Reading Assignment - Class #1

Please read mitzvot #350 – 359.  This is a long, detailed series of related mitzvot, and it will take us more than one class to get through them.  We will first be discussing mitzvot #350,  353, and 357 – 359, and then #351 – 352 and 354 – 356 after that. If you do the reading in English, note that in mitzvah #350 and some of the other mitzvot the term “valuation” is not a synonym of the term “value.” Please consider the following questions:


What are the different forms of pledges? 

1.        These mitzvot deal with three different kinds of pledges

a.      The donor says, “erech alai,”  “I am obligated for the valuation of something or someone.

b.      The donor says, “damim ploni alai,” “I am obligated for the value of someone.

c.       The donor says some item is “herem,” “forfeit.”

For each category, try to determine how much the donor has to pay for each type of pledge and to whom the pledge goes.

2.       How is the emotional tone of a herem gift different from the other gifts?  What impact does that have on the donor’s ability to revoke or redeem the gift?

3.      What happens when an animal that someone has consecrated develops a blemish that disqualifies it from being a sacrificial animal?

4.      A donor can only consecrate an item the donor owns.  If a thief steals something, may the thief consecrate the item?  May the owner consecrate the item? May the owner consecrate an item the owner has lent to someone else?

5.      If someone donates land to the Temple, may the Temple officials sell the land?  What is the procedure for that sale?


How soon must the donor fulfill the pledge? 


What happens if a donor makes a pledge the donor cannot afford to pay? 

1.        What items may the donor keep even if the donor does not have enough to fulfill the pledge?

2.      What items may the donor keep for support of the donor’s family?

3.      Does the same procedure apply to an ordinary debtor who does not have enough assets to pay his or her debt?  What is the source of the controlling halachah on that question?


What happens if someone pledges something to the Temple when the Temple no longer exists?

1.        Are we permitted to make the pledges governed by these mitzvot nowadays?

2.      Is the pledge valid if we do?

3.      What should a donor who made such a pledge do with the pledged item or money?


What happens if someone makes a pledge and then wants to rescind the pledge?

1.        May a donor who consecrates an animal swap it out for a different animal? 

2.      What result if the donor tries to swap out the animal?

a.       What if the donor tries to swap it for an animal that is not eligible to be a sacrifice?  Does it matter why the animal is not eligible?

b.      The author mentions several cases where the donor attempts multiple swaps.  Can you outline those cases?

3.      A donor who makes a verbal attempt to swap a consecrated animal for another animal is punishable.  The author discusses several reasons why that rule violates the principles of punishments that we have already learned.  What are those principles and why don’t they apply in this case?

4.      What if the donor makes a verbal attempt to swap a consecrated animal for another animal but mis-states the swap?  What if the donor thinks it is permitted to make the swap?

5.      May a donor who consecrated an animal for one purpose switch the purpose for which it was consecrated? 

a.      May a donor who consecrated a pregnant animal consecrate the fetus for a different purpose?  May the owner of an animal pregnant with its first offspring consecrate that fetus for a designated purpose?  Does it matter what the purpose is?  Why the difference?

6.       The donor of real estate wants to retrieve the donated land.  Can the donor do that?  Under what procedure?  What happens to the land in the next upcoming yovel? Consider that question if the donor gave

a.      A house in a walled city.

b.      A house in an unwalled city.

c.       A purchased field.

d.      An inherited field.

                                                                          i.       Our author explains the formula for how much the donor of an inherited field has to pay to retrieve the field.  Can you explain that calculation?