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Megillah Reading and half shekel


Rabbi David Sperling

Adar 12, 5772
BS"D Shalom Rabbi. I will be in Ashdod for the megillah reading of marriv and shachris. After Shachris I will be travelling to Jerusalem. Do I have to hear the megillah that night in Jerusalem and again in the morning? Also, do I have to give 39 shekels to equal the biblical half shekel? When should I give it? Mincha erev purim or shachris purim day? Who should I give it to?
Shalom, The place you intend to be on the morning of the 14th and 15th of Adar determines the day(s) you must keep Purim. Because you intend to be in Jerusalem on the morning of the 15th (Friday morning), you are obligated to celebrate Purim again on Thursday night and Friday morning. So, yes, you must listen to the megillah again on Thursday night and Friday morning, as well as perform all the Purim mitzvot on Friday. As to the mitzvah of "Zecher Machatsit HaShekel", the mitzvah of giving charity to recall the mitzvah of the half shekel in the Temple times - this mitzvah may be performed any time during Adar, but the custom is to give the charity on the fast of Esther, on the eve of Purim. It is usually given to the poor, or to Torah institutions, such as Yeshivot. Many synagogues put out a collection box especially for this mitzvah, and send on the money to worthy causes. As to the amount - the Ashkenazi custom is to give 3 coins called a half in your location. That would be 3 half shekel coins in Israel. (By the way, the Bank of Israel especially issued the 50 agurot coins as 1/2 shekel coins for this mitzvah! If you look at all the coinage in Israel you will see that it does not bear the secular date, nor have any images of faces that stick out of the coin - all because they care about Jewish law. - I personally get such a spiritual uplift whenever I think about how we have merited to return to our own land and mint Jewish coinage again!). However, there are those who hold that one should give the value of a half shekel according to the amount of silver in such a coin at today's rates. I have seen that this year (5772) that comes out somewhere between 33 and 44 shekels (depending on the rate of silver and how you measure a shekel). This custom is followed more by Sephardi Jews - though some Ashkenazim also try to follow this opinion. Many synagogues put out on a tray 3 American half dollars (which contain the correct amount of real silver in them) which anyone can "buy" by putting any amount of money into the collection box (preferably 33-44 shekels). These coins are then donated back to the synagogue as "zecher le'machatsit ha'shekel" (in memory of the half shekel). In this way one gives both the appropriate amount of money to charity, and three "half" coins, and the correct weight of silver. All this is only a stringency, and I do not believe one has to go out of their way to perform the mitzvah in such a way. Unless you have a specific custom (or belong to a synagogue with a custom), I would advise you to give 3 half shekel coins "zecher le'machatsit ha'shekel" (in memory of the half shekel), and then add as much extra charity to the good cause as you feel appropriate (remembering that you will be obligated to give matanot le'evyonim [charity to the poor] on Purim the next day - and in your case again the following day in Jerusalem. So make sure you spread your charity out appropriately). Blessings.
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