ט״ו באלול ה׳תשע״ו (September 18, 2016)

Bava Kamma 110a-b: Stealing From a Convert

Every Jewish person is assumed to have relatives, even if they are distant relatives. Thus, if someone steals from his fellow and then chooses to return the theft, even if the victim has died he can return it to one of the people who inherits the victim. One exception is a convert, who may have no relatives. Our Mishna refers to the case of gezel ha-ger – of someone who stole from a convert. Should the convert die, the thief must bring a sacrifice and return the money (plus a penalty) to the kohanim in the Temple.

Rava asks whether this money is considered to be an inheritance (yerusha) or a gift (matana). If it is the former, then it can be given to the kohanim even if it has no value (e.g. if it was hametz she-avar alav ha-pesach – leaven that was in the possession of a Jewish person over Passover, which cannot be used after the holiday), while if it is a gift given by the Torah to the kohanim, it will have to be something of value.

To respond to this question, our Gemara brings a baraita which teaches that twenty-four matnot kehuna (priestly gifts) were given to Aaron the and his sons (i.e. to all kohanim) through a kelal u’perat u’klal:

  • a general command (see Bamidbar 18:8);
  • followed by specific commands (see Bamidbar 18:9-18);
  • followed by a general command (see Bamidbar 18:19);

together with berit melah – a covenant of salt – which is mentioned in the continuation of the passage.

According to the baraita, if someone fulfills these twenty four gifts, it is as though he keeps kelal u’perat u’klal and berit melah while if someone does not, it is as though he rejects kelal u’perat u’klal and berit melah.

Rashi and other commentaries interpret this to mean that someone who keeps these is considered to be keeping all of the Torah – which is interpreted using this method – and to have brought all of the sacrifices which are brought on the altar with salt.

The baraita enumerates the 24 gifts as follows:

  • Ten in the Temple (i.e. they can be eaten only in the Beit haMikdash)
  • Four in Jerusalem
  • Ten throughout the land, the last of which is gezel ha-ger.

In any case, the fact that the baraita refers to gezel ha-ger as one of the matnot kehuna is understood to indicate that it is a matanahand must have value.

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