Temurah vs. Redemption

Temurah (5:5) | Alex Tsykin | 13 years ago

The Mishnah (5:5) discusses the words used to make an animal temurah contrasting it with the procedure for redeeming a blemished animal unfit for a korban with another (unblemished) animal:

… [If one said:] “This [animal] is to be undedicated through this [animal]”, the second animal is not temurah [meaning the laws of temurah do not apply to that animal]. And if the initially sanctified animal had a blemish, it is undedicated and one must pay [the difference between the prices of the two animals if the animal used to redeem the blemished one was worth less than the blemished one].

In the Gemara (Temurah 27a), Rabbi Yochanan comments: “It is undedicated according to the Torah and one must pay the difference according to the Rabbis” meaning that the requirement to pay the difference is of rabbinic and not Torah origin. The commentaries on our Mishnah explain that one may redeem an animal which has become blemished with any unblemished animal even if it is worth less. The Rabbis however later added the qualification that the second animal must worth at least equal value otherwise one must pay the difference.

To explain the origin of the Halacha expounded by Rabbi Yochanan, the Gemara states that Shmuel said that “if a person undedicated an animal worth [a great deal of money] through one worth [very little] money, it has been undedicated [successfully]”. Rashi (Kiddushin 11b) comments (based on the Gemara in Temurah):

[That is] because there is no fraud in sanctified objects... and Shmuel teaches us that just as they are excluded from the halachot of fraud, so too they are excluded from the halachot of the reversal of a transaction [in a situation of fraud, consequently the redemption is affective].

While this explanation seems to be initially quite satisfying, the Kehillot Ya’akov asks: (Bechorot, 8):

This [logic] can be said about when the treasurer of the Beit Ha’Mikdash who bought or sold [something] and was defrauded. You could easily say that the transaction will be upheld [despite the fraud] according to those who hold the treasurer functions like an owner. However, the one who redeems a sanctified object intentionally – an [expensive] object for a [cheap] one – here there is no fraud at all, for who has been defrauded? Is not everything revealed before Hashem? And the redeemer also knows that he is not giving the worth of the [sanctified] object, and there is no fraud. It is simple that he just wants to buy for less than the object is worth, and what is the relevance of [the issue of] fraud and sanctified objects (to say that it will not prevent the transaction from being upheld)?

To answer the question of the Kehillot Ya’akov, the Kodshei Yehoshua (309) explains that one must consider the technical process of redeeming an object. He presents two possibilities to explain the exact mechanism. The first is that when one buys a sanctified object, the money or object given in trade acquires holiness by virtue of being in the ownership of G-d and the one which is sanctified loses that sanctity as a result of the trade. The second is that a transfer of sanctity occurs directly from one to the other. The difference between the two possibilities is that the first proposes that the mechanism of the transfer of holiness is a trade, whereas the other supposes that the transfer and trade are two separate and parallel processes. He writes that he feels the second possibility is correct. As a result, there is no fraud with regard to sanctified objects (which could result in a transaction being reversed) not because of a special exemption, but rather because fraud requires a transaction to take place and the transfer does not involve a transaction.

While the explanation appears to be cogent, it fails on one point. Rashi stated that the there is no fraud which can be used to reverse the transaction. It is implicit in this statement that a transaction has indeed taken place. Consequently it is difficult to argue that there can be no fraud during the redemption of sanctified objects because there is no transaction (at least according to Rashi’s commentary). Another explanation must be found.

A possible alternative explanation is that there can be no fraud in the transaction of redeeming a sanctified object because as the Kehillot Ya’akov noted, both parties to the transaction know what is being exchanged. Hashem, allowed this when he wrote the Torah, meaning that He accepts the legitimacy of this transaction. Such a suggestion would mean that the question of the Kehillot Ya’akov is indeed the underlying rationale presented by Rashi for why the laws of fraud does not apply to kodshim.


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