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At the beginning of this week's Torah portion, following the detailed instructions for the construction of the Portable Tabernacle, the Israelites are commanded to pay machatzit hashekel, half a shekel. This is a tax levied on each person in an egalitarian manner - "The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel" (Exodus 30:15 ). It is intended to enable a census...