half shekels is a form of census that indicates the number of people that make up the community.

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