1) WHEN ARE GIFTS FROM NOCHRIM ACCEPTED FOR THE BEIS HA'MIKDASH
OPINIONS: The Gemara quotes one Beraisa that says that gifts for the Beis ha'Mikdash from Nochrim are accepted, and another Beraisa that says that such gifts are not accepted. The Gemara explains that the two Beraisos do not disagree. Rather, "one refers to the beginning, and one refers to the end." What is the meaning of the Gemara's answer?
(DH ba'Techilah) explains that "the beginning" refers to the beginning of the construction of the Beis ha'Mikdash. At that time, no contributions were accepted from Nochrim because of the concern that their pledges were insincere; they intended to delay the construction of the Beis ha'Mikdash in order to persuade Cyrus (Koresh) to rescind his permission to rebuild the Beis ha'Mikdash (as mentioned earlier; see Insights to Erchin 5:3
). When the Beis ha'Mikdash was completed ("ba'Sof"), gifts from Nochrim were accepted for the upkeep of the building.
(b) Rashi gives a second explanation. In "the beginning," when the Jewish nation was powerful and there was no fear of the Nochrim, gifts from Nochrim were not accepted. In "the end," when persecution from, and fear of, the Nochrim increased, the Jewish people were forced to accept gifts from Nochrim in order to preserve the peace. Rashi rejects this explanation, because during the entire period of the second Beis ha'Mikdash there was always fear of the Nochrim.
(c) RABEINU GERSHOM explains that "the beginning" refers to the moment at which the Nochri expresses his desire to give a gift: "I want to pledge a gift to the Beis ha'Mikdash." In this case, we inform him that we do not accept gifts from Nochrim. "The end" refers to when he has already pledged to give a gift, in which case we accept his gift.
(d) The words of Rabeinu Gershom can be understood in another way. "The beginning" refers to when he has only pledged to give, in which case we do not accept the gift. If, however, he has already given the gift ("the end"), then we do not give it back.
The RAMBAM mentions both interpretations of Rabeinu Gershom as the Halachah. He writes the first understanding of Rabeinu Gershom in Hilchos Erchin (1:11), and he writes the second understanding of Rabeinu Gershom in Hilchos Matnos Aniyim (8:8). (The two explanations are not mutually exclusive; pledging to give a gift is considered as having given the gift, while merely expressing the desire to pledge a gift is not considered as having given the gift.)
2) "KALYA OREV"
OPINIONS: The Gemara states that a Nochri cannot donate a "specific item" to the Beis ha'Mikdash. RASHI (DH Davar ha'Mesuyam) explains that this is because it is disgraceful for the Beis ha'Mikdash to have a specific object that is known to have been donated by a Nochri, and, moreover, the Nochri will gloat over the fact that he donated a specific part of the Beis ha'Mikdash. Rav Yosef explains that an example of such an item is an "Amah Kalya Orev." What is this item?
(a) RASHI (DH Amah Kalya Orev) explains that "Amah" refers to the measurement of an Amah, and "Kalya Orev" is a plate of metal that measures one square Amah into which nails one Amah long were inserted. These metal sheets covered the roof of the Heichal and prevented ravens from landing and congregating there. This instrument became known as a "Kalya Orev" -- "that which banishes the raven." Rashi suggests that an alternate meaning of the words "Kalya Orev" is "that which prevents the raven."
Rashi's words imply that ravens were kept away from the roof of the Heichal simply out of respect for the Heichal.
According to Rashi, the word "Amah" is not part of the name of the item, but a description of its size. Nevertheless, when a Nochri would donate a square Amah of metal and it would then be used for the Kalya Orev, it would be obvious that the Kalya Orev came from the Nochri's metal. The Gemara in Menachos (107a) teaches that one who pledges to give a donation of metal must give at least one square Amah of metal, like the size used for the Kalya Orev. Rav Yosef is saying that an Amah used by the Kalya Orev is called a "Davar ha'Mesuyam," a specific item, since it easily could be traced back to the Nochri.
(It is possible that according to Rashi's explanation that a "specific item" may not be accepted from a Nochri because it is disgraceful to have a specific part of the Beis ha'Mikdash donated by a Nochri, and because the Nochri will gloat, Rav Yosef is saying that even a Kalya Orev falls into this category. One might have thought that such an item is not such a dignified or important item and therefore it may be accepted from a Nochri. Rav Yosef teaches that any specific item for the Beis ha'Mikdash may not be accepted.)
RABEINU GERSHOM in Menachos (107a) gives a similar explanation, but with two important differences. Rabeinu Gershom does not mention that the nails were one Amah long, and he says that the reason why we do not want the ravens there is so that they not dirty the roof of the Heichal. It is possible that this is also Rashi's intent, although Rashi implies that merely having ravens congregating in such a holy place (even without them making it dirty) is inappropriate.
(b) TOSFOS in Menachos (107a, DH Kalya) quotes two different explanations in the name of Rashi. According to the first explanation, a Kalya Orev is merely the nails sticking out of the roof of the Heichal. According to the second explanation, a Kalya Orev is a flat metal sheet that has sharpened edges. Both of these are for the purpose of preventing ravens from landing on the roof of the Heichal. (Rashi in Menachos indeed mentions only nails, and not any type of metal sheet.)
(c) TOSFOS (DH Kegon) quotes the ARUCH who gives an entirely different explanation. He explains that in the first Beis ha'Mikdash, the ravens stayed away from the Heichal due to the Kedushah of the area. However, in the times of the second Beis ha'Mikdash, the ravens no longer stayed away naturally. The people were afraid that the ravens would fly overhead and drop a Tamei item into the Beis ha'Mikdash. They therefore made a "Kalya Orev" -- "that which prevents the raven" which, the Aruch explains, was "a shape like those who watch the crops make today." It seems that he held that this was a type of scarecrow constructed from metal sheets of one Amah in size (as is evident from the Gemara in Menachos). (Y. MONTROSE)
3) THE KING IS DIFFERENT
QUESTION: The Gemara teaches that specific, tangible gifts from Nochrim are not accepted for the Beis ha'Mikdash. The Gemara questions this from a verse that relates that the Jews did accept gifts from Koresh (Cyrus), the king, who was a Nochri. The Gemara answers that "the king is different, for he will not change his mind." What difference does it make that a king will not change his mind and retract his gift? If the law is that gifts from a Nochri are not accepted, then it does not matter that he will retract his pledge; gifts from a Nochri are never accepted!
(a) RASHI explains that since it was Koresh who authorized the rebuilding of the Beis ha'Mikdash in the first place, there was no suspicion that his contribution was insincere and that was trying to halt the construction of the Beis ha'Mikdash. This is consistent with Rashi's reason (DH ba'Techilah) for why gifts from Nochrim for the Beis ha'Mikdash are not accepted; there was a concern that Nochrim who pledged gifts at the time of the initial construction of the Beis ha'Mikdash merely intended to delay the construction of the Beis ha'Mikdash in order to persuade Koresh to rescind his permission to rebuild the Beis ha'Mikdash. This is not a concern for gifts pledged by Koresh himself.
(This is difficult to understand, however, because indeed it was Koresh himself who later rescinded permission to rebuild the Beis ha'Mikdash! Perhaps at the time that he gave the contribution it was clear that his generosity was sincere and he had no intention of delaying the construction. See Insights to Bava Basra 3:4
(b) TOSFOS (DH Ha l'Chatchilah) implies that that the reason why gifts from Nochrim are not accepted is the fear that they might dissent and claim that the Beis ha'Mikdash belongs to them and that their "gift" was not a gift to us, but that it still belongs to them. The king is not suspected of such dishonesty, because once he gives a gift, he does not take it back.
(c) RABEINU GERSHOM explains that the reason why a specific gift ("Davar ha'Mesuyam") from a Nochri is not accepted is the fear that he might request that we return it to him. The king, however, is different. Once the king has given a gift, there is no fear that he will ask that we return it to him. According to this explanation, Koresh gave specific gifts towards the building fund, as the verses indeed indicate.
4) HALACHAH: RE-DIRECTING FUNDS PLEDGED TO A PARTICULAR CHARITY
QUESTION: The Beraisa (end of 6a) states that when a person designates a Sela for a particular Tzedakah, he may give it to a different Tzedakah as long as it has not yet reached the Gabai (Tzedakah collector). Once the money has reached the Gabai, the donor may no longer choose the Tzedakah to which the Sela will be given.
However, the Gemara shortly afterwards cites another Beraisa that states that when one donates a candelabra or candle holder to a synagogue, it may not be used for a different purpose. The Gemara explains that the Beraisa means that it may not be used for personal use, but it may be used for another Devar Mitzvah. This ruling seems to contradict the ruling of the first Beraisa, which prohibits giving money designated for one Tzedakah to a different Tzedakah, even though the other Tzedakah is also a Devar Mitzvah! How are these two rulings to be reconciled?
(a) TOSFOS (DH mishe'Ba'as) explains that with regard to changing the recipient of a designated sum of money for charity, the law depends on who wants to redirect the money. There are three categories of people who might want to redirect the money.
The first category is the donor. The Halachah is that the donor is permitted to borrow the money that he pledged to Tzedakah, before he gives it, and use it for his own personal needs. He must repay the money later to the cause for which he originally designated it.
The second category is the Gabai (or Gizbar). The Gabai may not change the recipient of the Tzedakah, even for another Devar Mitzvah (since the money has already "been given to the Gizbar").
The third category are the collective members of the community or their representatives, the "Bnei ha'Ir." The Bnei ha'Ir are entitled to change the recipient of the Tzedakah money, as long as the recipient of the money is a Devar Mitzvah. When the Gemara says that a candelabra or candle holder donated to the synagogue may be used for any other Devar Mitzvah, the Gemara means that the Bnei ha'Ir may decide to use it for another purpose. The Bnei ha'Ir may redirect it towards any other Devar Mitzvah. This is evident from the Gemara in Bava Basra (8b).
(b) The ROSH in Bava Basra (1:29) and Tosfos there (8b, DH ul'Shanosah) rule that the donor may change his mind entirely and use the money for any Devar Mitzvah instead of giving it to the charity for which he originally designated it. The Gabai may not redirect money of Tzedakah to an optional cause (a Devar ha'Reshus, such as building a new street in the city), but he may redirect it to a different Devar Mitzvah (such as building a Mikvah). The Bnei ha'Ir may decide to use the money for any communal use, even for a Devar ha'Reshus, because when a person gives funds to the care of the Bnei ha'Ir, he gives it with the understanding that the money will be used for whatever cause the Bnei ha'Ir deem appropriate.
HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (YD 256) rules in accordance with the view of the Rosh.