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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Zecher LeMahatzit Hashekel for 5774

Halacha Yomit says:
The appropriate sum that one should donate in commemoration of the Half-Shekel this year (5774) is approximately $6 (USD) per person(For those residing in Israel, based on the fluctuating price of silver and dollar-to-shekel conversion rate, the sum this year is approximately 25 NISper person.)
The way to calculate this sum is as follows: A troy ounce of silver consists of 31.1 grams. Thus, the price of one troy ounce of silver [recently approximately $21.25 USD] must be divided by 31.1 and then multiplied by nine in order to find the updated price of nine grams of silver, which is the value of actual Half-Shekel coin, as we have mentioned in past years. There is a disagreement among the Poskim whether or not the price per ounce of silver should be calculated including applicable taxes. Halachically speaking, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l has instructed us that one may be lenient and calculate this sum excluding tax. However, if one is stringent to donate a larger sum for charity, he shall surely be blessed from above.
The amount of the donation for the commemoration of the Half-Shekel for small children is a coin which is a half of the local currency. Example: In the United States this would be a half-dollar coin. (In Israel, this would be the Half-Shekel [NIS] coin.)
When going to this silver calculator, and entering "9" in the "Total weight in grams" box, I get $6.1662 so that is the amount to pay per adult (unless the price fluctuates drastically in the next day or so).  To be sure, enter "9" in the calculator right before giving the Zecher LeMahatzit Hashekel.

(Note that previous versions of Halacha Yomit put 10 as the multiplier.  It seems that they changed it to 9 as it says in Sefarim.  See also last year and 3 years ago.)


At Thu Mar 13, 10:45:00 AM 2014, Blogger Jacob said...

It's interesting that in the Hebrew version of that Halakha Yomit, they still have just under 10 as the multiplier -

Regarding whether Rav Ovadia zt"l held 9 or 10, a few points bear mentioning:

1) Rav Ovadia originally subscribed to the view of R. Haim No'eh that 1 dram = 3.2 grams (thus for Mahazit Hashekel purposes, 3.2x3= 9.6 grams). This is what is recorded in the early printing of Yalkut Yosef p. 311 (1988), which is really based on Rav Ovadia's own writings in Kol Sinai (Vol. 6 No. 2 Adar 5723[1963]).

2) In 1995, an article was written Kovetz Bet Aaron Veyisrael by a R. Hadar Yehuda Margolin, where the author showed that, based on numerous Byzantine coins that various Rishonim clearly identified for the sake of measuring the dram as a unit of weight, the dram = exactly 2.833 grams. On the basis of this article Rav Ovadia revised his opinion in accordance with this view. (He writes this openly in Hazon Ovadia Pesah p. 177 [2003]).

3) In Torat Hamoadim Purim p. 98-99 (1998), R. David Yosef also mentions that he heard from Rav Ovadia zt"l that he revised his opinion based on a talmid haham who researched the area (he must have been referring to Rabbi Margolin's article). But nevertheless he still writes that the amount for Mahazit Hashekel is 10 grams silver. The reason for this is that he heard from Rav Ovadia that one should indeed account for the tax and surcharges assessed on buying silver (even though one could buy silver by avoiding the tax, he invokes "dina demalkhuta dina"). I am intrigued about this point since both the English and Hebrew versions of the Halakha Yomit website state that one can be lenient and not include the tax. This despite the fact that the website is run by R. Ovadia's grandson R. Yaakov Sasson, who is affiliated with his uncle R. David Yosef's Bet Midrash Yehave Da'at. Maybe they heard subsequently from Rav Ovadia that he changed his mind?

4) As far as I could tell, the later printings of Yakut Yosef revises the amount for Mahazit Hashekel from 10 to 9 grams. (I don't have the print version of the newer printings to check, but that's what the mobile version says).

5) In his most recent pronouncement on the subject before his petira, in a Motza'e Shabbat shiur in 2011, Rav Ovadia reiterated the halakha that 1 dram = 3 grams. Why it ended up to be 3 grams rather than R. Margolin's more exact measurement of 2.833 grams, I'm not sure. (Parenthetically, in that shiur, he ridicules the shiurim of the Hazon Ish who, he said, was completely unfamiliar with the size of a dram and exercised pure speculation).

Purim Alegre/ Hag Sameah

At Thu Mar 13, 10:51:00 AM 2014, Blogger Jacob said...

6) Oh, I forgot one last very important citation - in Hazon Ovadia Purim [2003] p. 102, Rav Ovadia zt"l writes that the amount for mahazit hashekel is 9 grams like the English Halakha Yomit, and not 10 like the Hebrew version.

At Thu Mar 13, 11:05:00 AM 2014, Blogger yaak said...


Hazak Uvaruch on your research and expertise on the matter. I too researched this a few years ago, but forgot what each one said.

It's quite confusing to say the least.


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