Hekdesh in an Ir Ha'Nidachat

Sanhedrin (10:6) | Yisrael Bankier | a month ago

An ir ha'nidachat refers to a city, where most of the population of have been convinced to engage in idol worship by one or more of the residents. During this week we learnt about the circumstances that would define the city as an ir ha'nidachat and the capital punishment given to the inhabitants. The Torah also teaches the all the possessions of the city are collected and burnt. The Mishnah (10:6) teaches that since the Torah refers to "its [i.e. the city's] spoils", certain property is treated differently. Hekdesh must be redeemed, terumah is left to rot while maaser sheni and sifrei kodesh are stored away (nignaz). We shall focus on the case of hekdesh.

Hekdesh can be understood in two ways. One is kodshei bedek ha'bayit which is property that was consecrated to the treasury of the Beit HaMikdash. The kedusha (sanctity) of such hekdesh is referred to kedushat damim. In other words, its value has kedusha until it is redeemed, after which it is considered regular property. The second is kodshei mizbach which refers to animal that has be designated to be used as a korban. In such a case the animal itself has kedushakedushat ha'guf. In both cases, neither are burnt with the spoils of the city, since the Torah refers only to the city's spoils which would not include property that has kedusha. These possessions are not considered the property of the residents, but rather shalal shamayim (literally, spoils of the heavens).

The Rambam (Avodah Zara 4:13) explains that kodshei mizbeach and kodshei bedek ha'bayit are treated differently. The Mishnah is not referring to kodeshei mizbeach since they not at all considered the property of the city. Nevertheless, they cannot be offered as korbanot due to the pasuk "the offering of the wicked is an abomination". The Mishnah is instead referring to kodshei bedek ha'bayit that can be redeemed. The Rambam rules that once redeemed, that property is burnt along with the other property of the city.

The Raavad however does not understand why kodshei bedek ha'bayit should be burnt after redemption. Prior to redemption they are considered shalal shamayim and should therefore not be considered part of the city's spoils.

The Kesef Mishnah suggests that he Rambam understands that kodshei bedek ha'bayit is indeed considered the property of the city. The fact that it has a status of hekdesh (kedushat damim) prevents it from being burnt. Once however it is redeemed, and the status of hekdesh is removed, it would immediately be defined as property of an ir ha'nidachat that must be burnt.

The Minchat Chinuch however finds this explanation difficult. If the status did not apply out the outset, why should it apply later? Instead the Minchat Chinuch suggests that since (ho'il) the hekdesh of the individual in the city could have been redeemed, it is considered his property and prohibited like all possessions in the city. Why then can it not be burnt immediately? The logic of ho'il, does not extend to someone else's property. Consequently, the monetary value belongs to hekdesh and is not impacted by the issur (prohibition) despite the fact that the object itself is impacted. Consequently, we must redeem the object and compensate hekdesh such that the object can then be burnt with the other spoils of the city.

The Avodat HaMelech notes that the Raavad expresses the opinion of most of the Rishonim, and provides a different explanation of the debate. The Avodat HaMelech explains that they understand the exposition of "its spoils" excludes all hekdesh from the issur hanaah (prohibition against deriving any benefit) that applies to all the possession of the ir ha'nidachat. The Rambam however understands that the issur applies to all the property of the ir ha'nidachat; due to the pasuk "lay it waste and everything that is in it." When excluding shalal shamayim (hekdesh, terumah, etc) it only excludes them from the requirement to be burnt. Consequently, in order that the hekdesh can be burnt, it must be redeemed first.

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