Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Don't Blow It

We are taught that the ram's horn, or shofar, we blow on Rosh Hashanah has tremendous mystical powers. In the Beis Hamikdash they took advantage of a simpler and more practical aspect of a shofar: it makes a great anti-theft device.

Located within the Azarah were thirteen collection boxes which held coins donated by the public. The tops of these boxes were made to resemble a shofar — wide at one end and narrow at the other — and this shape allowed coins to be inserted into the boxes while keeping fingers out. The commentators do not specify whether these shofaros were built wide-side up or wide-side down, and either approach would serve the intended purpose.

Two possible configurations of the shofar
These thirteen boxes were used to collect funds for the following purposes:

1) The half-shekel donation collected from the public each year.
2) Half-shekel donations owed from the previous year (which would be appropriated for different uses than the current year’s shekalim).
3) Mature bird sacrifices. One who is obligated to bring a bird offering would put the cost of the offering into this box. The Kohanim checked this box daily and made sure to offer the sacrifices on behalf of the owner by the end of each day.
4) Young bird sacrifices.
5) Wood for the Altar.
6) Frankincense [levonah], which accompanied certain sacrifices.
7) Gold for vessels of the Temple.
8-13) General donations for the purchase of additional burnt- offerings. Each of these six shofaros was designated for a specific beis av (of which there were six) who would receive the hides of the animals offered from these funds.

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