Darkei Shalom for Kohanim

Shekalim (1:3) | Yisrael Bankier | 2 years ago

Masechet Shekalim deals with the annual contribution of the machatzit (half) ha’shekel. In the third Mishnah we learn that on the twenty-fifth of Adar, Beit Din would begin taking collaterals from those that had not yet contributed and were obligated to do so. There is however one exception. The Mishnah explains that they would not forcibly take a collateral from kohanimmipnei darkei shalom” – due to matters of peace. If the concern is simply keeping the peace alone, then we need to understand why they Chachamim were only concerned with kohanim* and no one else.

The Yerushalmi explains that the Mishnah should not read mipnei darkei shalom, but rather mipnei darkei kavod – out of considerations of honour. The Bartenura appears to take the Yerushalmi into account when he explains that since the avoda of the korbanot is the responsibility of the kohanim, we afford them the honour (by not taking a collateral) and assume that they will eventually pay. He continues that even if they do not, the Beit Din stipulated that we consider their work in place of the machatzit ha’shekel. This is similar then to any other tradesperson that worked in the Beit HaMikdash who was paid from the treasury – hekdesh property.

It appears that the Bartenura understands that kohanim being due this honour is enough of a justification. The Tosfot Yom Tov however asks that Yerushalmi position is based on changing the wording to mipnei darkei kavod. The Bartenura however incorporates this explanation while maintaining the text of our Mishnah. The Tosfot Yom Tov therefore explains that the concept of darkei shalom in our Mishnah is only understood on the basis that the kohanim are due the kavod. This then is similar to the Tifferet Yisrael who explains that since they work in the Beit HaMikdash and are due the kavod, taking a collateral will cause a fight.1

The Tosfot HaRid however gives a different explanation that assumes that darkei kavod and darkei shalom are two different reasons. In the next Mishnah we find a debate regarding whether kohanim are obligated to contribute the machatzit ha’shekel. R’ Yehuda cites ben Buchri who maintains that the kohanim are exempt. R’ Yochanan ben Zakkai however disagrees. He continues that the Beit Din of the Kohanim reasoned (incorrectly) that they were exempt. While the remainder of a regular Mincha offering is consumed by the kohanim, a Mincha offering belonging to a kohen is entirely burnt. Since there are public Mincha offerings consumed by the kohanim which are funded by the machatzit ha’shekel, they reasoned that they must not have a share and therefore not required to contribute to funding it.

The Tosfot HaRid therefore explains that our Mishnah – which reads mipnei darkei shalom – must be according to R’ Yochanan ben Zakkai. Otherwise, the reason why a collateral is not taken is simply because they are exempt. What then is the darkei shalom? According to R’ Yochanan ben Zakkai we do ask them to contribute since they are indeed obligated. If however they do not, since the Beit Din of the kohanim believed they were truly exempt, they would not proceed any further in order to avoid a conflict with the Beit Din of the kohanim.2

The Tosfot HaRid explains that when the Yerushalmi presents the version of mipnei darkei kavod, it is attempting to resolve the Mishnah according to ben Buchri. No collateral was required since they were exempt. Nevertheless, if the kohanim committed to contribute, a collateral can be taken. He explains that the Mishnah must be understood in that context. As such, mipnei darkei shalom no longer makes sense. Consequently, the Yerushalim explains that refraining from doing so according to this line is mipnei darkei kavod.


1 The Tosfot Yom Tov uses this explanation to answer another difficulty. The Mishnah in Gittin discusses a list of practices that were instituted mipnei darkei shalom. Absent from the list is the law in our Mishnah. The Tosfot Yom Tov answers that this is because our case is dependant first on the logic of darkei kavod.

2 This understanding then fits nicely with another explanation on the Gemara at the end of Berachot that teaches – talmidei Chachamim marbim shalom ba’olam – Torah scholars increase peace in the world. One explanation I have seen (although it escapes me now) is the Talmidei Chachamim who have a deep understanding of the different halachic opinions are able to behave in a manner and implement practices that avoid these disputes.

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