Friday, May 7, 2010

Eruchin - how they work

At the end of Bechukosai the torah specifies the halachos of eruchin. If a person says  - ערך פלוני עלי - “I will give the value of someone ,” the Torah fixes the amount that he has to pay to the beis hamikdash. This varies according to the age and gender of the person whose value he is giving.

Heseg yad
If the donor cannot afford to give the full erech then the cohen estimates how much he can afford:
וְאִם-מָךְ הוּא מֵעֶרְכֶּךָ וְהֶעֱמִידוֹ לִפְנֵי הַכֹּהֵן וְהֶעֱרִיךְ אֹתוֹ הַכֹּהֵן  עַל-פִּי אֲשֶׁר תַּשִּׂיג יַד הַנֹּדֵר יַעֲרִיכֶנּוּ הַכֹּהֵן

“If he is too poor to give the full erech then he shall stand the person whose value he is donating before the cohen and the cohen shall value him according to the amount that the donor can afford.”

The Rambam in Hilchos Eruchin (3:6) talks about a case where a poor person obligated himself to give the same as a wealthy person:
עשיר שאמר ערכי עלי או ערך פלוני ושמע העני ואמר מה שאמר זה עלי הרי העני חייב בערך עשיר שהוא ערך שלם

If a wealthy person said “I will give my own value” or “I will give the value of ploni” and a poor person heard and he said “I am obligated to give the same as this person said” then the poor person has to give the same erech as the wealthy person which is the full erech value.

The Raavad argues and says:
 אמר אברהם זו כרבי וחכמים חולקין עליו ואומרים שאינו נותן אלא ערך עני
“This is the opinion of Rebbi but the chachamim argue and say that he only has to give the value that a poor person is obligated to give.”
  • What is the machlokess between the Rambam and the Raavad?
  • How can the Raavad say that he only has to give the erech of a poor person if he explicitly stated that he is obligated to give the same as the wealthy person?
Reb Yechezkel Sarna z”l (HaPardes) explains as follows:

Domim
The gemara in Eruchin (4b) explains that in addition to the halacha of eruchin there is also a halacha of domim. A person can obligate themselves to donate the market value (domim) of a person. In this case the donor has to give the value of that person on the slave market which is not a fixed amount.

The question is, does the halacha of heseg yad apply in a case of domim?  In other words, if a person donates the market value of someone to the beis hamikdash and cannot afford to give the full value, does he receive the same discount as he does when he donates an erech?

The Rambam and the Raavad both agree that he does not get a discount, however they argue why this is.  The Rambam says (Hilchos Eruchin 3:9):
וכן האומר דמי עלי או דמי פלוני עלי אינו נדון בהשג יד שחייבי דמים הרי פירשו נדרן והרי הן כמי שאמר מנה עלי הקדש שהוא חייב ליתן מנה גמור.

“If someone says “I donate my value” or he says “I donate ploni’s value” he does not get a heseg yad discount because he has specified how much he wants to give. This is like someone who says “I will give a maneh (a hundred zuz) to hekdesh” in which case he has to give a maneh  [irrespective of whether or not he can afford to do so.]

In other words, in the case if eruchin he does not specify the amount. Rather this is fixed by the Torah. The Torah applies a leniency if he cannot afford to pay the full erech that he pays a reduced amount. However in the case of domim he specified the exact amount of money that he wanted to give and the Torah does not decrease this.

The Raavad agrees with the halacha but argues on the reason:
א"א לא מן השם הוא זה אלא לפי שהערכים הם כעין קנס כשלשים של עבד חסה התורה עליו שידון בהשג יד אבל בדמים אין קנס וגזרת הכתוב הוא ואם מך הוא

 “This is not the correct reason. Rather the difference between eruchin and domim is that eruchin are a like a fine similar to the 30 coins someone has to pay if their bull kills an eved, therefore the Torah had mercy that if he cannot afford to pay the full erech he is estimated according to his means, but domim is not a fine.”

What does the Raavad mean that eruchin is a fine?

Reb Chazkal Sarna explains as follows:

What are eruchin?
The Rambam says at the beginning of Eruchin (1:1):
הערכים הם נדר מכלל נדרי הקדש. שנאמר איש כי יפליא נדר בערכך נפשות לה'

 “Eruchin are a neder the same as all other nedarim for hekdesh, as the possuk says [in Bechukosai]: איש כי יפליא נדר בערכך נפשות לה' – When a person makes a neder to give the erech of someone to Hashem.”

According to the Rambam, eruchin are a neder. That means they are a donation where the donor did not specify how much money he was going to give, the Torah fixes the donation. Nevertheless the words that the donor say mean that he is obligating himself to make a monetary donation.

The Raavad however says: שהערכים הם כעין קנסeruchin are like a fine. Reb Chazkal Sarna explains that according to the Raavad  when a person says erech ploni olai  this is not a monetary statement. He simply means that he undertakes to do something for Hashem relating to the value of that person. The Torah imposes a fixed monetary donation to the beis hamikdash in this case.

This is similar to nezirus. If a person says ‘hareini nazir’ – ‘I am a nazir’, he does not mean that he is applying all the halachos of nezirus to himself.  He simply means that he is a nazir, subsequently the halachos of nezirus apply to him such as not becoming tame le'mes (becoming tame through a dead person) and so on. Here too, when a person says ‘erech ploni olai’ – he does not mean that he is obligating himself to pay the value of that person to the beis hamikdash – he simply means that he will do something for Hashem that relates to the value of that person. It is the Torah that obligates him to give the value of that person to the beis hamikdash.

What is the din of heseg yad?
Reb Chazkal Sarna explains that according to the Rambam, the din of heseg yad is a strong din. Even although the donor has obligated themselves to donate money, the Torah is still lenient and says as he cannot afford the full erech he does not need to pay the full amount.

According to the Raavad the din of heseg yad is not such as strong din. The donor never obligated themselves to give money. They simply applied the halachos of eruchin to themselves. What this means is totally defined by the Torah. The din of heseg yad means that the Torah considers the status of the donor before there is any monetary obligation applied to that person.

Therefore according to the Rambam it would be possible to say that that the halacha of heseg yad should apply to domim because eruchin is also a type of domim. Therefore the Rambam has to say that the reason that there is no din of heseg yad with regards to domim is because it is not worse than an erech mephurash which does not have the leniency of heseg yad. Chayvey domim too have specified how much they are giving.

However according to the Raavad that eruchin are not a monetary commitment, heseg yad is an extenuating halacha that is applied before any monetary obligation comes about. Therefore in a case such as domim where the person has made a monetary undertaking, the whole idea of heseg yad is entirely irrelevant.

An oni who undertakes the oshir’s erech 
Using this machlokess between the Rambam and the Raavad in the nature of eruchin, Reb Chazkal Sarna explains the initial machlokess between the Rambam and the Raavad:

The Rambam says that if a poor person obligates themselves to give the erech of the wealthy person then he has to give the full erech value. This is because the Rambam understands that eruchin are a monetary undertaking. Therefore if the oni says I will give as an erech the same as the oshir – this means that he is making a monetary undertaking to that value.

However the Raavad argues and says he only has to give the value that a poor person is obligated to give. This is because the Raavad understands that there is no monetary element to the undertaking of an erech. The person is simply applying the Torah’s halacha of eruchin to himself. Therefore the oni cannot change the obligation on himself by referencing something that the oshir said because both the oshir and the oni are merely applying the halacha to themselves and it is the halacha that decides how much they should pay once they have made this undertaking.

In other words: According to the Rambam – eruchin are a monetary commitment. The monetary commitment of an oshir is greater than the monetary commitment of the oni. If the oni obligates himself to the same extent as the oshir then he does not receive the leniency of heseg yad.

However according to the Raavad – eruchin are not a monetary commitment. They are a halacha that a person applies to themselves. The Torah decides what the effect of the halacha is. Therefore for an oni to say that his undertaking is the same as the oshir’s is meaningless, because the oshir never made a monetary commitment, he simply applied the halacha to himself.

1 comment:

Eliezer Eisenberg said...

I improved Reb Chatzkel's pshat with the Shiltei HaGiborim in Avoda Zara.

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