Shekalim, Chapter One, Mishnah Five



Most of this mishnah deals with Gentiles who wish to make donations to the Temple.  We should note that this was a sensitive and realistic issue in the Second Temple Period.  There were some groups of Jews, notably the Dead Sea Sect, which adamantly opposed accepting donations from the Gentiles.  A quote from the book of Ezra which we will see below also seems to express this approach. In contrast, the rabbis are more open to Gentile donations.  In fact, I don’t believe that they were opposed in principle.  Rather they felt that when their understanding of the Torah allowed such donations, it was sanctioned.  The rabbis seem to be trying to walk a fine line—to make Jews responsible for the ultimate upkeep of the Temple and yet to not totally exclude Gentiles from participating in what they may have perceived as worship to the one, true, God.


Mishnah Five

1)      Even though they said, “they don’t exact pledges from women, slaves or minors, [yet] if they paid the shekel it is accepted from them.

2)      If a non-Jew or a Samaritan paid the shekel they do not accept it from them.

3)      And they do not accept from them the bird-offerings of zavin or bird-offerings of zavot or bird-offerings of women after childbirth,

4)      Or sin-offerings or guilt-offerings.

5)      But vow-offerings and freewill-offerings they do accept from them. This is the general rule: all offerings which can be made as a vow-offering or a freewill-offering they do accept from them, but offerings which cannot be made as a vow-offering or a freewill-offering they do not accept from them.

6)      And thus it is explicitly stated by Ezra, as it is said: “You have nothing to do with us to build a house unto our God” (Ezra 4:3).



Section one:  We learned in mishnah three that women, slaves and minors are exempt from paying the half-shekel, and hence pledges are not taken from them to get them to pay their shekels.  In our mishnah we learn that shekels are accepted from them.  As we stated above with regard to the priest, as long as they give the shekel with the intent of it becoming a communal possession, the shekels can be used to buy public sacrifices.  The only problem would be if they gave it thinking that they were making an individual donation for a public sacrifice.  In such a case, their shekels would have to be rejected, since public sacrifices must come from only public money. 

Section two:  In contrast, shekels given by non-Jews or Samaritans are rejected. This is so that the public sacrifices, which come to afford atonement for the entire Jewish people, should paid for by the Jewish people themselves.  As we shall see below, other sacrifices are accepted from non-Jews.

Section three:  This section refers to sacrifices which a person must bring at the end of their period of impurity.  The Yerushalmi explains that the mishnah here teaches that Samaritans, who are in some matters considered Jews, do not bring these sacrifices.  Assumedly the reason is that they do not count the period of their impurity correctly, and hence they bring the sacrifices at the wrong time.  Gentiles cannot bring these sacrifices because they are not obligated for them.

Section four:  There are two different versions of this mishnah and the two differ with regard to whether sin and guilt offerings are accepted.  According to one version they are not accepted from Gentiles or Samaritans because these are sacrifices cannot be donated (see below).  Rather these are two types of atonement offerings incurred by people for various sins, and these laws govern only Jews.  The other version says that guilt and sin offerings are accepted.  According to this version, the line refers only to Samaritans, from whom these offerings are accepted in the hope that they will repent and return to being “real Jews.” 

Section five:  A “vow offering” is when one says, “I vow to bring an offering.”  A “free-will offering” is when one says, “I vow to bring this animal.”  Both types of sacrifices are accepted from Gentiles and Samaritans.  This halakhah is derived midrashically from Leviticus 22:18, which twice uses the word “ish” (man). The double appearance is taken to mean that these offerings are accepted from both Jews and Gentiles alike.

Section six:  In the preceding verses in Ezra some enemies of the Jews come to Zerubbabel and the chiefs of the clans and say, “Let us build with you, since we too worship your God.”  The Jewish leaders respond, “It is not for you and us to build a House to our God, but we alone will build it to the Lord God of Israel.”  From here the rabbis conclude that non-Jews may not participate in the funding of the public sacrifices.  However, as we noted above, other types of sacrifices are accepted from them.