י״א באייר ה׳תשע״ב (May 3, 2012)

Me’ilah 18a-b – Determining that forbidden benefit has taken place

The fifth perek (=chapter) of Massekhet Me’ilah begins on today’s daf (=page), and it focuses on a basic question regarding the law of me’ilah. Is the main element of me’ilah 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’ilah has taken place?
The first Mishnah teaches:
If one derived from consecrated things a benefit of a perutah’s worth,he is guilty of sacrilege even though he did not lessen its value. This is the view of Rabbi Akiba, while the Sages hold: Whatsoever deteriorates through use the law of sacrilege applies to it only after it has suffered deterioration,but whatsoever does not deteriorate through use, the law of sacrilege applies to it as soon as he made use of it. For instance: If a woman put a necklace round her neck or a ring on her finger, or if she drunk from a golden cup, she is liable to the law of sacrilege as soon as she made use of it to the value of a perutah. But if one put on a shirt or covered himself with a cloth, or if one chopped wood with an axe,he is subject to the law of sacrilege only if those objects have suffered deterioration.

Rashi explains that the way we determine a perutah‘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 axe that may lessen in value when they are used.