SHEKALIM (Heb. שְׁקָלִים), fourth tractate in the order of *Mo'ed, which deals, in eight chapters, with the annual half-shekel tax collected for the maintenance of the Temple and its services and with allied subjects. There is no Gemara in the Babylonian Talmud but there is in the Jerusalem Talmud, and this Gemara is usually included in the printed editions of the Babylonian Talmud. There is Tosefta, divided into three chapters. The reason for placing this tractate in the order of Mo'ed, dealing with festivals, is somewhat problematic. Since Shekalim deals principally with matters connected with the Temple, its expected place might have been in the order Kodashim ("Holy Things") together with the tractates Middot and Tamid. It is probable, however, that its inclusion in Mo'ed is connected with the opening paragraph of Shekalim, which says: "on the first of Adar, announcement is made concerning shekalim… on the 15th, the Megillah is read in the walled cities…" This formulation associates shekalim with the idea of an "appointed time," which is the basic meaning of mo'ed. Moreover, the first paragraph of chapter 3 significantly links the periodical allocations from the shekel funds with the festivals of Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot.
It is also remarkable that the various printed editions and manuscripts of the Mishnah, Tosefta, and the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds differ widely as to the place of Shekalim in the sequence of tractates within the order Mo'ed. There are a few instances of its being placed ninth, 11th, or 12th, but it is most frequently found as either fourth or fifth. Following the rule that tractates with a higher number of chapters take precedence, Shabbat (24), Pesaḥim (10), and Eruvin (10) took the first three places, while Shekalim and Yoma, each with eight chapters, vied for the fourth place. But there is evidence, coming from geonic times, that Shekalim used to be studied before Yoma, and eventually the placing of Shekalim as the fourth tractate of Mo'ed prevailed.
As to biblical provisions concerning the half-shekel tax, Exodus 30:11–16 sees it as a onetime measure for the purpose of a popular census. But in ii Kings 12:5–17, 22:3–7, ii Chronicles 24:5–14, 34:8–14, and in Nehemiah 10:33–34 it appears as a permanent institution. It is remarkable that the last mentioned source speaks of a "third part of a shekel," having in mind Persian currency.
The contents of the eight chapters of this tractate are as follows: chapters 1–2 deal with the time and manner of levying this tax. Chapters 3–4 deal with the allocations of the shekel fund, when they were made, and how they were to be used. Chapter 5 lists the various chief officers of the Temple and speaks, in particular, about the administration of the funds. Chapter 6 says first that there were in the Temple 13 "chests" for money donated, two of which were marked for shekel contributions. It then goes on to list other things of which there were 13 in the Temple. Chapter 7 first discusses the use to which lost money found on the Temple premises should be put, and goes on to consider similar questions, e.g., that of meat or cattle picked up in the sanctuary or elsewhere in Jerusalem or in the provinces. Various other questions are also touched upon, e.g., a burnt-offering sent by a heathen from abroad. Chapter 8 discusses a variety of questions which have nothing to do with the subject matter of this tractate, except for the incidental statement that the law of shekalim became obsolete with the destruction of the Temple. The following aggadic passages from the Jerusalem Talmud to the tractate are well known: "No monuments need to be put up for the righteous, their deeds are their memorial" (2:7, 47a), and "Whoever settles in Israel, speaks Hebrew, eats his fruit in ritual purity, and reads the Shema morning and evening is assured of the world to come" (3:4, 47c).
The tractate Shekalim for the most part consists of early material, and there are sections and chapters which have come down in their original form. All the officials mentioned in chapter 5 lived between the time of *Agrippa i and the destruction of the Temple (41–70 c.e.), and some of them are mentioned by name in Josephus, while three others are mentioned also in the Mishnah of *Middot and *Tamid, which were arranged at the end of the Temple era. Yose b. Ḥanan played a considerable part in its arrangements, and one may assume with certainty that chapters 3, 5, and 6 are actually by him. The Tosefta contains many variations of and additions to the Mishnah, chiefly in the names of the officials. Hence it is evident that the Tosefta utilized the Mishnah of a different tanna. Despite this it is clear that the source of the Tosefta is not later than that on which the Mishnah is based. *Judah i (ha-Nasi) also made use of the mishnayot of later tannaim who taught this tractate, among whom should be noted Judah b. Ilai, from whom apparently comes the whole of chapter 1; Simeon (ch. 2:1–4 and ch. 7); and Yose, chapter 4 being apparently wholly from him. There is much information about the shekel offering, both in Ereẓ Israel and the Diaspora. The New Testament refers to the "collectors" of the half-shekel in *Capernaum (Kefar Nahum) to whom Peter gave a *sela on his own behalf and on behalf of Jesus (Matt. 17:24–27). Josephus (Ant. 18:311f.) describes the methods whereby the Jews of Nehardea and Nisibis sent their half-shekel, and shekalim from Egypt are already referred to in the *Elephantine papyri and by Philo. The Mishnah was translated into English by H. Danby in 1933.
Epstein, Tanna'im 25–27, 338–45; Ḥ. Albeck, Shishah Sidrei Mishnah, 2 (1958), 183–6.
[Arnost Zvi Ehrman]
"Shekalim." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 22, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/shekalim
"Shekalim." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved October 22, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/shekalim