web analytics
January 25, 2015 / 5 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


Who’s Watching Anyway? (Me’ilah 2b, 9a)

Summertime in Massachusetts, one often sees flowers for sale at the side of the road. But there is no salesperson present. Instead, there is a sign requesting $10 for the flowers. You leave the $10 bill on the table and go back to your car with flowers in hand. It is an honors system. There is nobody watching to see if you pay only $5 or if you creep back, retrieve your $10 bill and make off with the money and the flowers. Doing that would be a breach of trust.

The Torah calls breach of trust “me’ilah.” It cites several examples of me’ilah on a social level: One who accepts an item from another on deposit and then denies that she was ever given the deposit in the first place; one who finds lost property but denies she found it and keeps if for herself; one who takes unfair advantage of a fiduciary relationship; one who breaches the trust of a spouse and enters into an extramarital relationship – all such persons are guilty of me’ilah.

There is also a breach of trust toward God. We give God something of value, but when He is not “looking” we take it back or use it for ourselves. The way we give God something is by pronouncing an item “kodesh” or “hekdesh.” That pronouncement, uttered even in solitude with no witnesses present and even before the kohen knows about it, has the power to transfer the property in the item to the Temple.

“Just words!” one might say, “and besides, no-one was watching. Let’s change our mind and take it back.” That would be a breach of trust, a me’ilah against God. The Talmud discusses this type of breach of trust in tractate Me’ilah.

Me’ilah in connection with Temple property can be intentional or it can be inadvertent, such as when one was genuinely unaware the item one was enjoying belonged to the Temple. The sanction for intentional me’ilah is lashes and monetary restitution. The sanction for unintentional me’ilah is threefold. In order to atone for the transgression, the perpetrator must offer up on the altar a guilt offering – asham meilot – in the form of a ram worth two Shekalim (38.2 grams of silver) and must make restitution for the item misappropriated. In addition, the perpetrator must add a fine equal to one quarter the value of the misappropriated item. Thus if the item is worth four quarters, one must pay five.

Me’ilah applies to items that are intrinsically holy – kedushat haguf – such as various types of kornbanot including animal offerings, bird offerings, flour offerings known as menachot, the Show Bread, known as lechem hapanim, the two loaves of bread offered up on Shavuot known as shtei halechem, the libations of water known as nesachim and the incense known as ketoret.

Me’ilah also applies to items dedicated to the Temple to assist in its upkeep. These items, which are either used in the Temple in the form they are given or sold so that their proceeds are given to the Temple, are known as kodshei bedek habayit. Although items donated for bedek habayit are not intrinsically holy, once they are dedicated to the Temple they too, like the korbanot, are subject to the laws of me’ilah.

The underlying principle of me’ilah is that nobody may derive any benefit from an item that is kodesh laHashem – that belongs exclusively to God. It follows that once an item ceases to belong exclusively to God in the sense that the Torah permits humans to derive some benefit from it, it is no longer subject to me’ilah.

Some korbanot always belong exclusively to God in the sense that there is never a time when a human may benefit from them. An example of such an item is the korban olah, no part of which was eaten by the kohanim and which, (apart from its hide, which was given to the kohanim) was entirely consumed by the fires of the altar. Accordingly, any misappropriation of the korban olah, from the time it was dedicated to the Temple to the time its burned ashes were removed from the altar, was subject to the laws and penalties of me’ilah.

Other korbanot belonging to the kodshei kodashim category start out belonging exclusively to God but are subsequently permitted for consumption by the kohanim. Examples of such items are the sin offering, known as the korban chattat, certain types of the guilt offerings, known as korbanot asham, and communal peace offerings such as the lambs sacrificed on Shavuot known as kivsei atzeret.

Once the blood of these animals has been sprinkled on the altar in a procedure known as zerikah, the kohanim are permitted to eat certain parts of the animal, (the breast and part of the right thigh). Accordingly, from that point on the animal no longer belongs exclusively to God and (except for the fat, kidneys and liver of these animals, which are always consumed by the fires of the altar) these animals are no longer subject to the laws of me’ilah.

About the Author: Raphael Grunfeld’s book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Moed” (distributed by Mesorah) is available at OU.org and your local Jewish bookstore. His new book, “Ner Eyal on Seder Nashim & Nezikin,” will be available shortly.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Who’s Watching Anyway? (Me’ilah 2b, 9a)”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends an event held at the International Conference Center in Jerusalem of the Taglit Birthright program, where Netanyahu was the guest speaker. January 14, 2015.
Netanyahu ‘Will Go Anywhere Invited’ to Prevent Iran from Achieving Nuclear Weapons
Latest Judaism Stories
Torah-Hakehillah-121914

Rabbi Yaakov Nagen, a Ram at Yeshivat Otniel, notes that the verse is suggesting that retelling the story of the Exodus is so important that Hashem is performing ever-greater miracles specifically so that parents can tell their stories to future generations.

Parshat Bo

Before performing the 10th plague God makes a fundamental argument about the ultimate nature of justice.

Daf-Yomi-logo

Life Before The Printed Word
‘A Revi’is Of Blood’
(Yevamos 114a-b)

The-Shmuz

How is it possible that the clothing was more valuable to them than gold or silver?

Question: If Abraham was commanded to circumcise his descendants on the eighth day, why do Arabs – who claim to descend from Abraham through Yishmael – wait until their children are 13 to circumcise them? I am aware that this is a matter of little consequence to our people. Nevertheless, this inconsistency is one that piques my curiosity.

M. Goldman
(Via E-mail)

“It means that the disqualification of relatives as witnesses is a procedural issue, not a question of honesty,” explained Rabbi Dayan.

Property ownership is an extremely important and fundamental right and principle according to the Torah.

The tenderest description of the husband/wife relationship is “re’im v’ahuvim/loving, kind friends”

And if a person can take steps to perform the mitzvah, he should do so (even if he won’t be held accountable for not performing it due to circumstances beyond his control).

Suddenly, she turns to me and says, “B’emet, I need to thank you, you made me excited to come back to Israel.”

Pesach is called “zikaron,” a Biblical term used describing an object eliciting a certain memory

Recouping $ and assets from Germans and Swiss for their Holocaust actions is rooted in the Exodus

Pharaoh perverted symbols of life (the Nile and midwives) into agents of death.

I think that we have to follow the approach of the Tannaim and Amoraim. They followed the latest scientific developments of their time.

Three years of war and the loss of one-tenth of Britain’s men is not too great a price to pay.

More Articles from Raphael Grunfeld
Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

A more difficult situation arises when there is no evidence placing the missing husband at the site of the death.

Grunfeld-Raphael-logo

The court cannot solely rely on death certificates issued by non-Jewish institutions without conducting its own investigation into the facts of the case.

When the inability cannot be clearly attributed to either spouse, the halacha is the subject of debate among the Rishonim.

The child of a Jewish mother from a union with a non-Jewish father is not a mamzer.

Although the conversion ceremony involves more than circumcision and immersion, these are the two essential requirements, without which the conversion is ineffective.

If a man dies childless, the Torah commands the deceased’s brother to marry his brother’s widow in a ceremony known as yibum, or to perform a special form of divorce ceremony with her known as chalitzah.

What if, at the moment of the late brother’s death, the surviving brother cannot effect yibum because the widow is a niddah?

The Torah lists twenty-one close relatives a man may not marry.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/halacha-hashkafa/whos-watching-anyway-meilah-2b-9a/2012/03/22/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: