Half Shekalim were used to take a census of Jews in the desert. When counting Jews to form a minyan, people use a verse or some other method to count rather than using direct numbers.

Under what criteria is it prohibited to count Jews directly? Is it at all times or only for davar mitzvah? E.g., at a party, can I count Jews for table seating or for attendance?


1 Answer 1


Magen Avraham, OC 156:2 (in the middle of DH Mitzvah), infers that it is always forbidden, even for a Mitzvah:

אסור למנות ישראל אפילו אינו מכוון למנות רק להטיל גורל אפילו לדבר מצוה אלא מוציאין אצבעותיהם ומונין אצבעותיהם (יומא כב).

It is forbidden to count Jews, even if he doesn’t intend to count, only to take a lottery, even for a Mitzvah. Rather, they stick out their fingers and count their fingers (Yoma 22).

  • Interestingly, he doesn't mention the pasuk method. I'm probably going to ask a follow up question. Thanks for the source.
    – DanF
    Commented Mar 5, 2019 at 19:23

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