ARAKHIN (Aram. עֲרָכִין, "Valuations"), the fifth tractate of the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Babylonian Talmud in the order of Kodashim. Mishnah tractate Arakhin portrays the system of votive donations that financed the Temple's maintenance – as distinct from the annual collection of a half-shekel per capita (sheqalim, discussed in the tractate by that name) that financed the sacrificial cult itself.
The foundation for Arakhin is the concluding chapter of Leviticus (27), whose focus is objects consecrated to God. Most objects are not fit for sacrifices, and hence the Bible defines how they are to be redeemed. Specifically, biblical rejection of human sacrifice dictates that a person – consecrated, evidently, by the head of his or her household – is to be redeemed. A human life is evaluated according to a fixed scale (erekh), with no individual variation, in a hierarchy from 50 shekel for an adult male, down to three for a young girl. Similarly, there is a fixed redemption value for ancestral land, without regard for its quality or market price.
For the rabbis, the notion of human sacrifice had become even more remote, and so the very idea of consecrating a person no longer had any concrete meaning. Erekh (plural, arakhin) or "valuation" became simply a variant of vows: one can promise to the Temple the price of any object or (say) its weight in gold, but employing the key term "erekh" invokes the biblical symbolic scale (m. 5:1–4). The first chapter of Mishnah Arakhin introduces these principles by means of an analysis of persons whose status is irregular. For example, while one can vow the market value of a person whose gender is indeterminate, the symbolic value of erekh applies only to "either a definite male, or a definite female" (m. 1:1). The format of a range of values, with fixed maximal and minimal – occurring mostly in ritual contexts – is explored in chapter 2. Interestingly, a large sub-unit is devoted to the numbers of instruments and singers who produce the sacral music of the Levites. Chapter 3 again emphasizes the contrast between pronouncing an "erekh" and vowing an actual price, along with similar contrasts between payment of a fixed symbolic sum as indemnity and payment of actual damages. The chapter concludes by emphasizing the power of speech.
The various vows and votive promises could create debts toward the Temple, and its treasurers had powers to extract what was owed. The end of chapter 5 and all of chapter 6 deal with the procedures for (and restrictions upon) such collection. The sums received serve for the Temple's maintenance, except where the term "ḥerem" was employed – according to "the sages," these go to the priests (m. 8:6).
The last third of the tractate (chapters 7–9) discusses real estate. In the biblical system (Lev. 25:25–34, 27:16–24), sale of ancestral holdings is temporary. At the Jubilee year, they revert to their original owners. Hence the buyer can only consecrate the value of the land's use for the intervening years. Consecration of an ancestral holding can, however, be effected by its original owner. Within its systematic discussion of these laws, the Mishnah also recognizes a historical condition wherein the Jubilee is not operative. In that context, it describes in detail an open auction for "redeeming" the land from the Temple treasury, wherein the original owner has the right of making the opening bid. The concluding chapter is devoted to sale of fields and houses. The Jubilee does not apply to houses in walled towns, except for those of the landless Levites, whose towns constitute their ancestral holdings. In the tractate's penultimate pericope, Rabbi Elazar voices concern lest "Israel's towns be laid waste". The final pericope concludes with the citation, "the Levites shall forever have the right of redemption" (Lev. 25:32), clearly alluding also to the nation's hope for redemption and re-possession of its homeland.
Tosefta Arakhin follows the arrangement of the Mishnah rather closely, but adds several distinct short units. 1:7–11 (related to m. 2:2) discusses calendar variations due to the flexibility in the length of a month (29/30 days), with special attention to the festival of Shavuot (Pentecost) which – our text implies – is the day the Torah was given at Sinai. t. 2:3–7 (related to m. 2:3–6, the unit about sacral music) recounts the perfection of several ancient Temple instruments, said to date from the period of Moses: attempted improvements backfired, and restoration was not always possible. Yet whereas the present lyre has seven strings, the Messianic future will herald enhanced versions, first with eight and then with ten strings. Also noteworthy are the Tosefta's systematic explorations of the various, seemingly incongruent, biblical pronouncements regarding ḥerem (t. 4:31–34, related to m. 8:4–7); and of the precise definition of a walled town, relevant to several halakhic contexts (t. 5:13–16, related to m. 9:5–6).
An important theme in the Tosefta's additions pertains to a person's stewardship of his property. The Mishnah (6:2–5) ordains what possessions should be left in the hands of a person who has (irresponsibly) consecrated all he has. The Tosefta explicitly prohibits such a total giveaway, and cites Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah, who derives from this that a person is obliged to take care to preserve his property. Specifically, opposition to spendthrift behavior is translated into instructions on adjusting one's spending on food – and in particular, on meat – to one's economic capability (t. 4:23–28).
Perhaps the most striking addition is the homily on the path to destitution. This is introduced by a set of prohibitions: A man may not sell his ancestral land, his daughter, or himself for cash, to be used for business or savings; such sales may be undertaken only in desperation. Then, the several pericopes of Lev. 25 are read as a tale of a person spiraling down into poverty, instigated by the sin of trading in produce of the consecrated Seventh Year. One who commits such greedy sacrilege will be forced to sell first his movable possessions, then his land and home, and finally himself as a slave to pagans (t. 5:6–9).
The infractions regarding the Seventh Year are singled out here from the set of commandments in Lev. 25. This may be an allusion to the following chapter, in which national loss of land and liberty is threatened as divine punishment for violating God's commandments in general, and the Seventh Year observance in particular (cf. Lev. 26:32–35). In its concluding pericopes (5:18–19), the Tosefta addresses the concern "lest the land of Israel [be] laid waste".
[Noam Zohar (2nd ed.)]
tbArakhin contains several noteworthy units, particularly in the first three chapters. At the outset, the lengthy opening sugya runs a systematic comparison between the Mishnah's opening clause ("All are fit to value and be valuated: … Priests, Levites and Israelites") and numerous similarly phrased tannaitic statements. Both the term "all" (taken to imply broad inclusiveness) and the items "Priests, Levites, and Israelites" are questioned and placed in their general context, in the larger tannitic corpus. Regarding the differentiation between Priests, Levites and Israelites, the Bavli concludes that distinct halakhic standards apply only in the setting of sacrificial worship. Otherwise, priests' halakhic obligations are no different from those of all other Jews. The theoretical possibility of a separate legal and religious standard for the Priests, suggested by some of the sources examined here, is explicitly rejected.
In chapter 2 the Bavli contains an extended discussion of the Levites and the Temple's musical instruments, exploring connections between the Levites' song and the priests' sacrificial worship; R. Meir invalidates offerings unaccompanied by a levitical song. Since the Levites' song varies daily, the Babylonian Talmud engages in a detailed discussion of calendar and history, including an attempt to determine the exact date and day of the Exile.
The Mishnah's discussion in chapter 3 leads up to an emphasis on the power of speech. The Babylonian Talmud here expands on several matters of language and words. These include the severity of libel, lashon ha-ra (Cf., lit., "evil tongue"), citing R. Yosi b. Zimra who compares lashon ha-ra to heresy. Another law pertaining to speech is the obligation of rebuke (Lev. 19:10), and an extended sugya discusses the manner in which rebukes should be delivered, and the limits of the obligation (15a–16b).
[Yedidah Koren (2nd ed.)]
Weiss, in huca, 16 (1941), 3–9 (Heb. sect.); idem, Hithavvut ha-Talmud bi-Shelemuto (1943), 190–1, passim; Epstein, Mishnah, 192, 575, 667, 948–9, passim; Ch. Albeck, Shishah Sidrei Mishnah, Seder Kodashim (1956), 191–5; J. Neusner, A History of the Mishnaic Law of Holy Things (1978–80).