ה׳ בתמוז ה׳תשע״ה (June 22, 2015)

Nedarim 29a-b: A Transfer to God

According to Jewish law, transfer of ownership requires a kinyan. Such kinyanim are often representative in nature, for example when money is exchanged or the object is handed over, or symbolic in nature such as a kinyan halipin where a different object is handed from one party to the other, symbolizing the transfer. What is clear, however, is that a simple verbal agreement without a formal kinyan will not effect the transfer.

Our Gemara introduced us to the idea that amirato la-gavoha ke-mesirato le-hedyot – a verbal statement giving something to God is the equivalent of actual transfer in ordinary cases. In other words, when consecrating something to the Temple, once a person states clearly that a given object is to be donated, the transfer of ownership has taken place and cannot be rescinded.

The Talmud Yerushalmi explains this rule based on the passage la-Shem ha-aretz u-melo’ah – the entire world and all that it contains belongs to God. Thus when a person makes a statement that a particular object is to be transferred into His possession, it is as though He can take possession of it immediately, wherever it may be found. The Meiri illustrates the concept by suggesting that it is conceptually a kinyan hatzer – an act of possession that takes place when an object comes into my yard and I desire to own it. Since the entire world is God’s “backyard” it moves into His possession immediately.

The Rosh offers a different approach, comparing the verbal statement handing something over to God to a neder which takes effect simply by force of an oral commitment. This approach is helpful to understand the position of those who apply the rule amirato la-gavoha ke-mesirato le-hedyot not only to objects consecrated to the Temple, but to general situations of charity, as well.

Previous
Next