“Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the Lord. The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves.” Exodus 30:15 (The Israel Bible™)Read on for the specifics of the two new systems. I wonder how this one is going to play out. So far, they are reported to have collected quite a bit of money.
After a 2,000 year moratorium, it is now possible for a Jew anywhere in the world to perform the mitzvah (commandment) of paying the half-shekel, a Biblically-mandated tax incumbent on every Jew to finance the day-to-day operations of the Temple.
There are now two ways to perform this commandment: one method for people who can hand-deliver their offering, and another for those who can’t.
While the Temple was standing, every Jewish man was required to give one half-shekel weight of silver, approximately eight grams of silver (worth about $4 today), as a mandatory tax to support the Temple. Each man was obligated to give the same amount, regardless of his economic condition. The coins, once deposited in the Temple courtyard, were hekdesh (sanctified) and not permitted to be used for any other purpose.
The nation of Israel continued to observe the commandment even after the First Temple was destroyed until the practice was outlawed by Roman Emperor Hadrian in the year 135 CE. Even Jews who lived outside of Israel continued to donate the half-shekel, despite the Roman Senate forbidding the export of gold and silver.
As I have said before: (1) No excavation or construction on the Temple Mount! Not even archaeology, until we have non-invasive and non-destructive technologies to do the work. And (2) My interest here is sociological and historical, not theological (let alone eschatological!), and my citation of this and related stories is not an endorsement of their content. The latter link also has some relevant comments on Breaking Israel News.
This particular initiative was first noted here, but there have been new developments. That post has links to previous posts on the ancient half-shekel tax and see also here.