ג׳ בכסלו ה׳תשע״ד (November 6, 2013)

Shekalim 19a-b: Finding Lost Money in Jerusalem

On the last daf we learned that great care was taken to make sure that no mistakes were made, and that all of the shofarot where money was collected were clearly marked. Nevertheless, there were occasions that money was found on the floor between the shofarot. What was to be done with that money?

The Mishna on our daf, which opens the seventh perek of Massekhet Shekalim, rules in a straightforward manner that we assume that the money belongs in the shofar that is closest to where it was found. There are other cases, however, that are not so simple.

Money found before animal merchants in Jerusalem is always presumed to be second-tithe money. The presumption is based on the fact that in Jerusalem, most of the animals are bought with second-tithe money and sacrificed as peace-offerings. And money found on the Temple Mount is presumed to be non-sacred money. And with regard to money found in the rest of Jerusalem, the following distinction applies: If it was found during the rest of the days of the year, it is presumed to be non-sacred money, but if it was found during the time of a pilgrim Festival, it is all presumed to be second-tithe money, because most of the money found in Jerusalem at the time of a Festival is second-tithe money.

Ma’aser sheni (second tithe) is the additional tithe that is separated by the farmer after he has given teruma to the kohen and the first tithe to the levi. During the first, second, fourth and fifth years of the shemitta cycle an additional tenth of the produce is set aside by the farmer, who takes it to Jerusalem to eat (during years three and six the tithe is given to the poor). Recognizing that it might be difficult to bring a large amount of crops to Jerusalem, the Torah itself allows the farmer to redeem his crops and take the money to Jerusalem, where he could buy any food products there (see Devarim 14:26). Although there was no specific obligation to bring the food to Jerusalem during the holiday, it is clear that people did not make special trips to the city just to eat their ma’aser sheni, rather they took the money with them when they came for the holidays.

Since there were a large number of people who came for a relatively short period of time, virtually all of the money that was spent on food was ma’aser sheni money, and specifically near the animal merchants the likelihood was that money found there was ma’aser sheni. The reason we are not concerned the rest of the year that the money is ma’aser sheni is explained by the Rambam (Hilkhot Ma’aser Sheni 6:9-10) – that the streets of Jerusalem were swept every day, so we can assume that any money found today was also lost today.

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