כ״ג בטבת ה׳תשע״ב (January 18, 2012)

Arakhin 5a-b – Non-Jews and arakhin


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As we have learned, the first Mishnah in Masechet Arakhin opens with the words ha-kol ma’arikhin ve-ne’erakhin – all persons are fit to evaluate or to be made the subjects of valuation – for the purpose of the vows of arakhin that are described in Sefer Vayikra (27:1-8). That Mishnah makes clear that law applies to all Jews – Priests, Levites and Israelites, so that anyone can take a vow committing himself to contribute the established value of a person to the Templebased on the Biblical assessment for vows such as these, which fluctuate depending on the age and gender of the person. Similarly, all Jews can be evaluated based on the Torah‘s assessment.

The Mishnah on today’s daf (=page) deals with the question of the place of non-Jews within this system. Can a non-Jew take a vow of arakhin? Can a non-Jew be evaluated based on the Torah’s assessment system for the purposes of contributing to the Temple? For that matter, can non-Jews make general vows (i.e., nidrei damim rather than nidrei arakhin – see the introduction to the tractate) as contributions to the Temple?

The Mishnah teaches that with regard to arakhin, there is a dispute on the matter.

According to Rabbi Meir non-Jews can be made the subject of a valuation but cannot evaluate, whereas according to Rabbi Yehudah a non-Jew may evaluate but cannot be made the subject of a valuation. Both agree, however, that a non-Jew can both vow another’s worth and have his worth vowed by others.

The source for this disagreement appears in a baraita brought by the Gemara, which teaches that it is dependent on how we interpret the passage that appears towards the beginning of the presentation of this law (verse 2), which encompasses both evaluation and being made the subject of valuation . The Torah states “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: When a man shall clearly utter a vow of persons unto the LORD…” On the one hand, the law is being taught to the “children of Israel” and should apply only to them. On the other hand, the law refers to a “man” taking the vow, which is understood as referring to any man – even to non-Jews. Rabbi Meir and Rabbi Yehudah agree that this passage means to include even non-Jews regarding one aspect of the law and exclude them from another. They disagree, however, about which aspect applies to them and which does not.