י״ד באייר ה׳תשע״ב (May 6, 2012)

Me’ilah 21a-b – Appointing an agent

According to the Torah (see Bamidbar 5:6) the laws of me’ilah forbid all Jewish people from deriving benefit from consecrated objects, and anyone who does so will be held liable to repay and to bring appropriate sacrifices. The sixth and final perek (=chapter) of Massekhet Me’ilah, which began on yesterday’s daf (=page) discusses the case of a shali’ah– an agent – sent by someone to commit me’ilah. Although the general principle in Jewish law is that ein shali’ah li-dvar aveirah – that every person is responsible for his actions and cannot blame his sin on the person who sent him – the case of me’ilah is different.
The Gemara derives this difference from Biblical passages, but there is a straightforward explanation offered by the commentaries. The underlying principle for ein shali’ah li-dvar aveirah is the idea that every Jewish person is obligated to follow the laws of the Torah and not the commands of another person. The language of in establishing this rule is, divrei ha-Rav ve-divrei ha-talmid, divrei mi shom’im? – “who should he have listened to, the words of the Teacher (i.e., God) or the words of the student?”  In the case of me’ilah, however, the requirement to make restitution and bring a sacrifice for atonement is only in place if the trespass took place accidentally where this rule does not apply.
In this vein the Mishnah teaches –
If a man said to another person, ‘get me such a thing – i.e., a consecrated object – from the window or from the chest,’and the latter brought it to him from one of these places, even though the employer says, ‘I meant only from one place’ and he brought it from the other place, the employer is guilty of sacrilege.But if he said to him, ‘get it for me from the window,’ and he brought it from the chest, or ‘from the chest’ and he brought it to him from the window, the agent is guilty of sacrilege.

The chest mentioned in the Mishnah is referred to as a geluskema or deluskema, a word of Greek origin meaning a box or chest.

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