Mixed Up Maaser Sheni

Maaser Sheni (2:5) | Yisrael Bankier | 11 years ago

Two Mishnayot learnt this week deal with cases where ma’aser sheni money is mixed with regular money. Learning these two Mishnayot one after the other can possibly leave one confused. We shall attempt to clarify.

The first Mishnah teaches that if the both types of money were scattered on the ground and each of the coins collected on-by-one, then the first coins are assumed to be the maaser sheni coins, while the remainder are chullin. This is the rule even if some of the coins were lost when they fell to the ground. The Bartenura explains that this works because when collecting each coin, one stipulates that if the collected coin is not maaser sheni then the sanctity of a maaser sheni coin still scatter should be transferred to it. The same Mishnah teaches that if the money that fell was collected at once (presumably they not scattered to widely) then the money is divided according to the original ratio.1

The second Mishnah however teaches that if one maaser sheni coin and a regular coin of equal value were mixed together, the solution is different. One is required to take coppers coins of the same value of the maaser sheni coin2, transfer the sanctity to these coins and then transfer the sanctity back to the nicer of the two original coins. The Mishnah notes that ordinarily sanctity from coins is not transferred to copper coins. The Mishnah Rishona explains that it is degrading to the mitzvah to transfer it to small change. Furthermore, copper coins are not a durable. Nevertheless the Chachamim allowed the exchange in this case as the situation is an exceptional one. Why is the solution in the second case so complicated? Why not simply take the nicer of the two coins and stipulate as the Bartenura described in the first Mishnah. We need to understand why different solutions are provided in each of the cases.

The Bartenura explains that while in the theory, there is nothing wrong with such a stipulation (tenai) in second Mishnah, since the case involves only two coins, there is a concern it would be too easy for someone to take one of the coins without articulating the tenai.

Similarly the Melechet Shlomo notes that the Rambam(Maaser Sheni 6:1) implies that while an intermediate step is required for the above stated reason, this step does not require copper coins per se. The Mishnah is merely teaching that even copper coins (which are normal prohibited) can be used to resolve the situation.

Rashi (Bava Metzia 56a) however explains that copper coins are required for the intermediate step in the second Mishnah because one cannot transfer the kedusha of maaser sheni between like coins. While this answer explains the second Mishnah we are now left with a question on the first. Since transfer between like coins is not allowed, the tenai appears to be ruled out. How then can one simply assume that everyone one of the first scatters coins collect from the ground are maaser sheni without a tenai?

The Tosfot (45a) answer this question on Rashi’s answer by explaining that since in the first Mishnah there are many coins, each of them will vary in how easy they are passed. While it is true that kedusha cannot be ordinarily be transfered between like denominations, it can be passed from a one coin to another that is more easily passed. (See also Tosfot Yom Tov.)3 The Tosfot in Beitza (10b)*however answer differently. The first Mishnah also involves the use of copper as the intermediate step even though it is not explicitly stated. (See also Rash Sirilio.*)


1 The Tifferet Yisrael explain that we cannot say that on type is annul in the majority because there is a solution (davar she’yesh lo matarin). Alternatively, coins are a davar chashuv. The Mishnah Rishona explains differently, that the principle of kol deparish only works for a davar mesuyam and not money.

2The Tosfot R’ Akiva Eiger notes that one would be required to add the extra chomesh (fifth) to the principle componenet of the maaser sheni coins as one is required to do when transfer the kedusha of maaser sheni.

3 One could use this answer and ask again the second Mishnah: select the coin that is more charif! The Tifferet Yisrael answer by stating that the Chachimim prevented it based on the concern stated in the name of the Bartenura above.

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