Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Shekalim 5 a, b

Continuing from yesterday's discussion, we end the first section of Shekalim at the start of today's daf.  Further complications about the two brothers-in-law and their obligations and/or exemptions regarding the kolbon and the ma'asser.  Just before beginning chapter two, the rabbis state their different opinions on what services the added kolbonot should be spent.

In chapter two, we learn more detail about the practices of Shekalim
  • shekalim can be converted into gold darkonot for easier travel to Jerusalem
  • shekalim were deposited into collection chests both at the Temple and in each Jewish community
  • if money is stolen en route and terumah is not yet taken, it is as if money was stolen from the Temple
  • if the same happens but terumah was previously taken, it is as if the money was stolen from the townspeople
The rabbis discuss a number of questions in detail.  First, they examine the merits and disadvantages of converting shekalim into pearls, for example, instead of darkonot.  Apparently darkonot maintains its value well.  They describe the differences between treatment of guards who are paid and unpaid.  Interestingly, paid guards are liable for theft or loss of items they are guarding.  When funds are returned after having been stolen, the rabbis discuss what should be done with the new shekalim versus the old shekalim.  The Mishna tells us about a number of cases where money that is designated elsewhere is used toward the obligation of Shekalim.   The rabbis look at the concept of me'ilim, the sin of using a Temple offering for one's own benefit.

Debate about how whether or not money designated for one purpose can be used for another purpose reminds me of cooties, or magical powers.  It also makes me think about obsessive compulsive disorder.  How busy must our minds be, continually determining whether or not we have inadvertently crossed an invisible line between proper and sinful behaviour?  It is enough to make me wonder whether Jews have greater genetic dispositions toward OCD, as those of us who were meticulous about these details were surely those who would be the most pious and thus of the most valued in our communities.

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