Erachin 23 - 29
Wont Pay and Cant Pay
Erachin, the name of the mesechta currently studied in the Daf Hayomi cycle, refers to the pledge which a Jew makes to contribute to the Sanctuary the monetary value of himself or another person. An entire section of the Torah (Vayikra 27:1-8) is devoted to how much he is obligated to pay depending on the age and gender of the subject of his vow.
Should he refuse to pay, the agent of the Sanctuary has the right to confiscate his property and belongings to coerce him into paying his debt, and even to sell these items if he fails to redeem them. There is, however, a limit to this confiscation. The mishna tells us that we must leave him with enough funds to guarantee minimal survival - food for thirty days, clothing for twelve months, tefillin, shoes, and basic furniture - if he is lacking any of these.
What is the source for showing this sort of consideration for this debtor?
The answer is a passage concerning a Jew who has made such an erachin pledge and wishes to pay but lacks the funds to do so. If he shall be too poor to pay his erachin debt the Torah instructs us to have the kohen evaluate how much his financial situation allows him (Vayikra 27:8).
The word he in this passage is interpreted as a command to ensure that he, the debtor, survives after his belongings have been confiscated. Rashi points out that if we isolate the two words in the passage which speak of he and the erachin pledge, the message communicated is that he, the debtor, must survive after his erachin pledge has been forcefully collected from him.
Even though the context of this passage deals with the one who is willing to pay but cannot, the word he seems to be superfluous and is therefore applied to the opposite case of one who has the means but refuses to pay.
- Erachin 24a
Double Vow, Double Tithe
When the Patriarch Yaakov was on his way out of Eretz Yisrael to escape the wrath of his brother Esav and to find a wife in the house of his uncle, Lavan, he made a double vow at Beth El. If G-d would provide him with all of his basic needs and return him to his fathers home, he pledged to make an altar to G-d from the stone he had erected there and he would tithe, surely tithe, all that You give me. (Bereishet 28:22)
The double term for tithing in Yaakovs vow serves as the basis for the decree which the Sandhedrin issued during their stay in Usha that a Jew should not give away too much of his resources to charity lest he become himself impoverished and dependent. Our Sages (Mesechta Ketubot 50a) interpreted the double term for tithing in Yaakovs vow as a pledge to give a double tithe - a fifth of his fortune - and therefore established it as the maximum amount a Jew should give away. In our gemara Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah applies this principle to how much a Jew may consecrate from all that he owns (Vayikra 27:28).
When did Yaakov fulfill his double vow?
The first fulfillment was when, after two decades in Lavans home, he prepared himself for an encounter with his still-seething brother by sending him a generous gift of cattle. He took from what was in his possession as a gift to his brother Esav (Bereishets 32:14) is understood by our Sages to mean what was in his possession after separating a double tithe to G-d as he had vowed to do. The fulfillment of the second part of the vow was only possible when he actually returned to Beth El where the altar was to be erected. He was indeed reprimanded by G-d for delaying his return to there to fulfill his vow. The anguish he suffered from the abduction of his daughter in Shechem was attributed to this delay which he was ordered to end with the Divine command Arise and go up to Beth El and there make the altar... (Bereishet 35:1).
If Yaakov felt that fulfillment of his vow depended on his return to Beth El, why did he rush to double tithe his animals so much earlier?
It may be suggested that Yaakovs vow had two separate components. While making an altar had to wait until he was returned to his fathers home, the vow concerning tithing had to be fulfilled as soon as he was to make use of the possessions G-d had granted him. Before using some of these resources to appease Esav he therefore made sure to first separate a double tithe.
- Erachin 28a