The Mishna on today’s daf continues the discussion about me’ila – deriving forbidden benefit from a consecrated object – and specifically about the question of whether the main element of me’ila is the forbidden benefit derived by the person when he uses the consecrated object or is it the damage that is done to that object?
The Mishna teaches:
If one has derived a benefit of half a peruta’s worth and has impaired the value of the used article by another half a peruta, or if one has derived the benefit of a peruta’s worth from one thing and has diminished another thing by the value of a peruta, he is not liable to the law of sacrilege, for this law applies only when he benefits a peruta’s worth and diminishes the value of a peruta of the selfsame thing.
This teaching establishes a basic principle in the laws of me’ila – a person is not liable for having derived forbidden benefit from a consecrated object unless he both causes at least a peruta‘s worth of damage and derives at least a peruta‘s worth of forbidden benefit.
The question dealt with by the rishonim is which of these two elements – benefit and damage – is primary and which is secondary. This question is important because it will be decisive in establishing the amount that will be paid to the Temple in a case of me’ila.
Three approaches appear in the commentaries:
- Rashi argues that the damage that is done is primary, so that is the amount that must be repaid to the Temple.
- According to the Rambam, the person will be required to pay the amount that he benefited, since that is the primary element in me’ila.
- The approach of Tosafot is that me’ila is a combination of these two elements, so the person would be obligated to pay the greater amount of either the benefit or the damage.