1) THE "KALBON"
QUESTIONS: The Mishnah states that according to the Rabanan, when one gives a Sela (equal to two half-Shekels) on behalf of himself and his friend (in fulfillment of each one's obligation to give a Machatzis ha'Shekel, a half-Shekel), he is required to give one Kalbon as well. Rebbi Meir maintains that he must give two Kalbonos.
The Mishnah continues and says that when one gives a Sela to fulfill his obligation to give a Machatzis ha'Shekel and he receives a half-Shekel as change in return, he is required to pay two Kalbonos. In the Gemara (4b), Rav explains that even the Rabanan agree in this case that he must give two Kalbonos. Even though the Rabanan maintain that when one gives a Sela on behalf of two people, he pays only one Kalbon, they agree that he must pay two Kalbonos when he gives a Sela and receives change.
1. What is the purpose of paying a Kalbon in the first place?
2. Why does Rebbi Meir say that one must pay two Kalbonos and not just one when he gives a Sela on behalf of himself and his friend?
3. Why do the Rabanan say that one must pay two Kalbonos when he gives a Sela and receives a half-Shekel as change?
ANSWERS: There are three basic approaches to this Gemara.
(a) RASHI (Chulin 25b and Bechoros 56b), the ROSH, and the BARTENURA here explain the Gemara as follows:
1. A Kalbon is a "Hechra," or a "bit extra" that is added to cover any loss that Hekdesh might incur in the process of collecting the Shekalim (for example, to compensate for worn-down Shekalim). When one gives a half-Shekel, he must add a little extra.
2. The Rabanan maintain that when one gives exactly a half-Shekel there is no need to add anything else. The BARTENURA explains that the Rabanan derived this from the verse "Zeh Yitnu" (Shemos 30:13), which means "give exactly this amount," not more and not less. Rebbi Meir, who understands the verse differently, says that everyone who gives a half-Shekel is required to give a little extra. (The Bartenura apparently had a different text in the Yerushalmi (4b). According to our text, the Gemara uses this verse as the source for Rebbi Meir, who requires the extra Kalbon, and not for the Rabanan who do not require the extra Kalbon.)
The Rabanan maintain that the only time one gives more than a half-Shekel is when he gives a whole Sela. In that case, the Gezeiras ha'Kasuv of "Zeh Yitnu" (give this amount and not more or less) does not apply. "Zeh Yitnu" applies only when one gives an actual half-Shekel.
Rebbi Meir argues that when one gives a whole Sela on behalf of two people, both people are required to give a Kalbon. He maintains that whenever a person gives a half-Shekel to Hekdesh he must pay a Kalbon. Since the Sela is given on behalf of two people, two Kalbonos need to be given as well.
3. When one gives a Sela and receives a Shekel in return, the Rabanan maintain that he must give one Kalbon as a "Hechra" because he did not give an exact half-Shekel. He must give a second Kalbon to cover the fee of the moneychanger who provides change for a Sela.
(b) The RAMBAM (in Perush ha'Mishnayos and Hilchos Shekalim) explains the Gemara as follows:
1. During the time in which the Machatzis ha'Shekel was given, the coin was in great demand. As a result, the value of two half-Shekel coins was greater than the value of a Shekel coin. For this reason, one who fulfills his obligation to give a half-Shekel by giving any coin other than a Machatzis ha'Shekel must add a Kalbon to make up for the difference in value.
2. According to Rebbi Meir, when one pays a Sela for himself and for his friend, he must give two Kalbonos. Since he is giving a Sela (instead of two half-Shekels), he must add a Kalbon. However, we view it as if each person is giving the Sela, and therefore a Kalbon must be given for each person. It seems from the Rambam's words that even according to Rebbi Meir, if one gives exactly a half-Shekel, he gives no Kalbon.
3. If one gives a Sela and receives a half-Shekel in return, then one must give one Kalbon because he used a Sela coin instead of a half-Shekel and he must cover the difference in value between them. He must give a second Kalbon in order to pay the moneychanger for providing change.
(c) The VILNA GA'ON explains the Gemara as follows:
1. The requirement to give a Kalbon is a Torah obligation, according to Rebbi Meir. It is derived from the verse, "Zeh Yitnu," which teaches that one must be careful not to give less than a half-Shekel (and, therefore, one must add a little more in case the half-Shekel coin that he gives is worn down). The Rabanan disagree and assert that it suffices to give a half-Shekel without any addition -- unless one asks for change, in which case he must add a bit to pay for the services of the moneychanger.
2. The reason why, in a case where one gives a Sela for himself and for his friend, he must give two Kalbonos according to Rebbi Meir, is because both he and his friend are obligated, mid'Oraisa, to give an additional Kalbon for their payment of the Machatzis ha'Shekel. Thus, the payer must give two Kalbonos, one for him and one for his friend. (Rebbi Meir maintains that one is not required to pay an extra fee to the moneychanger who provides the change.)
The Rabanan maintain that there is no obligation mid'Oraisa to pay a Kalbon. According to the Rabanan, the reason why he must pay one Kalbon when he gives a Sela for himself and for his friend is because that Sela needs to be converted into two half-Shekels, and thus he must pay the moneychanger's fee.
3. When one gives a Sela and receives a half-Shekel in return, the Rabanan agree that he must give an additional two Kalbonos. Even though they maintain that one gives a Kalbon only to pay the moneychanger, in this case he conducts two transactions and receives change twice. First, he asks that Hekdesh take out half of the value from the Sela and use it as his half-Shekel. Second, he asks that Hekdesh give him change specifically in the form of a half-Shekel.