Endowment valuations [arechim]1 are pledges included in the category of vows made to consecrate property,2 as [Leviticus] 27:2 states: "When a man will utter a vow, making an endowment evaluation concerning humans to God." Therefore [failure to fulfill them] makes one liable for the violation [of the prohibitions, Numbers 30:3:] "He shall not desecrate his word,"3 and [Deuteronomy 23:22]: "Do not delay in paying it,"4 and [the positive commandment, Numbers, loc. cit.]: "He shall act in accordance with all that he uttered with his mouth."5
It is a positive commandment to render judgment concerning arechim as prescribed by the Torah.6 Whether one says: "I pledge my airech," "I pledge the airech of this person," or "I pledge the airech of so-and-so," he must pay the airech as prescribed according to the age of the person specified.7This is a fixed amount as dictated by the Torah, neither more, nor less.
What is the airech [prescribed by the Torah]? If the person whose airech was donated was 30 days old or less,8 he has no airech. When one says: "I pledge the airech of this person," [and the person is 30 days old or less,] it is as if he said: "I pledge the airech of this utensil"9 and [the donor] is not liable at all.
If [the person whose airech was donated] was between 30 days old and a full five years,10 the airech of a male is five [silver] shekalim and of a female, three [silver] shekalim.11 From when one begins his or her sixth year until the completion of the twentieth year, the airech of a male is 20 [silver] shekalim and of a female, 10 [silver] shekalim. From when one begins his or her twenty-first year until the completion of the sixtieth year, the airech of a male is 50 [silver] shekalim and of a female, 30 [silver] shekalim..From when one begins his or her sixty-first year until the day of his or her death, [regardless of] the number of years [he or she lives,] theairech of a male is 15 [silver] shekalim and of a female, 10 [silver]shekalim..
All of these years are calculated from day to day from the person's birthday.12 All of the shekalim are holy shekalim, i.e., the weight in pure silver of 320 barley corns. [Our Sages] already added to the value [of this coin] and made it equivalent to a sela,13 as we explained in Hilchot Shekalim.14
There is no airech for a tumtum15 or an androgynus,16 for the Torah prescribed an airech only for a male whose status is definite or a female whose status is definite. Therefore if a tumtum or an androgynus says: "I pledge my airech," or another person pledges their airech, their statements are of no consequence.17
An airech may be pledged for a gentile, but the pledge of a gentile is of no consequence.18 What is implied? When a gentile says: "I pledge my airech," or "I pledge the airech of this Jew," his words are of no consequence. When, [by contrast,] a Jew says: "I pledge the airech of this gentile" or "I pledge the airech of so-and-so, the gentile," he must pay according to the age of the gentile whose airech he pledged. Similarly, if one pledges the airech of a deaf-mute or an intellectually or emotionally unstable person,19 he is obligated to pay according to that person's age.
An airech may be pledged for a servant and he may pledge an airech like any member of the Jewish people.20 If he is redeemed21 and he has financial resources, he should pay the pledge that he vowed.
Whether a person pledges the airech of an attractive, healthy person or one who is ugly and infirm, he must give the fixed amount specified by the Torah according to the age of that person.22 [This applies] even if that person has leprous blotches, is blind, lacking a limb, or possesses any type of blemish.
Pledges for a person's worth are not like arechim. What is implied? When a person says: "I am responsible for my worth," "I am responsible for that person's worth," or "I am responsible for the worth of so-and-so," he must pay the worth of that person as if he were a servant sold in the marketplace,23 whether it be a dinar or a thousand dinar.24 [This applies] even if that person is a minor one day old, a tumtum, an androgynus25 or a gentile.26
Unless specified otherwise,27 all arechim and all pledges of worth are [dedicated to] physical improvements to the Temple.28 They are placed in a special chamber in the Temple which is prepared for [funds] consecrated for physical improvements to the Temple.
When a gentile says: "I am responsible for my worth" or "I am responsible for the worth of so-and-so," he must pay according to his vow. [The money] is not, however, placed in the [abovementioned] chamber. For we do not accept pledges or vows from gentiles to make physical improvements in the Temple or in Jerusalem as [Ezra 4:3]: "It is not for you [together] with us to build [a house for our God]." And [Nechemiah] 2:20] states: "And you do not have a portion, a right, or a remembrance in Jerusalem."
What should be done with [these gifts]? We should question the gentile regarding the intent he had when taking the vow. If he had the intent to give it according to the guidance of the Jewish people, the court may use it for anything they see fit29 except improvements to the Temple and Jerusalem. If he said: "I took the vow for the sake of Heaven," [his gift] should be entombed.30
When a person is in his death throes,31 he has no airech,32nor has he any worth. Since most people in their death throes will die, he is considered as if he is [already] dead.33 Similarly, if a person was sentenced by a Jewish court to be executed because of a transgression that he committed34 and another person pledged his airech, he pledged his own airech, or he pledged his worth or another person pledged his worth, none of the above are liable for anything. For the person is considered as if he is already dead and a deceased person has no airech, nor any worth. With regard to this, [Leviticus 27:29] states: "Any condemned person who is condemned from mankind shall not be redeemed,"35i.e., there is no redemption for him and he is considered as if he is dead.
If a person who is being led to his execution pledges the airech of other people, pledges their worth, or causes damage, he is obligated to pay. [The money owed] is collected from his estate.36
Priests and Levites may pledge arechim and their airech may be pledged by others like other Israelites.37 When a minor reaches the age when his vows are of consequence,38 and pledges a person's airech or worth, he is obligated to pay,39 for his vows are of consequence, as we explained in Hilchot Nedarim.
The arechim are fixed according to the age of the person who is the object of the pledge, not the age of the person making the pledge. What is implied? When a twenty year-old tells a sixty year-old, "I pledge your airech," he must give the airech of a sixty year-old. When a sixty year-old tells a twenty year-old, "I pledge your airech," he must give the airech of a twenty year-old. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.
The statements of the person pledging the airech must match his intent, as [is the law with regard] to other vows.40 One may appeal [to a sage] for the absolution of a pledge of an airech or one's worth, just as one may appeal for the absolution of other vows and consecrations.41
When a person says: "I am responsible for the airech of these individuals," he must pay the combined airech of them all, each one of them according to his years. If he42 was poor, he should give one airech paid by a poor man43 for them all together. If he was wealthy, he should give the airech paid by a wealthy man44 for each one of them.
When a person says: "I pledge my airech" and then repeats: "I pledge my airech" - even if he makes this statement several times - he must pay an airech for each pledge.45 If he says: "I pledge two of my arechim, he must pay two arechim. This also applies if he pledges four, or even 1000, arechim, he must pay the number that he pledged.
When one says: "I pledge an airech" without identifying the person whose airech he is pledging, but mentions an airech without any more particulars, he is liable to pay the lowest of all arechim, i.e., three shekalim.46
When a person says: "I pledge my airech," but dies before standing before [a court for] appraisal,47 his heirs are not liable to pay, as [implied by Leviticus 27:8]: "And he shall be made to stand before the priests and the priest will evaluate him."48 If he stood before [a court for] appraisal and then died, the heirs must pay.49
If, however, he says: "I pledge my worth," even if he stands before [a court for] appraisal, but dies before they establish a fixed amount and the judges say how much he is worth, his heirs are not obligated to pay.50 If, however, they affixed his worth and then he died, his heirs must pay.
What is the difference between arechim and pledges of worth? [The amount required to be paid] for arechim is fixed by the Torah, while [the amount required to be paid] for a pledge of worth is not fixed.51
Similarly, when a person says: "I pledge the airech of so-and-so and both the person who made the pledge and the one whose airech was pledged died after the latter stood before [a court for] appraisal, the heirs [of the person who made the pledge] are obligated to pay.52 If the person whose airech was pledged died before standing before [a court for] appraisal, even though the person who made the pledge is alive, he is not liable. [The rationale is that] a deceased person does not have an airech and a person whose airech must stand before [a court for] appraisal [before the commitment becomes binding]. [Similarly,] if one said: "I pledge the worth of so-and-so" and that person stood for an appraisal, but died before an evaluation of his worth was established,53 [the one who made the pledge] is not liable, for a deceased person has no worth.
The translation "endowment evaluation" is used because the source of the word airech means "evaluate." Nevertheless, the term is not appropriate, because these endowments do not involve an evaluation of the worth of the person (house or field), but instead, a standard figure. It refers to a donation given to the Temple treasury of one's own free will to be used for improvements within the Temple or the like.
See Hilchot Nedarim 1:2. The Rambam makes this statement to explain why he discusses these mitzvot in Sefer Hafla'ah (Kessef Mishneh). They are mentioned last, because unlike the other subjects discussed in this book, they concern donations to the Temple rather than prohibitions one takes upon oneself (Radbaz).
The Rambam describes this prohibition as one of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah, but does not explain it in these halachot, but instead, in Hilchot Ma'aseh HaKorbanot (in the introduction to those halachot and in Chapter 14, Halachah 13).
If, however, a tumtum or androgynus pledges the airech of a man or a woman, the pledge is binding (Arachin 2a). If an operation is performed on a tumtum and it is revealed that he is a male or female, an airech may be given accordingly.
Arachin 5b derives this from Leviticus 27:2 which introduces this mitzvah with the phrase: "Speak to the children of Israel," thus excluding gentiles from pledging endowment evaluations. Nevertheless, the verse includes the word ish, "man," seemingly unnecessarily, indicating that a pledge can be made concerning a gentile. This is the opinion of Rabbi Meir. Rabbi Yehudah derives the opposite concepts from the same verse.
The Ra'avad objects to the Rambam's ruling, maintaining that the halachah follows Rabbi Yehudah. The Radbaz and the Kessef Mishneh support the Rambam's ruling, citing Ezra 4:3 which states that the gentiles do not have a portion in building the Temple, the intent for which endowment evaluations are given. See also Halachah 11.
Since the Torah has condemned such a person to death, the matter is not dependent on the will of mortals. If, by contrast, one is condemned to death by a mortal king, these laws do not apply, because it is possible that the king will retract his decree (the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah, loc. cit.). Compare to Hilchot Gerushin 6:29.
Even against the will of the heirs, for a binding obligation has been created on the estate. Just as an estate is liable for the loans taken by the testator when supported by a legal document, so too, it is liable for the obligations established by Torah Law (the Rambam' s Commentary to the Mishnah, Arachin 1:3).
In his Commentary to the Mishnah (Arachin 1:1), the Rambam explains that since these individuals are not liable for the redemption of the firstborn, one might think that they are not liable in this context as well. Hence, it is necessary to emphasize that they are.
As explained in Hilchot Nedarim 11:1-3, when a twelve year old boy and an eleven year old girl are aware of the significance of their vows, their vows are binding according to Scriptural Law. Below this age, their vows are not binding.
I.e., the obligation takes effect only when he stands before the priest for appraisal (the Rambam' s Commentary to the Mishnah, Arachin 5:3). Since he did not do that, his heirs are under no obligation (Radbaz). The Ra'avad, however, differs with the Rambam and maintains that as soon as a person pledges an airech, he is liable for it and an obligation is created for his estate. Hence, he differs with the Rambam's ruling.
Apparently, the Rambam is saying that if a person pledges an airech, he must stand before a priest and state his age, so that the priest will establish his appraisal. The Merkevat HaMishneh notes that the literal meaning of the verse is that if a person is too poor to pay the airech, the priests will evaluate how much he can pay.
According to early printings and authoritative manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah. This clause should be part of the previous halachah and the present halachah begins: "Similarly, when a person says: 'I pledge....'"
As the Rambam emphasizes in his Commentary to the Mishnah (Arachin 5:2), there is a difference in this regard between the pledge of an airech and the pledge of a person's worth. When his airech is pledged, the person who made the pledge is liable as soon as he stands before the court for appraisal. Since the matter is dependent on his age alone, there is no need for an evaluation. When, by contrast, a person's worth is pledged, that worth must be evaluated and until the evaluation is completed, there is no obligation.
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And it came to pass on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and the sound of a shofar exceeding loud . . . Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet with G‑d; and they stood under the mountain . . .
And G‑d spoke all these words, saying: “I am G‑d, your G‑d, who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods beside Me . . .”