Changing Value in Transactions Involving Maaser Sheni

Maaser Sheni (4:6) | Yisrael Bankier | 5 years ago

The Mishnah (4:6) discusses the case where one is in the process of selling maaser sheni food and the value of the produce changes. The intention at the time of the sale is that through the transaction the kedushat maaser sheni will be transferred to the money. While one is not ordinarily allowed to sell maaser sheni produce, doing so in this manner is permitted.

The first case is where one takes some of the produce from the seller, however prior to payment, the produced double in value. The Mishnah explains that one still only needs to pay the original value. Since at the time of meshicha (taking the object) the sale is binding, the purchaser of the produce only needs to pay the original value, and profits because of the subsequent increase. The Mishnah continues “he profits a sela and the maaser is his.” The Bartenura explains that since the redemption of maaser sheni only occurs once the money is handed over, the inflated value is still required to redeem the maaser sheni.

The second case is where the value halved. In that case since the acquisition was closed at the time of meshicha, the inflated value needs to be paid. Nevertheless, since redemption is occurring at the deflated rate, half the money paid can be with existing maaser sheni money (assuming he is not an am haaretz).

This is the Mishnah as explained by the Bartenura. The Tosfot Yom Tov explains that this explanation is consistent with the Raavad who explains the Mishnah according to the opinion of R’ Meir that maaser sheni is considered mamon gavoah – the property of shamayim – as opposed to the opinion of R’ Yehuda who maintains it is mamon hedyot – the property of the owners.

The Gemara (Kiddushin 54b) however explains that the Mishnah is according to the opinion of R’ Yehuda. It understands that when the Mishnah states he profits a sela and the maaser is his, that nothing further is required and he simply profits from the increase in value. This is because since it is mamon hediyot, the redemption occurred at the time of the (regular) sale. This is indeed a simpler reading of the Mishnah. In other words, the maaser sheni is redeemed at the time of the acquisition, even prior to handing over the money.

The Tosfot Yom Tom explains that the Raavad wished to explain the Mishnah according to R’ Meir since the Halacha follows his opinion. He continues that the Gemara explained the Mishnah like R’ Yehuda since, in the context of that discussion there, it was searching for a stam Mishnah that followed his opinion.

The Rambam (8:7) however explains the Mishnah in a very different manner. He explains that the case is where one is in the process of using maaser sheni money to purchase produce and that the price changes between taking the produce and handing over the money. He explains that if he takes the produce but has not paid and it increases in value, then he still only pays the original price with his maaser sheni money and that maaser sheni “profits” from the increase in value. The Rambam continues that the reason is based on the pasuk, in the context of redeeming hekdesh, that “he gives the money and it is his”, implying that with the giving of money alone it is redeemed. The Raavad asks that the pasuk being brought as a proof does not makes sense since in this halacha it is the produce that was taken and not the money. Furthermore, that produce is chulin – regular produce.

The Grach (192, stenil) explains that when it comes to ordinary acquisitions we need to define what kesef (money) and pira (produce) because taking the pira effects sale. With kodesh however, it is not dependant on these definitions. Normally, the hekdesh is the item redeemed and the chullin is the money. In this case however the hekdesh is in the form of the money so in this case it is the chefetz (object), whereas the produce is acting as the money effecting the redemption. Therefore, it is the produce in this cases that is the “money” as being referred to in the pasuk, consequently the Rambam understands that at the time the produce is taken (“ve’nata ha’kesef”) redemption has already occurred.1


1 The Grach uses this understanding to explain the Rambam’s reading of the Gemara and why it was difficult for the Gemara to understand our Mishnah according to the opinion of R’ Meir. He explains that two legal events are occurring. The first is the redemption (the transfer of kedushat maaser sheni from the money to produce) and the second is the sale. According to R’ Meir the two are simultaneous as we have explained above – at the time of meshicha. Consequently, it is difficult to understand that the Mishnah is according to his opinion since the Mishnah states that he was not able to redeem it prior to the handing over the money. According to R’ Yehuda however, since he maintains that it is mamon hediyot, only the acquisition occurs at the time of meshicha and the redemption later. See inside for more details.

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