Is Heseg Yad Optional?

Erchin (4:3) | Yisrael Bankier | 10 years ago

In the fourth perek we learnt more about the rule of heseg yad in the laws of erchin. This relates to the leniency afforded to one that cannot pay the full amount required of him. In the previous article we touched on how far the amount is reduced for one who makes an erech-vow. The Mishnah this week (4:1-3) compares this rule in how it applies to erchin with how it applies to (some) korbanot

Regarding erchin the Mishnah discusses a case where the person’s financial situation changes from the time he made the erech-vow and the time he came to pay. The Chachamim understand that for the person to be afforded the leniency he must be unable to pay both at the time he made the neder and at the time he came to pay. R’ Yehuda however argues that if he were able to pay at any point during that time, he would be required to pay the full amount.

The Gemara explains that the debate is based on the pasuk (Yayikra 27:8): “But if he is too poor for the valuation, then he should cause him to stand before the Kohen, and the Kohen should evaluate him; according to what the person making the vow can afford should the Kohen evaluate him.” “Asher tasig yad hanoder” (what the person can afford) implies that he must be unable to afford it at the time of payment. “Al pi asher tasig” (the person making the vow) implies that he must be unable to afford it at the time he made the vow as well. R’ Yehuda however that the beginning of the pasuk, “im mach hu me’ercha” (if he is too poor for the valution) implies he is too poor the entire time.

Can a person stipulate that the law of heseg yad will not apply to him? In other words, even if he is unable to pay, the obligation to pay the full amount will rest on him till he can?

The Chazon Ish(29:1-4) explains that the answer to this question depend on how we understand erchin and how it differs from normal nedarim. One way to understand erchin is that it is like nedarim. The only difference is that when one makes the vow, they are committing themselves the amount set out by the Torah. With respect to everything else erchina is the same as a neder. For example, if one delays in payment he has violated the prohibitions of “motze sfatecha”, “bal yachel” and “bal te’acher”. That being the case, one would need to know about the concept of erchin and their associated fixed obligations when uttering the vow. Otherwise, his “mouth and heart” will not be aligned, which invalidates all vows. 

Based on this understanding, the leniency of heseg yad applies only because when one made his *erech-*vow he was binding himself to the condition set out by the Torah. Consequently, one is able stipulated that the law of heseg yad would not apply. One is allowed to set the terms of their own neder

The Chazon Ish however raises a number of difficulties. One of these is that we find that R’ Meir holds that a Nochri cannot make erech-vow. If it is just a neder that uses the Torah’s fixed figures, then it is difficult to understand what excludes a Nochri from making the vow. 

The Chazon Ish however prefers this second understanding. Erchin is not binding because it is a form of neder. Instead that which obligates him is the (independent) mitzvah of erchin. If he does not pay, he has not violated ba’al yachal; rather he has violated the mitvah of erchin. That said, he adds that since the erech-vow was uttered, ba’al yachal would also apply, yet the obligation to pay would only occur once the valuation we performed by the kohen.

Understanding erchin this way, the Chazon Ish explains that if one said “[I accept] my erech on me on the condition that I will not be in the law of heseg yad” he has not said anything, because he is make a condition against the word of the Torah – against the laws of erchin.   


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