Maaser Sheni, Chapter One, Mishnah Two

 

Introduction

Since yesterday’s mishnah taught that one cannot sell maaser sheni, today’s mishnah compares and contrasts this rule with rules governing cattle tithes, and first-born animals.

 

Mishnah Two

1)      Tithe of cattle: one may not sell it when it is unblemished and alive, and when it is blemished [one may not sell it] neither alive nor slaughtered, nor may one betroth a woman with it. 

2)      A first-born animal: one may sell it when it is unblemished and alive, and when blemished [one may sell it] both alive and slaughtered, and one may betroth a wife with it.  

3)      One may not redeem second tithe with unstamped coins, nor with coins which are not current, nor for money which is not in one’s possession. 

 

Explanation

Section one: The tenth of every domesticated animal born into one’s flock must be tithed. The animal’s fat and blood are offered on the altar and its meat can be eaten by the owners (or anyone else) in Jerusalem (see Leviticus 27:32-33). When it is blemished it can be eaten anywhere by anybody and none of it is offered on the altar.

With regard to the cattle tithe the Torah specifically states, “It shall not be redeemed” (Leviticus 27:28). The rabbis understood this to mean that it also cannot be sold. While the mishnah says that this is prohibited when the animal is alive, the Talmud understands that it is also prohibited when it has been slaughtered, and it does not matter whether it is unblemished or blemished. It cannot be treated as money and therefore, after having been slaughtered, it cannot be used as betrothal money in betrothing a woman.

Section two: Similar to the cattle tithe, the fat and blood of the first born animal must be offered on the altar. The meat belongs to the priests and when it is unblemished only priests may eat it. When it is blemished, anyone can eat it, and therefore, the priest may sell it or its meat to a non-priest and anyone can use it to betroth a woman. 

When it is unblemished the priests may sell it as long as it is still alive. However, after it has been slaughtered it may not be sold because this is considered disgracing a sacrifice.

Section three: Maaser sheni must be redeemed for usable coins. This would exclude unstamped coins, whose value is equivalent only to the value of the metal, non-current coins, stamped by governments that no longer rule, and coins to which a person does not have access. The coin must be stamped, usable and accessible in order to use it to redeem maaser sheni.

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