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Vol. 19 No. 32
Gavriel ben Yitzchok z"l
Substituting & Switching Kodshim
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)
"Do not exchange or substitute it (the animal that you have designated as a Korban), neither a good one for a bad one, nor a bad one for a good one. In the event that one did swap one animal for another one, then both it and its substitute shall be holy" (27:10).
Rabeinu Bachye explains that the Torah is actually taking into account here the failings of human nature. It is natural he points out, for a person to feel saintly one moment and to declare a costly animal Hekdesh, and then, sorry for his hasty decision, to change it for an inferior one. All the more so since he is not permitted to redeem it unless it becomes blemished.
And it is to avoid this that the Torah prohibits exchanging any Hekdesh animal, even an inferior one for a better-quality one.
This is similar to the prohibition of adding to the Mitzvos. Some commentaries explain that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with adding to the Mitzvos. And the reason that the Torah forbids it is because permission to add to the Mitzvos would lead many people to detract from them. So the Torah says 'Don't tamper with the Mitzvos! Leave them as they are!'
And when the Torah concludes that if someone does attempt to initiate an exchange, then both animals will remain holy, it is a penalty for not treating Kodshim with the due respect that it deserves.
It is exactly the same concern, the author continues, that prompts the Torah a few Pesukim later to obligate someone who declares his house Hekdesh (for its value), and then decides to redeem it (Hekdesh which is not intrinsic can be redeemed), to add a fifth. There too, he explains, the Torah views his decision to redeem the house as a result of his regretting having declared it Hekdesh in the first place. Consequently, it clamps a fine on the owner if he does.
"Only a firstborn that will be brought as a firstling for G-d among livestock, a man shall not declare Hekdesh, as whether it is an ox or a lamb, it belongs to G-d" (27:26).
Chazal learn from here, says R. Bachye, that one is not allowed to switch one Korban for another, such as turning a burnt-offering into a peace-offering, and so it is with all Korbanos. The Sifri learns that this Din is not confined to a firstborn animal, but extends to other Korbanos too, from the words "among livestock", which are otherwise superfluous.
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" … The harvest of grapes will overtake the planted of the corn … " (26:5).
The grape-harvest, the Gemara in Bava Metzi'a informs us, takes place in Tishri and that of wheat-planting, in Mar-Cheshvan and Kislev. In that case, asks the Ga'on from Orleans, what is special about the Torah's B'rachah, seeing as that is what happens every year, even when there is no specific B'rachah?
The Riva suggests that what the Gemara means is that, in a regular year, the grape-harvest takes place some time in Tishri and the wheat-planting some time in Mar-Cheshvan and Kislev, leaving a break of days or even weeks between one and the other. And the Torah is telling us here that, in a year of B'rachah, the grapes and the wheat will be so bountiful, that their seasons will inevitably overlap.
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