Keritot, Chapter Five, Mishnah Two

 

Introduction

“Sacrilege” refers to one who makes illicit use of Temple property. For instance, he eats meat from an animal that was  sacrificial. The penalty for doing this is that he must bring an asham, and he must pay the value of that which he benefited, and he must also add an extra fifth to the restitution. Our mishnah deals with a person who may or may not have committed sacrilege.

 

Mishnah Two

1)      Rabbi Akiva declares one liable to an asham talui for sacrilege;

a)      But the sages declare him exempt.   

2)      Rabbi Akiba admits that he does not bring his restitution money until he becomes aware [of his trespass], when he must bring with it a certain asham.

3)      Rabbi Tarfon: Why should he bring two ashams?  Rather, let him set aside the principal with an added fifth, and bring an asham the value of two sela’s and stipulate: “If I did commit sacrilege, here is my restitution and this my asham; and if the sacrilege was doubtful, let the money be a freewill gift and the [offering an] asham talui;” since the same type of sacrifice he brings for a case where he doesn’t know, he brings for one where he does know.

 

Explanation

Section one:  Rabbi Akiva says that one who might have committed sacrilege must bring an asham talui. The other rabbis disagree because they hold that one brings an asham talui only for sins for which one brings a hatat if one knows one did that he sinned (see 1:2). Since the sacrifice for sacrilege is an asham and not a hatat, there can be no asham talui for a case of uncertainty.

Section two: Rabbi Akiva holds that when one might have committed sacrilege he brings the asham talui immediately. However, he need not restore the value of the benefit he illicitly derived until he is certain that he committed sacrilege. At this point he will bring the restitution money, and a certain asham.

Section three: Rabbi Tarfon agrees with Rabbi Akiva on principle that one who might have committed sacrilege would have to bring an asham talui. However, there is an additional problem here that there is not for the regular asham talui. In other cases, when he finds out for certain that he sinned, he brings a hatat. In our case, he would end up bringing two ashams, which strikes Rabbi Tarfon as unreasonable or unnecessary. To avoid this problem he suggests a way of bringing one asham and making a stipulation, that if he did sin, then the asham is a certain asham and the restitution is his restitution. If he never finds out whether he sinned, then the asham is an asham talui, and the money will go towards buying freewill offerings. The reason that he can do can do this is that both ashams are of the same type of animal—a two year old male ram. The hatat is of a different type, and therefore one could not make such a stipulation in other cases.    

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