Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Bava Batra 24: Majority, Frequency, Proximity; Treeless Cities

The rabbis demonstrate how decisions are made based on majority and frequency. If a baby dove is found and we do not know from which dovecote it came, how do they find the source?  The rabbis compare this question to figuring out the origin of blood found within the vagina, the "corridor".  Because blood in this "corridor" is most frequently there due to menstruation, the rabbis determine that the blood comes from the "source" or the "chamber".  It is less likely that the blood comes from the "upper chamber", which in this case would refer to an internal injury.  

Rava takes from this that Rabbi Zeira is correct in suggesting that when we are juxtaposing options based on majority and proximity, we go with majority as this is Torah law.  The example is used from Masechet Ketubot 15(a): when one finds meat and nine shops are Jewish and one is not kosher, we go with the majority and assume that the meat is kosher. This is debated as well, where a double gate might be required to ensure that meat did not come from outside of the town -- however, a woman does not have a second gate.  The Gemara suggests that we decide in favour of the majority in all cases, not only in cases of Torah law.

The Gemara then considers the case of a barrel found floating with the stream of a river.  If a Jewish town is close by, can we assume that the wine is kosher based on proximity?  But what if another town that is not Jewish is further up the stream?  Might the barrel originate there?  And what if we are speaking about grapes, unidentifiable, found near a vineyard?  Can we assume that those grapes are kosher?  What if they were stolen from elsewhere? What if they were taken from orla (forbidden because fruit in the first three years of a plant's life cannot be used) vines?  And what if we are speaking about found jugs?  Can we identify a Jewish style or size of jug?  

A new Mishna teaches us about planting trees.  Trees must be planted 25 cubits from a city; 50 cubits away if they have many branches, like a carob or sycamore.  Abba Shaul says that any barren tree should be 50 cubits from the city as well.  If the tree was there before the city was built, its owner is compensated when the tree is removed.  If the tree was planted after the city was built there is no remuneration for its owner when it is removed.  If there is a dispute about when the tree was planted, there is no remuneration for its owner.

The Gemara discusses why trees are not allowed within city limits.  The answer is that they block the beauty of the city.  We learn that there were often open areas surrounding cities for one thousand cubits.  Within that area there was little development.  For two thousand cubits beyond those open areas were fields where trees could be planted.  Within residential courtyards it was permitted to plant seeds.  The rabbis speak about allowing seeds or trees to be planted within residential courtyards and the halachot regarding carrying on Shabbat.

Another new Mishna teaches that a threshing floor must be built 50 cubits from the city, as well.  In fact a threshing floor must be established only if there are 50 cubits on every side of the threshing floor.  One must be careful not to damage anyone or anything with the chaff from the threshing floor, including the fields and produce of neighbouring farmers.  First the Gemara looks to define a threshing floor, and the rabbis consider the winnowing shovel as a key tool.  The rabbis then consider how difficult it might be to locate a threshing floor so far from everything.  They also acknowledge the damages done to people, flowers, produce and the soil by the chaff of threshing floors.

No comments:

Post a Comment