Shekalim, Chapter 7, Mishnah 1

Shekalim, Chapter Seven, Mishnah One

 

Introduction

The first mishnah of this chapter deals with the status of coins found in between the money chests that were in the Temple (see above, chapter 6:5).  The three mishnayot which follow will also deal with various items found in a certain place in which their status is uncertain.  The rabbis seem to be enamored with this type of discussion—how do we determine the status of something whose status is doubtful?

 

Mishnah One

1)      Coins which were found between the [chest inscribed] “shekels” and the [chests inscribed] “freewill-offerings:

a)      Nearer to [the chest inscribed] “shekels”, they go to the shekels;

b)      [Nearer to the chests inscribed] “freewill-offerings”, they go to freewill-offerings;

c)      Half way in between, they go to freewill-offerings.

2)      [Coins which were found] between [the chest inscribed] “wood” and [the chest inscribed] “frankincense”:

a)      Nearer to [the chest inscribed] “wood”, they go to the wood;

b)      [Nearer to the chest inscribed] “frankincense”, they go to frankincense;

c)      Half way in between, they go to frankincense.

3)      [Coins which were found] between [the chest inscribed] “bird-offerings” and [the chest inscribed] “young pigeons for burnt-offerings”:

a)      Nearer to [the chest inscribed] “bird-offerings” they go to bird-offerings;

b)      [Nearer to the chest inscribed] “young pigeons for burnt-offerings”, they go to young pigeons for burnt-offerings;

c)      Half way in between, they go to young pigeons for burnt-offerings.

4)      [Coins which were found] between non-sacred [money] and [second] tithes [money]:

a)      Nearer to the non-sacred [money], they go to common [money];

b)      Nearer to the [second] tithes [money], they go to [second] tithes;

c)      Half way in between, they are considered [second] tithes.

5)      This is the general rule: the go to that which is nearer [even if this] is lenient; but if half way in between, [they must go] to that which is the more stringent.

 

Explanation

The general rule for this mishnah is found only at the end, but since it applies to the entire mishnah, I shall explain it now. If coins are found between two other groups of coins, they are considered to be of the status of the coins to which they are closest.  This is true even if that creates a leniency, as we shall see as we proceed.  However, if they are found equidistant between the two, then they go to the coins which are treated with greater stringency. In essence, this mishnah becomes a statement about which of two items is “more important” or at least which has to be dealt with with greater stringency.

Section one:  In this case “freewill offerings” is more stringent since these coins go to purchase burnt offerings. Therefore, only if the coins fall closer to the “shekalim” chest, whose shekels are used for various purposes (see above 4:1-2), are the coins considered “shekalim.”

Section two:   “Frankincense” is considered more stringent, or in this case important, than “wood” because the frankincense is itself a type of sacrifice while the wood is only an instrument used to burn other sacrifices.

Section three:  The chest for “young pigeons for burnt offerings” is considered more stringent because all of the money in this chest goes for burnt offerings.  In contrast, the money in the chest inscribed with “bird offerings” goes partly for burnt offerings and partly for sin offerings, as was the opinion of the sages above in 6:5.  Since only part goes for burnt offerings, money found halfway in between the two chests goes to the chest marked “young pigeons for burnt offerings.”

Section four: This section has nothing to do with the chests in the Temple. The mishnah is now beginning to expand the discussion to general cases of money whose status is doubtful.  If one has a pile of money that is not sacred and a pile of money that is “second tithe”, meaning that it is money which was used to redeem second tithe produce, coins which are found in between the two piles go to whichever pile they are closer to.  If they are halfway in between then they go to second tithe because the rules governing second tithe are more stringent—it can be used only in Jerusalem and only to buy food products.

Section five: This is the general rule that governs all of the previous sections of the mishnah.