The third perek of Massekhet Shekalim opens with a discussion of the collection and use of the shekalim in the Temple. When the shekalim were collected, they were brought to the Temple where they were stored so that they could be used to purchase communal sacrifices as necessary. As we learned, the collection was taken up in the month of Adar, and beginning with the first day of Nisan, the new year began with regard to the Temple service.
The Mishna on our daf teaches that all of the collected money was brought to a specific Temple office. It was removed three times during the year – 15 days before each of the shalosh regalim – and put into baskets from which it was dispensed to the people who had accepted upon themselves the responsibility of tending to the needs of the Temple service. Before each holiday the money was distributed into three kupot – baskets – one of them representing the donations of the people living in Israel, one on behalf of the people living in the countries near Israel and one for the people who lived in the further reaches of the Diaspora.
The funds are collected from the Temple treasury chamber with three baskets, each measuring three se’a. On the baskets is written, respectively, alef, beit, gimmel, based on the order in which the baskets are filled, to indicate from which basket coins should be taken to buy sacrifices. The coins were used in the order of their collection. Rabbi Yishmael says: The letters written on them were in Greek [the language commonly in use during the second Temple period], alfa, beta, gamma.
The Mishna also teaches that great care was taken to make sure that no one would steal – or be suspected of stealing – from these monies. No one was permitted to take the money from the Temple office if he was wearing clothing or shoes in which he could conceal money. To support the ruling that obligates people to show care not only before God, but also before people, and ensure that they do not suspect you of wrongdoing, the Mishna refers to passages in Bamidbar 32:22 and Mishle 3:4 that clearly indicate the need to be concerned with both heavenly and this-world suspicions.