Treatise of the Mishnah, the Tosefta, and the Jerusalem Talmud, dealing with the half-shekel tax which was imposed for defraying the expenses of the Temple service (comp. Ex. xxx. 12 et seq.; Neh. x. 33); also with the other institutions of the Temple at Jerusalem. In most of the Mishnah editions the treatise is the fourth in the order Mo'ed, and is divided into eight chapters, containing fifty-one sections in all.
- Ch. i.: Concerning the method of calling for payment of the tax on the first day of the twelfth month, Adar; public works undertaken on the fifteenth of Adar; on that day the money-changers set up their tables in Jerusalem for the purpose of exchanging foreign moneys for the coin in which the tax was payable; on the twenty-fifth of Adar the changers set up their tables in the Temple itself; on the last-mentioned date also they began to take pledges from those persons who had not paid the tax, no pledges being exacted from the priests, although they were obliged to pay the tax, and committed a sin in refusing to do so; women, slaves,and minors were not required to pay the tax, though their money was accepted if they offered it, the tax was not accepted from pagans and Samaritans, even if they wished to pay it; cases in which a small sum was paid in addition to the half-shekel.
- Ch. ii.: Concerning the changing of the sheḳalim into gold coin, in order to transport the money more easily to Jerusalem; the boxes placed in the Temple and throughout the province, into which every person dropped his half-shekel; cases in which the money was lost or stolen en route to Jerusalem; cases in which a person paid his tax with consecrated money; the different kinds of coin in which the tax was paid at different times during the Second Temple; ways of using money collected for certain purposes.
- Ch. iii.: Concerning the three days of the year on which the gold coin handed in was taken from the treasury and placed in three baskets, from which it was subsequently taken for the purchase of the sacrifices; manner of removing this money from the treasury so that the persons engaged in the work might in no wise be suspected of theft; manner of marking, either with Hebrew or with Greek letters, the three baskets in which the money was placed.
- Ch. iv.: Relating to the things purchased with the money taken from the treasury, and what was done with the money remaining there; regulations for disposing of the remnants of other dedicated objects (§§ 1-5); manner of disposing of objects suitable for sacrifices, which were included in property that a person had left to the Temple (§§ 6-8); manner of determining once in thirty days the price of the wine, oil, and meal needed in the Sanctuary. (§ 9).
- Ch. v.: Enumeration of the fifteen offices connected with the Sanctuary, and the names of the heads of these offices; the four checks or counters representing the measures used in the different sacrifices; the sacrificer requiring wine, oil, and meal for his sacrifice went to the keeper of these checks, and received one on payment of the requisite sum; with this check he went to the keeper in charge of the ingredients of the sacrifice, who gave him what he needed for his offering: subsequent treatment of the checks; the two apartments in the Temple in which gifts were placed; one of them was called "secret chamber," because the names of the donors as well as those of the poor who received relief from such gifts were kept secret.
- Ch. vi.: Occurrence of the number thirteen in connection with the Sanctuary; the thirteen jars, thirteen tables, and thirteen obeisances made in thirteen different places therein; where the Ark of the Covenant was concealed; once a priest in doing some work noticed that a certain part of the floor was different from the rest; when he mentioned the fact to his colleagues, he was immediately stricken dead, whereupon they perceived that the Ark was concealed below that portion.
- Ch. vii.: Regulations regarding the disposal of money, meat, or cattle found in the Sanctuary at Jerusalem or in the vicinity of that city; seven regulations issued by the court ("bet din") in reference to sacrifices and to dedicated objects.
- Ch. viii.: Regulations regarding the cleanness or uncleanness of saliva, and of vessels and slaughtering-knives found in Jerusalem; purification of the curtain of the Temple when defiled in any way; value of the curtain before the Sanctuary; the half-shekel tax and the offering of the firstlings of the fruit ceased with the destruction of the Temple.
The Tosefta on this treatise is divided into three chapters, and contains many interesting additions and supplements to the Mishnah. Noteworthy is the discussion of the question whether the Ark of the Covenant was taken to Babylon or whether it was concealed in the ground below the spot where it had stood in the Sanctuary (ii. 18); regulation regarding the time of apprenticeship which the Levites were required to serve in order to become qualified to enter into the Temple service (iii. 26).
The Babylonian Talmud having no Gemara to this treatise, the Palestinian Gemara is printed in the editions. The latter contains, besides comments on the Mishnah, many sentences and haggadic interpretations, as well as legends and myths. Some of the sentences may be quoted here. "The pious and the sages need no monuments; for their wise sayings and noble deeds commemorate them forever in the minds of men" (ii. 7). "If the sentence of a dead sage is repeated, his lips move in the grave" (i.e., he speaks though no longer living; ib.). "When David was about to build the Temple, God asked him, 'For what is the Temple intended? For the purpose of bringing sacrifices to Me there? I prefer the exercise of right and justice to all sacrifices'" (Prov. xxi. 3) (ib.). "R. Meïr said: 'Whoever lives in Palestine, speaks Hebrew, observes the laws of purification, and reads the "Shema'" every morning and evening is sure of participating in the future life'" (iii. 5, end). There is also an interesting criticism of persons who spend large sums in erecting buildings for academies, though this money might be employed to better advantage in aiding the students (v. 15, end).