Tuesday, August 14, 2007

me'ila = stealing from hekdesh

I mentioned last week that the issur of me’ila is a subset of gezel, but did not provide proof. It seems off the cuff from looking at some of the halachos of me’ila that it is an issur hana’ah, not a mamonos related halacha, so this is quite a chiddush, and I am not involved enough in the sugyos of me’ila to evaluate the ramifications, but this is R’ Chaim’s approach. (Parenthetically, I'm not going to rank R” Chaim’s shtickle torahs, but this particular one in hil me’ila is really a work of art and worth seeing inside.) Two amazing proofs he offers:

1) The gemara (Bava Metziya 88b) darshens from the word “re’acha” that although a worker usually has the right to eat from the field of a ba’al habayis he is working for, a worker has no right to eat from hekdesh. Tosfos asks why we need a derasha for this din – the food of hekdesh is assur to the worker m’din me’ila! Tosfos answers that we might have assumed that just like the right to eat overcomes the issur of gezel on the property of the owner, so too, the issur of me’ila is overcome. R’ Chaim asks: the gemara never entertains the possibility that a nazir worker can eat grapes because the heter to eat overrides the issur nezirus – why should the heter to eat override the issur me’ila? R’ Chaim answers that the issur nezirus is unrelated to the workers right to eat; the issur of me’ila is intrinsically related to that right. Me’ila by definition is an act of theft; if the worker has a right to eat the produce of hekdesh there by definition is no issur me’ila.

2) According to Shamai, “yesh shliach l’dvar aveira” (Kiddushin 43) with the exception of eating chalavim or an issur arayos because it is inconceivable that “zeh ne’hene v’zeh mischayeiv”, that one person should have the benefits of sin and another person should receive punishment. Tosfos challenges: we find in hilchos me’ila that a meshaleyach is chayav if his shliach has hana’ah from hekdesh?! R’ Chaim answers that while the ma’aseh aveira is one of hana’ah, the actual issur which occurs is rooted in the violation of hekdesh’s ownership, an issur gezel.

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