The value of a Peruta & How to calculate

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How much is a Peruta?[1]

The Peruta was the smallest form of currency in the times of the Mishna and Talmud. It was a copper coin. Its silver worth is the weight of half a barley, which is about .025 grams.[2] Thus, the worth of a Peruta is 0.025 of one gram of silver [1/40th of a gram]. In accordance to the current price of silver [$0.49 cents per gram as of 3rd April 2019[3]] the worth of a Peruta is 1.22 cents or 5 [4.4] Agurot. One must periodically verify anew as to the worth of silver, in order to know the current price of a Peruta. Some Rabbanim of today hold that one must also include the amount of sales tax levied on purchasing this amount of silver in his country [i.e. 17% in Israel, in U.S.A. depends on your state]. Furthermore, some Poskim[4] question that perhaps a Peruta must contain an amount that one can use to purchase a substantial item in one’s country, such as many fruits, and thus the above-mentioned minuscule amount is no longer accurate for today’s times. Practically, there is room for one to be stringent like this opinion.[5]

Areas in Halacha that a Peruta is relevant:

In Halacha, less than a Peruta is not considered money, and a value dependent Mitzvah cannot be fulfilled when using less than a Peruta. The following are some areas in Halacha in which a Perutas worth is relevant.

  1. Tzedaka:[6] One who is careful to give money to charity each day prior to Davening is to give at least a Peruta’s worth. The same applies prior to candle lighting.
  2. Matanos Laevyonim:[7] The minimum value one must give a pauper to fulfill the Mitzvah of Matanos Laevyonim is a Peruta.
  3. Pidyon Maaser Sheiyni:[8] Maaser Sheiyni is redeemed onto a Peruta.
  4. Kiddushin:[9] One may only marry a woman with an item worth a Peruta or more. If the item is worth less than a Peruta she remains single.
  5. Moda Bemiktzas:[10] One who admits to a partial claim is only liable for a swear if he admitted to being liable for at least a Peruta’s worth of debt.

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[1] Shiurei Torah 3:42

[2] Shiurei Torah ibid in name of Rambam; Rif; Ran in name of Geonim; Rabbeinu Chananel Shavuos 39b; Rosh Bechoros 8; Michaber Y.D. 331:133; E.H. 27; C.M. 88

[3] Compare to $0.54 per gram in January 2017; Over the past 30 years the price of a gram of silver has fluctuated from a lowest of $3.75 per ounce [13 cents per gram, which makes a Peruta worth .325 of a cent!] to a highest of $47 per ounce [$1.67 per gram, which makes a Peruta worth 4.1 cents!] For a full chart of the fluctuation of the price of silver starting from 1988-2019, and the current price of silver for your date, see https://www.apmex.com/spotprices/silver-price

[4] Smeh C.M. 88:2 concludes with Tzaruch Iyun; Shach Y.D. 294:16 in quote of Smeh; Tiferes Yisrael Shavuos 6:1 negates this opinion of Smeh, however Shiureiy Torah ibid p. 283 defends the ruling of Smeh concluding “It is a great Sevara to say that the Biblical Peruta has now lost its value” See Nitei Gavriel Purim 65:1 that today in the USA a Peruta is no less than 5 cents and in Israel 10 Agurot.

How much is the Peruta worth today according to this opinion? Shiureiy Torah ibid concludes that a Peruta according to the Smeh/Shach is the amount of money in the country needed to purchase 20 grams of bread. In today’s time, this equals approximately 15 Agurot.

[5] Shiureiy Torah ibid “It is a great Sevara to say that the Biblical Peruta has now lost its value… One who desires to be stringent as rules the Smeh and Shach…”

[6] See Igros Kodesh 11:18 “A Peruta or two” [printed in Shulchan Menachem 1:151]

[7] Ritva Megillah brought in M”B 694:2; Kaf Hachaim 694:7; See Ashel Avraham Butchach 695; The Peri Megadim [brought in M”B 694:2] writes he has not found an amount written anywhere.

Other Opinions: Some Poskim rule that the present must contain a minimum worth of three Kibeitzim of food [165 grams]. [Zera Yaakov 11 brought in Machazikei Bracha 694:2; Shaareiy Teshuvah 694:1; Ben Ish Chaiy Titzaveh 15; Kaf Hachaim 694:7 and 11; Meiy Yehuda 86; Pekudas Eliezer ibid] Other Poskim rule it must contain a Kebeitza worth. [Tzafnas Paneiach on Rambam Megillah 2:15] Other Poskim rule it is to be the size of one Grogeres [Pischeiy Teshuvah 694 based on Rama Y.D. 249:4] Other opinions rule it must be a present of importance. [Maharsha Megillah 7b]

[8] Michaber Y.D. 131:133

[9] Michaber E.H. 31:1

[10] Michaber C.M. 88:1

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