ה׳ בתשרי ה׳תש״פ (October 4, 2019)

Me’ila 18a-b: A Peruta’s Worth of Benefit or Damage

The fifth perek of Massekhet Me’ila begins on today’s daf, and it focuses on a basic question regarding the law of me’ila. Is the main element of me’ila the forbidden benefit derived by the person when he uses the consecrated object or is it the damage that is done to that object? Furthermore, when the object is removed from the possession of the Temple and brought into the mundane world, what role does that play in determining that me’ila has taken place?

The first Mishna teaches:

If one derived from consecrated things a benefit of a peruta’s worth, he is liable for its misuse even though he did not damage it. This is the view of Rabbi Akiva, while hold: With regard to any consecrated item that has the potential to be damaged, one is not liable for misuse until he causes it one peruta of damage; and with regard to an item that does not have the potential to be damaged, once he derives benefit from it he is liable for misuse. How so? If a woman put a consecrated necklace round her neck or a ring on her finger, or if one drank from a consecrated gold cup, since they are not damaged through use, once they derive benefit equal to the value of one peruta from them, they are liable for misuse. If one wore a consecrated robe, covered himself with a consecrated garment, or chopped wood with a consecrated ax, he is not liable for misuse until he causes them one peruta of damage.

Rashi explains that the way we determine a peruta‘s worth of value regarding a necklace, ring, etc., is by ascertaining how much a person would be willing to pay their friend for the benefit of wearing that object for that amount of time at a public function, like a wedding party. Similarly, with regard to a golden cup, since cups like these are only used by the very wealthy, we determine the value of its use by the amount that someone would pay to use it at a public function. Such things do not lose any actual value from occasional use, and they stand in contrast with things like clothing or an ax that may lessen in value when they are used.