Thursday, 23 March 2017

Bava Batra 60: Protrusions, PreExisting Problems, Building Codes, Demonstrating Grief about the Temple

We are introduced to two new Misnayot.  The first teaches us that one cannot create an entrance or a window that is opposite another entrance or window facing toward a courtyard.  Facing a public domain, one can be more lenient regarding opening a door or window, enlarging a door, or creating two entrances where there was only one.  The rabbis are concerned with both privacy and the possibility of concealing oneself.  

The second Mishna states that we are not to dig under the public domain to create a pit, ditch or cave.  This might be permitted if a piece of wood or other covering was strong enough to withstand the weight of a filled wagon.  One cannot build over the public domain - for example, a balcony or beam cannot extend over the public domain.  A person is permitted to move back his/her wall so that a balcony could be built out to the line between that property and the public domain.  If a building previously transgressed these terms, it is permitted to grant chazaka to the building's owner.  The Gemara tells a story of a person whose tree extends into the public domain.  This becomes a question about whether one's rights might infringe upon the rights of others.

Regarding the person who moves his wall back to extend his balcony - must that building be done immediately after moving the wall back from the property line?  This consideration is debated regarding plastering or painting the balcony or other protrusion as well. Regarding forbidden images that adorn a building, the rabbis discuss the presumption of ownership, or chazaka.  There is not a need to address and change those images if they have been present for a long time.  As an aside, we learn that people were told to dull their plaster with straw or sand so that it would not be shiny on the walls of their homes.  There is no explanation as to why shininess was shunned.

Much of these conversations are addressing the question of how much we mourn the loss of the Temple during different activities.  That balance between honouring our past and building our future is taken very seriously.  Unlike today, there is not a simple evaluation of "happy = good".  The rabbis understood the importance of contemplation, grief, and balance.

The Gemara describes other ways that we might demonstrate our loss.  We might leave a small piece of food, like a fried fish, out of our meal.  Women might refrain from cosmetic treatments over their full faces, instead they might not treat the hair in the corner of their temple like they might do otherwise.  Proofs are shared regarding the importance of the temples as a site to demarcate serious thought.  

A classic example of Jewish thought: when discussing the possibility of giving up wine or meat as a sign of mourning, we are reminded that our Sages did not wish to institute any practice that the larger community would not be capable of keeping.  Our daf ends with a discussion about ignorance versus knowledge when it comes to transgression.  The rabbis suggest that it might be better for people to unknowingly sin (for example, not circumsize a son; transgress regarding sexual relations, etc.) than to knowingly decide to transgress because the challenge is too difficult to manage. 

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