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"Sanctuary Shekel" in Lev. 27

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Rabbi David Sperling

Tammuz 27, 5780
Question
Leviticus 27 references a "sanctuary shekel." Is that denomination any different from an ordinary shekel?
Answer
Shalom, Thank you for your question. The phrase “Shekel HaKodesh” “the holy shekel” appears earlier in the Torah, see Exudos 30, 13. There the Ramban explains that it was a coin that Moshe himself minted. He called it a “shekel” from the root of the word “to weigh” - because it was a weight of silver. The second word “hakodesh” refers to the fact that this coin is used for many holy purposes – the mitzvot of which are holy. Some of the commands are the redemption of the first born, or paying for vows one made to the Temple, etc. The Talmud (Baba Matziah 34b) explains that this shekel used in the Torah is equal to a Talmudic Selah, which is equal to four zuz - as opposed to a Talmudic Shekel which is equal to only 2 zuz. Over the course of history this title has been used for different values. Today’s modern Shekel used in the State of Israel is called that as an honor to the Biblical coin you ask about, but is not base on a weight of silver. Blessings.
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