The Tallest Column: On Monetary Value of Stature in Jewish Law
Author(s)Ehrenberg, Isaac Mayer; Siegel, Joshua E; Erb, Dylan Charles
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In contrast to the strict requirements of Eruchin pledges found in Leviticus 27:1–8, Damim (monetary) donations are not closely regulated by the Torah and can take many forms. One may not, for example, offer an Erech that corresponds to some fraction of a human being, as Erech donations can be made only on an integer number of persons. To use language that could refer to anything but the entirety of a person renders the Erech attempt failed (Eruchin Chapter 5 Mishna 2). Damim is more flexible as the giver is free to offer almost any value, flexibly comprised. Beyond specifying a donation in the local currency, the Talmud quotes two cases where people offered either their entire value on the slave market, or the more complicated value of a particular body part such as a hand, which requires two evaluations to solve the equation ‘Value of one’s Hand’ = ‘Value of that Person’ – ‘Value of (Person without his Hand).’ A similar situation arises when one offers to contribute the value of his weight in a material. A simple measurement is needed when the entire weight is specified, but if it’s only the weight of a particular limb, the Mishna (Eruchin19a) details an elaborate procedure that involves measuring the volume of the limb through a water displacement exercise, and estimating the density of human flesh using a combination of donkey bone, blood and meat.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Auto-ID Laboratory; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Mechanical Engineering
Ehrenberg, Isaac, Joshua Siegel, and Dylan Erb. "The Tallest Column: On Monetary Value of Stature in Jewish Law ." Hakirah, 25, Fall 2018.
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