כ״ג בסיון ה׳תשע״א (June 25, 2011)

Menahot 108a-b – Pledging to bring a sacrifice – II


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On yesterday’s daf (=page) we learned about the challenges involved in interpreting the intention of someone who commits to bringing a sacrifice, but isn’t clear about his plans. The Mishnah on today’s daf discusses a similar case, one where the person says that he wants to bring one of his lambs or one of his oxen as sacrifices. In this case, where he is clear that he wants to bring a lamb or an ox, the Mishnah rules that if he owns two lambs or two oxen, it is the larger and more expensive one that should be brought.

 

Based on this ruling the Gemara concludes that we assume that someone who chooses to sanctify something does it in a generous, munificent manner – makdish, be-ayin yafah makdish.

 

This conclusion leads  to ask how this works with the simple understanding of the conclusion of yesterday’s Gemara, according to which a standard statement is always understood to mean the smallest of that category, so that someone who says, “I accept upon myself to bring a burnt-offering,” should bring a lamb, which is the least expensive burnt-offering that can be brought from an animal. If the principle is makdish, be-ayin yafah makdish, however, why shouldn’t we assume that a standard statement refers to the most expensive animal?

 

In his Netivot ha-Kodesh, Rabbi Avraham Moshe Salmon of Kharkov explains that

we only apply the rule of makdish, be-ayin yafah makdish when we are determining the quality of the pledge within a known category of animal, as is the case in the Mishnah on today’s daf. In a case, however, where we need to determine the person’s more general statement – as in the Mishnah on yesterday’s daf, where the man simply said “I accept upon myself to bring a burnt-offering” – we cannot assume that his intention was the largest type of animal, so because of the doubtful situation we rule that he need only bring the smallest type of animal.

 

According to the Rambam on yesterday’s daf, the rule makdish, be-ayin yafah makdish applies in that case, as well.