Shekalim, Chapter Four, Mishnah Seven
Yesterdays mishnah discussed what is done with things dedicated to the Temple that can be used as public sacrifices but not as individual sacrifices. Todays mishnah discusses things dedicated to the Temple that can be used for individual sacrifices.
One who dedicated his possessions to the Temple and there was among them an animal fit for the altar, males or females,
1) Rabbi Eliezer says: males should be sold for the use of burnt-offerings and females should be sold for the use of offerings of wellbeing, and the proceeds should be lumped together with the rest of the possessions for the repair of the temple.
2) Rabbi Joshua says: the males themselves should be offered as burnt-offerings and the females should be sold for the use of offerings of wellbeing, and with the proceeds burnt offerings should be brought, and the other possessions should go to the repair of the temple.
3) Rabbi Akiva says: I prefer the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer over the opinion of Rabbi Joshua, for Rabbi Eliezer applied a uniform rule, but Rabbi Joshua differentiated.
4) Rabbi Papias said: I have heard [a tradition in accordance] with both of their opinions: that one who dedicates to the Temple with explicitness, it is according to the words of Rabbi Eliezer, but one who dedicates to the Temple without specifying it is according to the opinion of Rabbi Joshua.
The case under discussion is one in which a person dedicated his possessions to the Temple and these possessions included animals which could be offered as individual sacrifices, and not public sacrifices as was the case in yesterdays mishnah. The question is: what is to be done with these animals? The main debate in the mishnah is over what was the mans intentionthat the animals should be completely put on the altar, meaning they should be burnt offerings, which are completely burnt on the altar, or that all of his property should go to the Temple for its upkeep.
Section one: Rabbi Eliezer holds that the male animals should be sold to people who wish to offer a burnt offering whereas the female animals, which cannot be used for burnt offerings, should be sold to people who wish to offer an offering of wellbeing. The proceeds from the sales and any of other dedicated property are used for the repairs and upkeep of the Temple. Rabbi Eliezer holds that unspecified dedications to the Temple are directed at paying for the upkeep of the Temple.
Section two: Rabbi Joshua says that the male animals should be sacrificed as burnt offerings and not sold. Rabbi Joshua holds that when the person dedicated to the Temple animals which can be sacrificed he intended them to be whole burnt offerings and not that they should pay for the upkeep of the Temple. The female animals are sold to become wellbeing offerings and then the money is used to purchase more burnt offerings which are offered on the altar. They arent offered as wellbeing offerings, because parts of the wellbeing offerings are eaten and Rabbi Joshua says the intention was that all of the animal would go to the altar. The other property is used for the upkeep of the Temple.
Section three: Rabbi Akiva says that Rabbi Eliezers opinion is preferable because he is consistentboth the males and females are sold and the proceeds from both sales go to the repair of the Temple, as does the other property which was dedicated to the Temple. In contrast, Rabbi Joshua said that the animals fit for the altar are used either as whole burnt offering or are sold to buy other whole burnt offerings, whereas the other dedicated property is used for the upkeep. Rabbi Akiva prefers the consistent of Rabbi Eliezer and hence rules accordingly. We should note that this preference for consistency is a function of Rabbi Akivas own logic, and not of a received tradition. In other words, in the absence of any foreknowledge of who is correct, he tries his best to determine the correct halakhah from the opinions of his two teachers.
Section four: In contrast, Rabbi Papias says that he has a received tradition, one which mediates between Rabbi Eliezers position and Rabbi Joshuas. When one specifies that his dedication is for the upkeep of the Temple, the law follows Rabbi Eliezer. However, if he doesnt specify then the tradition is according to Rabbi Joshua.