Thursday, 16 February 2017

Bava Batra 25: Wind and Boundaries

A Mishna teaches us about a number of smelly things that cannot be situated within 50 cubits of a town.  These are animal carcasses, graves, tanneries, .  Tanneries should not be established on the west side of a city because of the wind.  Vegetables cannot be close to water in which flax was steeped.  Leeks must be distanced from onions, and mustard must be distanced from bees.  Rabbi Yosei permits mustard to be planted close to bees.

The rabbis recognize that the winds come from different directions at different times.  and that some winds are more harsh than others.  Perhaps the frequency of the wind from the west actually refers to the frequency of the Divine Presence in the wind. We learn in notes in Steinsaltz that the west is considered to be the "back of the world", and wind generally travels from there toward the east.  Eretz Yisrael was located in the east.  Regardless, the Divine Presence is everywhere, and the rabbis provide proof texts for these slightly different perspectives.

The Gemara records a conversation regarding the movement of the sun across the sky.  The rabbis suggest various theories to explain why the sun is in the sky for less time during the winter months and more time in the summer months.  The sky above the land is thought of as the "firmament".  Some rabbis believe that their is an enclosure surrounding the firmament.  Others believe that there is no enclosure and the sun moves to the outer side of the firmament.  

The Gemara also discusses rain.  Rain is understood as both a positive and a negative element that is associated with the souther wind.  Several proof texts help the rabbis argue about the good and bad that has is associated with the souther and northern winds.  Rabbi Yitzchak says that we should face south to become wise and we should face north to become wealthy.  Reasons for this include the placement of times in the Temple and from where a person is standing in relation to other places.  Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi says we should always face north because we will become wealthy after we become wise.  This is based on Proverbs (3:16).  Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but interesting.  Jeremiah (1:14) predicts that evil will break forth from the north. 

Before beginning a new Mishna, we are told that mustard and bees each damage each other which is why they can be planted together. 

We end our daf with a new Mishna.  The Mishna teaches that trees must be 25 cubits from a cistern - 50 cubits for carobs and sycamores which have long roots.  There are different guidelines in place for trees that are below the cisterns and those in line with the cistern. The tree is cut down and its owner is compensated by the cistern's owner if the tree was planted after the cistern was built.  But if the tree already existed when the cistern was built, it is fine to leave the tree standing.  There is a debate as to whether the tree ever needs to be cut down.  

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