ה׳ בכסלו ה׳תשע״ח (November 23, 2017)

Makkot 18a-b: The Importance of Following Procedure

The “taxes” paid by your average farmer during Temple times went largely to the mikdash itself and to the people – kohanim and levi’im – who worked there. The major matanot (literally “presents” but effectively taxes) included:

  • Bikkurim – the first fruits of the harvest that are brought to the Temple and given to the kohanim
  • Teruma gedola – a portion of the harvest given to the kohen. He can use it in his home for normal purposes, but it must be treated as kodshim, preserved (when possibly in a state of ritual purity, only consumed by kohanim, etc.)
  • Ma’aser rishon – a portion of the harvest given to the levi. It has no kedusha attached to it and it can be used for any purpose.
  • Ma’aser sheni – a portion of the harvest that is taken by its owner to Jerusalem, where he can eat it on his own or give it to others, but it must be kept tahor and only eaten within the precincts of the city.

The Mishna (17a) discusses situations where people eat these tithes in a forbidden manner or a forbidden place. For example, if a kohen eats bikkurim before they were formally presented with the appropriate formula (see  26:3-10) he has transgressed a negative commandment and will be liable to receive malkot (lashes).

According to the Gemara on our daf there are three separate activities that need to be done when the bikkurim are brought to the Temple, but it appears that not all of them are essential. The Rambam (Sefer Zera’im, Hilkhot Bikkurim 3:12) describes the procedure as follows. The farmer comes to the Temple with the basket of fruits on his shoulder and begins to recite the formula from Sefer  (26:3). Then the kohen places his hands under the basket together with the farmer, and they raise the basket together, during which time the farmer recites the continuation of the formula (26:5-10), until he completes it. Finally, he places the basket on the south-east corner of the altar.

According to the conclusion of the Gemara, we follow the opinion of the  that even if the formula was not recited, there will be no malkot so long as the bikkurim were brought to the altar.

 

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