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S.A.L.T. - Tuesday

Rav David Silverberg
16.05.2022

          The final section of Parashat Bechukotai presents the laws relevant to donations to the Temple treasury, including pledges and the consecration of one’s property.  If one consecrates one of his possessions, then it comes under the ownership of the treasury of the Beit Ha-mikdash, and the treasury sells the item for its market value.  The money is then used for the various needs of the Beit Ha-mikdash.  The Torah stipulates that if the person who consecrated his property wishes to buy it back, then he must pay a chomesh – one-fifth the item’s market value, in addition to its market value (27:13,15,19,27).

          Rav Zalman Sorotzkin, in Oznayim La-Torah, offers an explanation for this penalty imposed upon the person who buys back his property from the Temple treasury.  He suggests that the individual is penalized for unnecessarily forcing the officials running the treasury to go through the trouble of having the property appraised and then selling it back to him.  If this person wished to make a donation to the treasury, and had the cash available, then he should have simply donated the money in the first place.  The reason why he did not do so, Rav Sorotzkin explains, is likely because he wanted to draw attention to himself.  When a piece of property, such as a building or tract of land, changes hands, the transaction quickly becomes public knowledge, to one extent or another, certainly more so than a simple donation of money.  Thus, the person who initially consecrated a piece of property and then bought it back presumably consecrated the property in the interest of publicizing his donation and thus drawing people’s esteem.  In the process, he unnecessarily inconvenienced the staff of the Temple treasury, and for this reason he is penalized by having to pay an additional one-fifth of the property’s market value.  If we want to donate to the Mikdash, volunteering to help and assist our religious institutions, then we ought to do so sincerely, and not for the sake of promoting ourselves and impressing others.  If we have what to “donate,” either literally or figuratively, we should make our donation in the quietest, most private manner we can, and not with an interest in vain self-promotion.   

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