[Avodah] Weight of a Shekel

Micha Berger micha at aishdas.org
Mon Nov 26 12:49:35 PST 2018

No, they didn't find a sheqel, they found something just as good -- a
beqa from bayis rishon, as in machatzis hasheqel "beqa lagulgoles". Just
multiply by 2 to get a sheqel haqodesh. (Ie a beqa is a plain old sheqel.)

(There apparently weren't 1/2 sheqel coins during basyis rishon.)

See <http://bit.ly/2SeSMrk> or

    The Times of Israel
    Straight from the Bible: Tiny First Temple stone weight unearthed in
    By Amanda Borschel-Dan 21 November 2018, 12:57 pm

    Volunteer at City of David sifting project finds rare `beka' measure,
    used by pilgrims paying half-shekel tax before ascending to Temple
    Mount, in dirt from dig near Western Wall

[Picture of weight, bearing the word beqa in kesav Ivri in mirror
writing. The caption reads:]
    A First Temple period weight measure called a 'beka' was unearthed
    in a City of David excavation in the Davidson Archaeological Park
    and discovered in the wet sifting project in Jerusalem's Tsurim
    Valley. (Eliyahu Yanai, City of David)

    An extremely rare, minuscule biblical stone weight inscribed in ancient
    Hebrew script with the word "beka" was discovered in rubble taken from
    excavations at the foundations of the Western Wall.

    Only a handful of similar stone beka weights have been unearthed in
    Jerusalem, said archaeologist Eli Shukron...

    Unlike several hundred years later, during this era, there was no
    half-shekel coin. Pilgrims brought the equivalent weight, a beka, in
    silver to pay their tax, which would have been measured out on scales
    in the very spot under the Temple Mount where the tiny stone weight was

    Shukron said in a press release, "When the half-shekel tax was brought
    to the Temple during the First Temple period, there were no coins, so
    they used silver ingots. In order to calculate the weight of these
    silver pieces they would put them on one side of the scales and on the
    other side they placed the Beka weight. The Beka was equivalent to the
    half-shekel, which every person from the age of 20 years and up was
    required to bring to the Temple." According to the release, the
    biblical shekel weighed 11.33 grams....

To give you an idea of where that stands halachically, the Rambam's (H'
Sheqalim 1:2) 384 se'or. A barleycorn is 0.044 and 0.05 gm, so the Rambam's
sheqel would be at least 16.9 gm.

Rashi (Shemos 21:32) says that a sheqel is half of a the ounce used in
Cologne. Which today we would call .5 troy oz, or 15.55gm. The CI holds
it's .51 troy oz (15.86 gm).

Once again, the evidence about shiurim from Har haBayis is below even
the Rambam's shitah.

Tir'u baTov!

Micha Berger             When we are no longer able to change a situation
micha at aishdas.org        -- just think of an incurable disease such as
http://www.aishdas.org   inoperable cancer -- we are challenged to change
Fax: (270) 514-1507      ourselves.      - Victor Frankl (MSfM)

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