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Jewish Sanhedrin re-introduces the half-shekel Temple Tax


The main hindrance to constructing the Third Jewish Temple is the Muslim Dome of the Rock that Orthodox Jews believe sits on the original site of the Jewish Temple. Credit: Davit Ortmann/Flickr/Creative Commons

The main hindrance to constructing the Third Jewish Temple is the Muslim Dome of the Rock that Orthodox Jews believe sits on the original site of the Jewish Temple. Credit: Davit Ortmann/Flickr/Creative Commons

A report in Breaking Israel News (BIN) says the nascent Sanhedrin has introduced an official half-shekel temple tax. Referred to as the mitzvah or commandment, the money will be dedicated to operating a third Jewish temple if it is ever built.

The half-shekel tax was first set up under Moses to help fund the tabernacle. Jews paid it when Israel conducted a national census (Exodus 30:15).

The Jewish leadership then introduced a one-third temple tax during the rebuilding of the temple under Ezra and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:32; Ezra 6:8). It was collected annually.

The tax was re-introduced when Herod built the second temple in 20 BC. The half-shekel tax, worth about $4 today, was collected three times a year during annual pilgrimages to the temple. They had actual tax collectors whose job was to collect the tax.

We even have an account of Jesus and Peter paying the temple tax (Matthew 17). However, it is clear that Jesus felt no obligation to pay the mitzvah (verses 25-26).

So why did Jesus pay it?

He agreed to do it because when the tax collectors cornered Peter asking if Jesus paid the temple tax, under pressure Peter had said yes.

Since he had given his word, so as not to cause ‘offense’ Jesus agreed to cough up the tax  (v 27).

But they would not actually pay it themselves. Jesus told Peter to go fishing where he caught a fish with the enough money to pay the temple tax for both of them.

When the Romans destroyed the Jewish temple in 70 AD, the Jews continued to collect the temple tax until 135 AD, when Roman Emperor Hadrian ordered it stopped.

In 1997, the temple tax was revived when Reuven Prager began to mint a symbolic half-shekel. It was not legal currency in Israel. A Jew could buy the half-shekel off Prager and then give it to an organization set up to collect the tax called the Hamikdash (Treasury of the Temple).

They have collected about $200,000 since Prager instituted it.

However, it is difficult to collect this tax from Jews living outside of Israel. Part of the process involves the tax being deposited at the temple where it was “sanctified,” meaning it could be used for no other purpose than the temple.

So this meant having purchased the ‘half-shekel’, Jews living outside of Israel still had to ship it to Jerusalem.

BIN reports on an odd situation in US, where “American Law forbids the shipment of these coins to Israel.” As a result Prager has set up collection points in the US for those Jews wanting to pay the tax. It was not an ideal situation.

Since the real money had already been paid when the person bought the half-shekel, the collecting of the mitzvah is just symbolic, but still a necessary gesture.

With the nascent Sanhedrin’s announcement that it would officially start collecting the mitzvah, it has printed a medallion considered equal to the half-shekel temple tax.

The nascent Sanhedrin still recognizes Prager’s mitzvah, however it introduced the medallion as a way to get around the need to have it shipped to Israel.

Since this medallion is not actual money, a person can buy it online. The money used to purchase it will be “sanctified” and dedicated to the Temple, not the medallion itself which the people can keep.

Since there is no temple, the nascent Sanhedrin will use the money to fund a recently started school to train priests on how to make animal sacrifices and to construct temple utensils and furniture that is already underway.

Sources:

 

 

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2 Comments

  1. Esther Blesch says

    Thought this was interesting, they want to build a third temple. Will they do it in our lifetime? ?

    Like

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