ד׳ בתמוז ה׳תשע״ט (July 7, 2019)

Arakhin 21a-b: Guaranteed Payment

The Mishna on today’s daf discusses how the courts guarantee payment of vows made to the Temple by either taking a mashkon (collaterol) to force the person to pay, or repossessing and selling the person’s property as payment.

The Mishna teaches:

With regard to those obligated to pay arakhin (valuations pledged to the Temple), the court repossesses their property to pay their debt to the Temple treasury. With regard to those obligated to bring sin offerings and guilt offerings, the court does not repossess their property. With regard to those obligated to bring burnt offerings and peace offerings, the court repossesses their property.

The simple explanation of why the Mishna distinguishes between sin offerings and guilt offerings that need no guarantees as opposed to other sacrifices and vows that do, is that people hurry to bring those sacrifices that serve as atonement, while they are more complacent with regard to other obligations.

According to the Gemara in Massekhet Rosh HaShana (daf 6), the Torah ( 23:22) teaches that a person who accepts upon himself to bring a sacrifice cannot postpone fulfilling his promise. This mitzva, referred to by as bal te’aḥer – “do not be late [in bringing your sacrifice]” – emphasizes the need for one to fulfill all promises that he makes as a positive commandment.

How long does a person have to carry out his/her obligations before being held liable for bal te’aḥer? Regarding sacrifices, the generally accepted position of the Sages is that a person should bring the korban on the first holiday when he visits the Temple, but that he has a full cycle of holidays – Pesaḥ, Shavuot and Sukkot – before he is viewed as having transgressed the commandment of bal te’aḥer.

According to the Talmud Yerushalmi, the source for the requirement that the courts step forward to ensure that the sacrifices are brought on time is the continuation of the passages in Sefer . The Torah continues by saying: “That which is gone out of thy lips thou shalt observe and do” (23:24), which is understood as a commandment to the courts to make sure that vows are fulfilled.