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As mentioned in the Passover Hagaddah, how much is "2 Zuz" worth in March 2013 US Dollars?

Please note there may be different types of Zuz: "זוזי פשיטי" and "זוזי ממש" (Gemara Ketuvot 67a). This may be the Zuz in question: http://www.acsearch.info/record.html?id=631023 .

This AISH article appears to imply 2 Zuz is worth $7.50: http://www.aish.com/atr/Ketubah_200_Zuz.html

But that seems cheap for a little goat, even one that can be eaten by a single cat, which can be easily bitten by a dog, which was doing the right thing in defending the goat and didn't deserve to be beaten by a stick, which deserved to be burned by the fire, which... you get the idea.

So what's 2 Zuz worth? How much did this baby goat go for in USD?

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Closely related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/16261 –  msh210 Mar 29 '13 at 5:31
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מועדים לשמחה! The Gemara suggests that a bald goat (non-wool-producing) or a cheap ram may cost four zuzim (Shabbos 152a and Kerisus 27a, respectively). Both cases apparently refer to adult animals. –  Fred Mar 29 '13 at 6:47
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Ari, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for posting this question! Please consider registering your account, which will give you access to more of the site's features. –  Isaac Moses Mar 29 '13 at 15:10
    
Also closely related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/5685 and judaism.stackexchange.com/q/1357 –  msh210 Mar 29 '13 at 15:22
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3 Answers

It's virtually impossible to compare money from such a long time ago.

Common comparisons are:

  • Value of precious metal.
  • Cost of a days meal.
  • Days labor.

Each measure will give you a different number. For a goat probably a days labor is the best measure, since that's what you would have to do to get one.

A day laborer (unskilled) in those days would earn about one dinarii (same as a zuz) per day.

Federal minimum wage in the US for a days labor is about $58, so your goat cost about $116. Although practically speaking most people can expect more since state minimum wage is higher, and someone earning minimum wage with a family (which is comparable to the situation back then) would get a large refund on their tax return. So the real number is probably higher.

Precious metal price you already know: $7.50.

In terms of food a Zuz is worth about $20 according to this. So $40 in that case.

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According to R' Chaim Naeh (Shiurey Torah 3:42), one Talmudic Zuz is 4.8 grams of silver (he writes that a perutah is 1/40th of a gram of silver, and that a Dinar/Zuz = 192 perutas.) WolframAlpha calculates that to be $4.40 USD at the time of this post, or $8.80 for two Zuz.

As you mention in the question, there are two types of Zuz. The above calculation is for pure Zuz. Rashi there explains that 8 "Zuz Medina" are equal to one real Zuz, thus 2 Zuz Medina would be $1.1 USD.

However, all this is regarding the meaning of Zuz in Talmud. R' Chaim Naeh points out (Shiurey Torah Siman 1 footnote 21) that in the later Halachic works ("Poskim"), the term Zuz was used loosely for whatever coin their country happened to use. Chad Gadya is attributed to the Rokeach, so it may have referring to German currency.

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Does the downvoter care to explain what he finds wrong with this answer? –  Michoel Mar 30 '13 at 10:15
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Well first you need to determine what a Zuz is worth. Here is an article specifically talking about the 200Zuz of a Ketubah and it's various understandings, from $750-$1,000,000. Current custom in Israel is to not evaluate the actual worth of Talmudic coins but to equate it to purchasing power, technically known as relative worth. You can see this in action with US Dollars here. According to the Rabbinate the current relative worth of 200zuz is equivalent to $50000USD which is explained here. Coinicidentally this past October I was maseder kiddushin in the US. I asked Rav Ovadia Yosef before I wrote the Ketubah, if the $50k stipulation should also be included in an American Ketubah, where it wasn't mandated by state law and there were differing opinions concerning the value of a Zuz and he told me that it should still be written explicitly that 200zuz is equal to $50000USD.

So 50000/200=250. 250*2=500. So 2zuz is $500(or possibly considerably less if you follow another valid opinion).

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I think you are confusing Zuzim with Zekukim. The Gemora mandates 200 (or 100 for widow/divorcee) zuzim for a Kesuba, and there is discussion whether this is pure Zuz, or Zuz Medina. Whatever the case, as the article you linked to explains this is a very small amount of money. However, the Ashkenazi Kesuba adds a requirement to pay 200 "Zekukim", which is what may be worth $50,000, but has nothing to do with this question. –  Michoel Mar 29 '13 at 6:49
    
No. Starting on the bottom of page 5 and continuing onto page six of the article I cited, "The Mishnah and the Jerusalem Talmud19 indicates that the base amount of "200 zuz" is meant to correspond to a year's worth of support for a single person.20" Which is how the Israel Rabbabut comes to the $50,000USD assesement. –  Rabbi Michael Tzadok Mar 29 '13 at 13:47
    
Continuing on that line, Sephardi Ketubot specify Zuzim, not Zukim, the specific language of the Ketubah approved by Rav Ovadia is this, "סך הכל חמישים אלף דולר מארצות הברית בר ממאתן זוזי דחזי" Clearly it is talking about Zuzim. –  Rabbi Michael Tzadok Mar 29 '13 at 13:53
    
Yes, I see now what you are referring to - this is according to the opinion that nowadays we don't evaluate Talmudic coins by their weight in silver, but rather in terms of their (contemporary) purchasing power. It might be a good idea to make this clear in your answer. –  Michoel Mar 30 '13 at 10:12
    
Thanks for the edit. +1 –  Michoel Mar 31 '13 at 2:42
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