Monday, 26 December 2016

Bava Metzia 91: Punishments for Muzzling, When Labourers Eat, Prostitution

After their conversation about muzzling, the rabbis discuss some of the halachot regarding animals. They begin with a discussion about punishments for owners who rent out their animals who are then muzzled and thus deprived of their promised sustenance.  Two prohibitions are transgressed.  Should the transgressor be punished for both?  The more severe punishment usually cancels out the less severe punishment. But perhaps the prohibition of muzzling happens at a different time than the prohibition of denying sustenance.

The Gemara moves into an unusual conversation about the halachot around animals mating.  When we learn that different species are not permitted to mate, how are we obliged to prevent that from happening?  The rabbis consider farmers' possible behaviours, including holding the female animal in place, holding the male member and inserting it into the female, and simply leaving animals of different species in a pen together.  

A new Mishna teaches us that the rabbis disagree about whether or not a labourer must use his hands and his feet in order to receive sustenance.  The Gemara considers how a person makes his way through the field. Perhaps once a person has walked a certain distance or within a certain area, he should be permitted to eat the food available.

A second new Mishna tells us that one may eat only of the field where he works - figs if he is harvesting figs or grapes if working in a vineyard.   However, he is permitted to wait until he finds the best possible produce before he eats.  Further, while labourers must eat while they are working, they cannot interrupt their work to do so.  Thus labourers may eat when the walk from one row to the next, when they return from the wine press, and when they are unloading a donkey.

The Gemara considers how this might work in practice.  Can a person only eat from one vine before moving on to the next vine? It seems that labourers would work alongside a wagon which was pulled behind an animal.  And what is the animal is permitted to eat?  Can the animal move along to a second vine while eating the food from the first vine?

One of the side points in today's daf regards payment of a prostitute.  We remember that an animal that was used to pay a prostitute cannot be used at a later time for sanctification.  The rabbis allude to the fact that a prostitute should not be paid at all.  A man is not permitted to have sexual intercourse outside of his marriage.  However, if he does so, the prostitute is not paid??  This is a difficult passage to comprehend from a point of view that recognizes why women might be forced to prostitute themselves.

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