Sunday, 30 April 2017

Bava Batra 98: Building Homes for Widowed Daughters

We begin with Gemara that helps us understand the meaning of our last Mishna regarding challenges to the sale of wine.  It seems that there is a debate regarding the jugs that hold the wine.  If the wine was sour when in the jugs of the seller, perhaps the seller is in fact liable.  The rabbis also consider whether or not the wine was said to be for cooking and whether or not the wine tap had been changed.  Before introducing another new Mishna, the Gemara asks about the possible effects of a middleman between seller and buyer and the age of the wine.

A new Mishna brings us back to questioning the sale of land.  In this case, the rabbis question the size of land sold for the purpose of building a bridal house for one's son or a widow's house for one's daughter.  Rabbi Akiva says that the home must be at least four by six cubits.  Rabbi Yishmael says that such a structure is the size of a cowshed and not a home - those are the measures of a cowshed.  We then learn the following standards:
  • small house - 6x8 cubits
  • large house - 8x10 cubits
  • banquet hall - 10 x 12 cubits
  • height - half of the height plus half of the width of each structure
The proof for the height of a building can be found in the sanctuary guidelines.  Its height is the sum of half of its width plus half of its length.

The Gemara begins with explaining why these suggestions are gendered.  A son-in-law should not live with his father-in-law.  Thus after providing a wedding home for one's daughter and son-in-law, it is necessarily to build a house only for one's widowed daughter.  Proof for this statement is taken from ben Sira: The only thing inferior to bran is a son-in-law who lives in his father-in-law's home.  The only thing inferior to this is a guest who brings in a guest.  The only thing inferior to this is one who answers a matter before he listens (proof for this last statement is found in Proverbs: 13:18).

Next, the Gemara debates the size of a cowshed, the size of a banquet hall, the size of mansion's courtyard, and the measuring of a building's height.  To examine the practicality of our building guidelines, the rabbis relate the story of rabbi Chanina when he teaches contradictions in the instructions for building the Sanctuary.

If one cubit measures approximately 1.5 feet, then a small house for a widowed daughter would be 9 x 12.  A small home, certainly (especially if she had children), but a decent size for a one-person home.  In fact, I wonder if many women appreciated the housing benefit that accompanied the death of their husbands.  Some privacy; a room of one's own.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Bava Batra 97: Diluted Tamad; Selling Wine

We know that tamad, a drink that is made from grape pomace* and water, should be tithed if the concentration is 1:1.  But what if, like in the majority of situations, the tamad is three parts water to one part grape pomace? or four parts water to one part grape pomade?  At what point is the tamad diluted enough to be permitted to a priest to drink?  At what point is it diluted enough to be permitted to  a non-priest if the term was not tithed?  

The rabbis debate this question.  They include related questions, like whether  the tamad is first or second tithe?  Further, they discuss the changes in the flavour of the tamad and whether or not that taste should have any bearing on its permissibility.  And what if the tamad is demai, doubtfully tithed produce?  What about tumah - when is tamad susceptible to ritual impurity?  If one adds more and more water to their grape pomace so that the tamad, at what point might tamad that is tamei be considered to be water and thus not able to render food susceptible to tumah? 

Finally, what quality of wine is required for the Shabbat prayers?  Should it be fit for the altar?  The rabbis spend some time on this question.  They consider the age of the juice or wine, the timing of one's knowledge about the wine's status, the smell of the wine, the dilution of the wine, whether or not the wine was left uncovered or the grapes were open to impurity or the venom of a snake, and whether or not a wine made of pomace is acceptable at all.  Just before concluding this Gemara, we learn about white wine versus red wine: Proverbs 23:31 suggests that red wine is considered to be superior to white.

Our daf ends with the start of a new Mishna: If one sells wine to another and it sours, the seller is not responsible for any loss.   If it was common knowledge that the seller 's wine always sours, then this was a mistaken transaction and the seller is financially responsible for any loss.  If the seller said to the buyer that the wine was spiced, then it must last until Shavuot.  Saying that the wine is old means that it came from the previous year.  Saying that the wine is aged means that it came from three years earlier.

*what remains of the grapes after they have been pressed (skin, stems, seeds, pulp, etc.)

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Bava Batra 95: Spoiled Wine

The Gemara continues to elucidate our last Mishna.  How does a person identify and deal with imperfections or injustices in their purchases?  Most of their conversation is focused upon selling/purchasing a wine cellar.

We learned in this past Mishna that ten bottles of every one hundred bottles sold should be assumed to be souring.  If one buys a wine cellar without specifications, then everything sold should be in good shape.  If one buys a particular wine cellar, however, the wine is permitted to be of lower quality. 

Later in our daf the rabbis suggest that such wine is usually sold in stores.  Perhaps this is from those whose cellars are beginning to turn, and they sell much of their wine to a storekeepers.  Stores that sell wine sell to people walking by count on their customers being less likely to care about the exact quality of their wine.  Similarly, the buyer should be able to specify whether or not the wine will be used for cooking.  If that is the case, then the wine must be good.  If the wine is not said to be used for a specific reason, then it is acceptable for 10 bottles of every 100 bottles to be sour.

The degree of spoilage of soured wine is discussed.  What if a wine smells like wine but tastes like vinegar?  

Finally, today's daf considers which blessings might be said over imperfect foods.  If a person says "Baruch Ata.... borei pri ha gafen", then they are blessing possibly bad wine.  Perhaps a person should say, "Baruch Ata... she hakol nehiyeh bidvaroh", which is a blessing said over all of G-d's creations.   This same prayer is said over mouldy bread that has become slimy and over a cooked dish that  has spoiled.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Bava Batra 94: Dirt with the Produce: is it Intentional?

A certain amount of dirt should be expected when one purchases produce.  The Gemara outlines reasonable amounts of dirt that might be found surrounding different types of produce.  But perhaps the dirt is not there incidentally; perhaps the seller placed more than the expected amount of dirt to the container of produce assuming that the buyer would not notice the difference and thus pay more money for less produce.

Some people sift their produce to measure how much dirt was included in the sale.  If more than the acceptable amount of dirt was found, one could bring all of the dirt back to the seller for compensation.  One of the understandings about this practice is halachic: when a person buys produce, s/he does not intend to buy dirt.  Thus s/he is expected to sift all purchased produce and the seller is required to take back the impurities.  

The other understanding is that this 'payback' is a penalty given to the seller.  In this interpretation, anything beyond the acceptable amount of impurities is suspected to have been placed intentionally by the seller.  Thus all of the impurities are reimbursed, even those which might have been acceptable.  

The Gemara notes that there is concern about diverse kinds.  If a seller sorts without thought, s/he could sell diverse kinds which might then be planted together.  Some rabbis take this prohibition very seriously.  Others assume that undesirable seeds will be picked out.  

In further arguments regarding diverse kinds, the rabbis tell the story of two people who leave money with another person.  One leaves 100 dinars and the other leaves 200 dinars.  They return and both claim that they left 200 dinars.  They walk through a number of solutions, including leaving the deposits in the safe until Elijah comes with the truth.  This story is said to help us understand the case of a person who is unsure about the integrity of his/her purchase of produce.  A dispute is raised: these stories are not analogous.  Instead, we know that there is a swindler in the case of the dinars.  In the case of the produce, it is possible that no-one has been dishonest.

At the very end of our daf, another case is introduced as a possible analogy.  This case concerns the sale of land.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Bava Batra 93: Responsibility for Impurities and Imperfections

The Gemara voices counterarguments for each argument shared earlier.  Regarding the cow who was found gored beside her miscarried fetus, we do not need to use the 'majority' argument: most cows do not miscarry and thus this cow miscarried because it was gored or because it was frightened.  Instead,  we are uncertain about why the miscarried fetus died.  Uncertainty is resolved by splitting the damages in half.  The Gemara then compares this argument to a similar argument regarding cows.  

Next, the Gemara argues about the damages for seeds, even flaxseeds, which do not sprout.  Why specify flaxseeds?  Instead of arguing that most people use flaxseeds for purposed other than planting (and so the sale is valid), the rabbis suggest that the 'majority' could refer to the amount of seeds sold.    Different situations are shared regarding who might hold financial responsibility for the cost of seeds.  

A baraita is shared to shed light on these issues of who bears responsibility for food-based items.  At the end of the baraita, we learn two interesting facts.  The first describes a custom in Jerusalem.  If one purchased meat that was spoiled in its preparation, compensation is paid both for humiliation and for humiliation of one's guests.  The second described another custom in Jerusalem, this one regarding hosting a feast.  One would spread a large sheet over the great hall's entrance.  As long as the sheet was up, more guests would enter.  Once the sheet came down, it was understood that there was only food enough for the present number of guests.  Further potential guests would not be able to enter.  

A new Mishna teaches us that in the sale of large quantities of produce or other items, there will naturally occur a number of impurities or imperfections.  Exact figures are set out to define a reasonable number of impurities/imperfections in different items.  Permitted are one quarter kav per se'a of produce, ten infested figs per one hundred figs, ten barrels of souring wine per one hundred  barrels of wine, and ten inferior quality jugs of wine per one hundred jugs of wine.  

To begin the Gemara, Rabbi Ketina notes that we are referring to a quarter-kav of legumes per se'a of legumes and not a quarter-kav of dirt per se'a of legumes.  Isn't dirt permitted in such a sale?  Rabbi Ketina reminds us about earlier learning: when one removes even a pebble from another's threshing floor, that, the equivalent amount of wheat should be repaid.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Bava Batra 92: Determining Who is Responsible for Erroneous Sales/Purchases

We begin Perek VI with a new Mishna which teaches about fraudulent transactions.  When a person sells seed for produce and that seed could be used for consumption or for planting and the seed fails, who is responsible for the bad transaction?  Must the store owner pay back the cost of the seed?  Or should the buyer be responsible for his/her loss?

The Gemara first compares this case to that of an ox who is sold for plowing or for slaughter but who gores.  Is the seller responsible for any damages resulting from the goring ox?  The rabbis touch on both the intention of the buyer in choosing that ox and the worth of one's time in finding a new buyer for the unwanted animal.  If the person responsible does not have money to pay for the damages, is it alright to use flax or another grain as reimbursement?

This is a monetary matter, and monetary matters do not necessarily follow the dictate of the majority as do ritual matters.  Rav says that in this case we follow the majority.  Shmuel says that in this case we do not follow the majority, for that happens only in ritual matters.  The rabbis say that five types of cases are discussed with regard to the argument between these two Sages: women, slave, ox, oxen and produce.

We are reminded of Masechet Ketubot and the price of a ketubah for a bride who may or may not have been a virgin.  If at least two people witnessed a veil, her hair, and other specific details, we can assume that she was a virgin bride and so she should receive her full ketubah.  But if she was a widow when she was married to her current husband, her ketubah is worth much less.  Witnesses are held as proof in this case, which teaches us that witnesses are used instead of majority rules - we assume that most women marry as virgins, but that was not proof enough.

What if a slave is sold and that slave ends up stealing or gambling?  Who is liable for this 'erroneous sale'?  The argument that the majority of slaves are thieves and/or gamblers might be enough to erase the seller's liability.  Is this a case of majority rules?  It depends, the rabbis teach.  We may say that all slaves are thieves and gamblers.  This does not provide adequate proof of liability.

What if a purchased ox gores a cow and the cow's fetus lies dead in the same place as the cow?  We cannot know whether the fetus was killed by the goring ox, whether it was born still, or whether it was miscarried by the cow due to fright or injury based on the ox's actions.  The majority of cows have deliver live babies.  Is that enough?  It is uncertain whether or not the ox is responsible for the death of the fetus.  In cased of uncertain responsibility usually the monetary consequences are shared half and half.  The rabbis consider a case with camels in a similar situation.

The rabbis continue their argument.  It is continually jarring to read about cruel practices like the sale of people as slaves, or the evaluation of animals only in monetary terms.

Bava Batra 91:Exporting Food and People, Elimelach, Bo'az, Machlon and Chilyon

Are we permitted to export the essentials out of Eretz Yisrael?   Perhaps exporting wine will help the homeland stay drunkenness and immorality.  Can we export to Surya, which was very close to HaAretz?  The rabbis are unclear about this practice.  Perhaps it was permitted when there was an excess of oil in a particular region, for example.  And reselling something for double of its original price, like eggs, was never permitted.  We are told that Rabbi Shimon taught about how Elimelech, Machlon and Chilyon, who were the leaders and philanthropists of their generation, were punished for leaving HaAretz.  I wonder if this particular teaching has been used to discourage people from leaving Israel in modern times.

We learn more about Elimelech, Naomi and Bo'az.  The rabbis tell a detailed story about Bo'az's generosity and thoughtfulness.  Unfortunately, he faced great hardship.  His story is an example of how before one's death, another is chosen to take on his life.  Elimelech and his family left HaAretz in search of food, we learn.  Permission to leave the country is based on the availability of food - "even if four se'm sell for a sela, one is permitted to leave".  

The rabbis reminisce about times when food was plentiful and people would complain about the aroma of bread.  As well, they discuss times when stomachs were distended due to malnutrition and famine.  Rabbi Yochanan even remembers when boys and girls of 16 and 17 would play together without "sinning".   He also speaks of the importance of challenging flatterers.  

The rabbis ask about why, in Megilat Ruth, Elimelech's children are called Machlon and Chilyon and in the daily writings they are called Yo'ash and Saraf.  Their original names are translated into a number of unflattering descriptions to prove that it was predestined that they would transgress.  These word games lead us to a discussion of worms and hot winds, which might serve to age wheat.  We end our daf with Rav Papa's wise quote:  Everything is better when it is old, except for dates, beer and small fish.

Bava Batra 90: More Measures, A Stable Maneh, One-Sixth Increases, Hoarding and Inflation

The rabbis continue their discussion of measures.  We learn that one must not keep a measure that is too big or too small in his home, even to use for a urinal.  Dry measures are not of concern.  In their discussion of amounts, the rabbis wonder what an uchla is.  Answer: a fifth of a lug.  Glad that was cleared up.  And more importantly, glad to know that the rabbis did not always understand the measures representing times and places different from their own.  The rabbis describe numerous sizes of containers both for liquids and for dry goods.  

One point of interest is that kohanim were considered to be too meticulous to err in their measures.  Interesting assumption.  The notion that kohanim were inherently different from others in the population allowed people to offer them the power and influence that was granted to them.  A stereotype reinforced by behaviour?  Or behaviour influenced by a stereotype? Or perhaps the kohanim erred just as often as anyone else while people looked beyond their mistakes.

It was understood that measures differed from region to region.  The rabbis were clear that people were not permitted to increase the weight of coins by more than a sixth.  Same guideline for buying and reselling food unless the entire market price increased.  The rabbis suggest that even a sixth increase was permitted only to ensure that newcomers would not err and have their transactions voided.  The rabbis show concern for merchants who make very little profit other than the increase of one sixth.  

The rabbis discuss the measure of a maneh, which changes value through manipulating the coin.  They create strict guidelines to ensure that the maneh holds its value as consistently as possible.  Some communities appreciated the guidelines and others did not.  In Pumbedita, the Sages disagreed.  

The Gemara ends with a discussion about people inflating prices deliberately, at the cost of those who are poor and vulnerable.  Some people hoard to sell to the poor when the price has risen substantially.    The rabbis attempt to limit this sort of behaviour, suggesting that essential items should always be available at a reasonable price.  It is permitted to hoard spices and to hoard before the Shemita year to ensure that enough food is available when the land lies fallow.  However, in famine years, it is not permitted to hoard at all.

It is hard not to think of Joseph and his recommendation to hoard wheat for seven years to ensure that Egypt would avoid a seven-year famine.  

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Bava Batra 88: Responsibility, Punishment, and Ethical Dealings

A brief review of today's daf:

The rabbis continue their discussion about responsibility for bought items.   Their examples of similar cases include the return of a lost animal, borrowing a sheep without permission, if an item is stolen from a customer's hand while at a shop, deciding to purchase vegetables and the timing of tithing.  Each of these examples demonstrates the rabbis' different opinions about who is responsible when an item is missing.

A new Mishna teaches that wholesalers clean their measures every thirty days while a person selling from their home cleans their measures every year.  Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel says the opposite.  A grocer cleans his measures twice each week, his weights once each week, and his scale after each weighing. Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel states that this is only necessary for liquids but not dry things which do not stick to the measures.  Details are shared regarding how grocers, wholesalers and home-based sellers should ensure that their measures are accurate.  The Gemara shares proofs and information about how much extra should be added to measures that are not already heaping.

The Gemara debates the severity of punishments assigned to those who measure falsely.  More severe than incest?  The rabbis walk through an analysis of a verse to prove that similar words evoke similar meanings.  They then consider whether stealing from a person is worse than stealing from the collection of consecrated items.  Looking at proofs, the rabbis share their perspectives on the higher, holy and communal needs compared with the needs of any one person.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Bava Batra 87: Paying Workers; Selling Liquids; a Child and a Grocer

The rabbis remind us about a number of overriding conditions regarding sales: workers must be paid their wage at the end of each day's work.  Paying a larger sum in advance of the work to be performed is permitted.  Great efforts are taken to ensure that such a payment does not even appear as if one has paid interest.

We then learn about the sale of liquids like wine or oil through a new Mishna.  The agreed upon price of a liquid for sale can fluctuate up until the liquid has been measured out.  After that point, the liquid has been acquired by the buyer.  If a middle person was doing the selling and an accident occurred, like a barrel breaking, he suffers the loss.  When a bottle is emptied, it is poured until the liquid stops flowing or until three drops come out.  After this point, the drops that accumulate when the bottle is tilted belong to the buyer.  The rabbis believe that a grocer need not wait for those three drops, but Rabbi Yehuda asserts that this is true just before Shabbat.  

The Gemara discusses the job of a middle person, the ownership of the measure, and the status of those last drops if the bottle has been declared teruma.  In its discussion of why the grocer need not wait for the three drops just before Shabbat, Rabbi Yehuda clarifies that this is done to accommodate the needs of the grocer who is extremely busy at that time.

We learn in a second new Mishna that if a person sends his minor son with a coin worth two issarim to a grocer and that grocer gives him an issar worth of oil and an issar in change and the child broke the vessel and lost the issar, the grocer is liable.  Rabbi Yehuda exempts him because he did what the father had instructed.  The rabbis agree that if the child held the vessel and the grocer measured into it, the grocer is exempt.

The Gemara wonders whether the grocer was told to send the oil and the tsar with an adult.  But is that the case?  And aren't children known to break things?  Perhaps the child was sent with a flask because his father sold flasks and this trip was intended as a sales pitch. Wouldn't it make the grocer liable if he was the one to pick up the vessel and break it?  Or perhaps the vessel was sold by the grocer.  The rabbis agree that if the child held the vessel while the grocer poured the oil, the grocer is exempt.

Bava Batra 86: Acquisition and Reneging on Sales: Pulling, Lifting, Measurements

In daf 84, we are introduced to a Mishna that teaches a number of specific guidelines regarding acquisition.  If one purchases merchandise from another, it must be pulled.  Measuring is permitted, but acquisition requires pulling.  If a person wishes to acquire an item in another way, s/he can go through a somewhat elaborate process that includes renting one's place.  Flax is acquired through carrying rather than pulling or measuring.  Flax can also be acquired by pulling it from the ground.

Today's daf is a continuation of the Gemara as the rabbis discuss the implication of this Mishna.  What happens if one is pulling donkey drivers or labourers who then pull with them the merchandise in question?  Does one acquire through these actions, or perhaps when the merchandise is unloaded?  But what if the merchandise is not unloaded after all?

The Gemara notes that in Masechet Kiddushin (26a), a Mishna teaches that guaranteed property, ie. land, is acquired through money, a bill, or possession.  Movable property is acquired through pulling. A number of rabbis clarified this: movable property that is typically moved by lifted is also acquired by lifting - but not by pulling.

The rabbis apply the arguments of previously explored questions: when a person steals a purse on Shabbat, s/he is liable for both transgressing a halacha of Shabbat (punishable by death) and for stealing, even though only the harsher penalty should be applied.  Why?  Because one steals first and only then transgresses Shabbat halacha by leaving the private domain.  The rabbis question other factors, like whether the thief might be pulling the purse with a rope - is the purse acquired by pulling?  

The rabbis remind us again that things that are typically pulled are acquired by pulling while things that are typically lifted are acquired by lifting.  But is this truly the case?  The rabbis argue this point using the examples of flax, which is bundled and its bundles are lifted, and large or small domesticated animals.  

Our Gemara ends with a conversation about agreed upon measurements.  People are permitted to renege on their agreements to buy or to sell if the measurements agreed upon before the transfer of merchandise are invalid or inaccurate.  The vessels used to measure amounts must display markings that are available for all to see.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Bava Batra 83: The Land Between Trees; Reversal of Sale

Continuing their discussion about ownership of the land beneath trees, the rabbis clarify further.  They consider how close three trees must be to each other to be considered an orchard.  Buying these three trees, an orchard, would entitle the buyer to the land between the trees.  But how much is too much land?  How close is too close?  The rabbis walk through different ways of understanding this question, including whether the trees are more than 16 amos apart and thus separate from each other, or whether the trees might be closer than four amos apart, and an ox would not be able to travel between the trees.

The rabbis also consider vineyards - how close together and how far apart must the vines be placed?  And how is that measure taken - from the middle of a vine or from the end of a vine?  A vine that is stretched out or a vine that is stretching just to touch the ground?  They even walk us through what to do with dead trees and vines that have been grafted together.  Finally, the rabbis debate what should be done when a tree sprouts and grows between other trees.  Is a purchase of two trees now the purchase of an orchard?  Must the trees be in a line or in the shape of a triangle?  What if we are discussing a shrub and not a tree?

A new Mishna teaches that when one sells the head of an animal, the legs are not included.  Similarly, if one sells the legs, the head is not included.  If one sells the lung, the liver is not included and vice versa.  With a small animal, the guidelines are different.  selling the head of the animal does include the legs, but selling the legs does not include the head.  Selling the lung includes the liver, but selling the liver does not include the lung.

The rabbis begin a discussion about the reversal of a sale.  They teach us that there are certain conditions where a sale should be reversed, and others where a sale should not be reversed.  
Sales can be reversed when:

  • bad wheat was sold as good wheat (the buyer can retract)
  • good wheat was sold as bad wheat (the seller can retract)
  • red wheat was sold as white wheat
  • white wheat was sold as red wheat
  • olive wood was sold as sycamore
  • sycamore was sold as olive wood
  • vinegar was sold as wine
  • wine was sold as vinegar

If an item was sold as was agreed upon, however, there can be no retraction of the sale.  

We can identify the rabbis' attempts to be fair in their principals when it comes to business ethics.  There is still the understanding that people may attempt to mislead each other in business.  These guidelines continue to be relevant in and outside of the marketplace.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Bava Batra 81: Buying Two Trees and Their Surrounding Land

The rabbis consider the sale of trees.  Our new Mishna queries: Does one acquire land if s/he buys two trees?  Rabbi Meir says that s/he does.  If those trees grew, is the seller permitted to cut branches that grow so long that they shade his field?  The Mishna teaches that the buyer owns whatever grows from the stump while the seller owns what grows from the roots.  It the trees died, the buyer is not permitted to replant.  And if the seller buys three tres, s/he doe acquire their land as well.  The rabbis suggest that the seller may cut branches that grow too long, and that the buyer may plant new trees if the old trees die.

One of the methods of determining ownership is to establish who should bring bikurim and whether or not that person also recites the declaration that goes along with bikkurim (the land that You, G-d, gave to me).  Rabbi Meir says that both of these things are done.  The rabbis disagree. 

Why would the rabbis believe that a person who buys two trees brings bikkurim while Rabbi Meir said that this is done for one tree?  Rabbi Elazar called out that this reason was never explaand and that the questioner was trying to embarrass him.

The rabbis continue to discuss this item.  They relay other cases in which something is brought but now declaration is made.  None of these cases is quite analogous.  At the end of our example, one suggests that making a declaration of acquisition would appear wrong.  No one wants to imply that a person owns land where in fact they only own the trees.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Bava Batra 80: Buying Doves, Honey and Trees - What is Still Owned by the Seller

A Mishna teaches that if one buys the chicks of another's dovecote, the first litter of chicks is held by the seller.  Usually that is a male and a female.  Similarly, if one buys the offspring of another's beehive, he gets the first three litters of bees, and the seller can sterilize the bees.  If he buys the honey, the seller retains a portion of that honey.  If one buys the rights to cut another's olive trees, the seller is given two branches. 

The Gemara first notes a contradiction: why would the seller retain the first two litters of chicks?  Is it because of the mother's urge to leave and be with her chicks?  Is the seller permitted to retain the first litter of future generations of doves?  Second, the Gemara wonders how one might sterilize the bees.  It is explained that when fed mustard or another sharp food, the bees will eat their own honey and then make honey instead of reproducing.  The bees that are born the following year belong to the seller.  Perhaps the seller takes alternating litters of bees.

The rabbis discuss honey further.  They note that honey is considered to be food only in its hive, but if it flows out it is like a drink and thus it can become tumah.  This is discussed in some detail.  Rabbi Eliezer claims that a beehive is like land.  We are permitted to write a prozbol if the borrower has a beehive, and one who takes honey on Shabbat brings the same offering as one who misappropriates land on Shabbat.  The Sages disagree.  Rabbi Elazar suggests that taking honey is like uprooting a forest.  Honey, like trees, are considered to be 'attached', thus is does not become tamei.

What about the olive trees?  A baraita teaches that whenever one buys a tree to cut down, s/he must leave a cutting of the tree for its seller so that the tree will regenerate.  Details about where to cut different trees are specified, including sycamore trees, reeds and vines, date trees and cedar trees.

The rabbis discuss whether or not one is permitted to cut an unpruned sycamore tree in Shemita, for this would promote its growth.  The Gemara then discusses different trees and which will grow back from what types of pruning.  It ends with a list of ten different cedar trees whose stumps do not grow back after being cut.  

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Bava Batra 77: Buying For Another - Required Documents; Animals and their Yokes

The Gemara continues with a discussion about which documents are required in the sale of property.  suggests that two different types of documents exist for this purpose.  The first is stated in the name of Rav: first a person acquires a field on behalf of another, and then a document is signed.  Once the field has been acquired, the document can be disputed by the acquisition of land cannot be disputed.  

The second is when a person takes possession of land on behalf of another but on the condition that one writes a document.  In that case, the buyer can renege on both the acquisition and the document regarding the acquisition.  It is said that Rabbi Huna added a third option: if the seller writes the document in advance of the purchase.  The Gemara compares tho to other situations where movable property is involved. 

A new Mishna teaches that the sale of a wagon does not include the mules and the sale of mules does not include a wagon.  The sale of a yoke does not include the oxen nor does the sale of oxen include a yoke.  Rabbi Yehuda suggests that the amount of money is proof of what was sold.  For example, a yoke is not sold for 200 dinars and so that sale must have included the oxen.  The rabbis disagree.

Cases are discussed to illustrate their positions.  The first of these describes a sale that included the wagon but this was because the animals were attached to the wagon.  In general, however, mules are considered to be separate entities from a wagon and thus they are not included in a sale unless specified.  

The second case notes that in some communities, tzimda refers to a yoke and bakar refers to oxen.  In other communities, tzimda refers to both the yoke and the oxen together.  Thus we cannot assume that  animals and yokes are sold separately or together.  

The rabbis disagree with Rabbi Yehuda when he states that money can prove what has been purchased.  However, they agree that a person who buys a yoke for 200 dinars is entitled to have his purchase nullified.  

Bava Batra 76: Acquiring a Ship

After yesterday's daf, not included in this blog because it was read on Erev Shabbat, and its information about what will be done with the Leviathan and other stories regarding G-d's might, today's daf is quite simple.

Rav and Shmuel argue about the sale of a ship.  All rabbis agree that pulling is a valid way to acquire a ship.  But what about documents?  If a person writes a promissory note, is that enough to exchange ownership of a ship?  The rabbis disagree about whether or not a bill of sale must accompany the promissory note to ensure a kosher sale.  They also discuss other possible means of acquisition, including pulling.  Pulling is a valid form of acquisition if it is done in an alleyway or in a courtyard belonging to both the seller and the buyer.  What about passing?  Passing is effects acquisition only when it takes place in the public domain or in a courtyard belonging to someone other than the seller or the buyer.  Are the rabbis suggesting that one must pull or pass the ship from one domain to another?    The rabbis also question the stringency with which a seller might adhere to these conditions.

The Gemara ends with the discussion of 'letters': promissory notes and bills of sale.  What is required to ensure that one has acquired a ship (or another item)?

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Bava Batra 74: Fantastic Travels

Today's daf is detailed, fascinating, and far too rich for me to look at this evening.  Some highlights only:

  • The rabbis tell fantastical stories about their travels
  • We learn about sea monsters, sea treasures, the voice of G-d, and giant creatures
  • Each tale involves impossible situations in unusual places where G-d's grandeur surpasses all threats
  • The leviathan is discussed in some detail as male and female; their threats are different and thus they are managed differently by G-d
  • An alternate version of the creation of the earth and animals suggests that the angel of the sea refused G-d's order that it swallow excess water from the earth, and so G-d made it a physical entity, i.e. killed it
Notably the rabbis give each other permission to create these truly magical stories without claiming that any of them is transgressing halacha.  Perhaps the rabbis believed that their tales would allow the people to believe that they deserved greater status and respect.  It is clear that these stories are metaphors, but some of them seem to challenge Torah deliberately.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Bava Batra 73: Ship Tales

We begin Perek V with a new Mishna: When a person sells a ship, the sail includes the sail, anchor and oars and the necessary equipment for sailing.  It does not automatically include the slaves/oarsmen, the merchandise, or the packing bags.  If a person says that the buyer is purchasing the ship and its contents, then everything is included in the sale.

The Gemara defines each of these items on a ship based on verses that describe the equipment of a ship.  We learn about the materials used to makes sails and oars.  We also learn about the names used for different types of boars.  

The rabbis then tell multiple tales of people at sea and other fantastical visions.  Some of these include:

  • Rabba tells that striking a white headed wave that would sink a ship with clubs while proclaiming the name of G-d will end the threat of sinking
  • Rabba mentions Hurmin, the son of Lilith, in one of his tales.  Herman is thought of as a demon, as one skilled in sorcery, as the evil inclination, and as the spiritual power of speed and haste.
  • Rabba tells of a day-old antelope who is four parasangs high, as high as Mount Tabor.  It cast feces that blocked the Jordan River.
We hear about a giant frog, a fish who was large enough to destroy a village, and fat geese who leaked oil.  In part, the rabbis use some of these tales to better understand human relationships with G-d, and our responsibilities to the earth.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Bava Batra 72: The Land Between the Trees

The rabbis disagree about in which circumstances trees might be sold along with the field that holds them.  Looking at a particular baraita, they consider whether or not the trees were consecrated, the density of the trees' placement, the order in which they were planted, and the value of each tree.  The rabbis determine that this baraita must have been written by Rabbi Shimon, who holds in accordance with the Chachamim: we sell stingily, we consecrate stingily, and we keep as much of the field as we can for ourselves.  The rabbis consider whether one might be more stingy regarding consecration or giving charity.

The Gemara turns to these same considerations when the land is inherited.  Is the field considered to be inherited only in some situations - when it has been bought from one's father and then consecrated?  In this case the amount of the redemption would be set.  Or is this the case only for fields that were not destined to be inherited?  Does it even matter whether the field was consecrated before or after the father died?

Rav Huna teaches that grafted carob trees and sycamore stumps are considered to be both trees and land.  His first argument is the land between three trees (two regular trees and one of the above trees) is included in the sale.  The second is that they are considered land in that they are not sold along with the land.  He also teaches that a sheaf is considered to be a sheaf and a stack.  

Agricultural work only changed dramatically over the past 150 years.  It is amazing that we learn about buying and selling fields and their contents in such detail.  Much of their negotiations are foreign to me.  It is unclear whether these concepts are unfamiliar because of my ignorance of farming, of real estate law, or of ancient Jewish texts.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Bava Batra 71: Selling and Gifting both Stringently and Generously; Accessing Trees

The rabbis sum up our past debates:  The Mishna teaches that if one sells a field, it does not include the pit, the winery or the dovecote.  It may or may not be required to purchase a path to access them.  Perhaps selling to a Levi does not necessitate purchasing a path.  Perhaps buying a path is necessary for the seller, but not to the person who gives these as gifts.  And perhaps brothers who inherit together also acquire these additions to the field.  And if a person has a chazaka on a deceased convert's field acquires all of these additions - unless the convert has heirs.  Grafted carob and sycamore stumps are acquired differently from other plants. 

The Gemara asks why a sale is different from a gift.  Was the seller less explicit than the gift-giver?  After all, gifting is a generous act, while selling is an act that assumes stinginess.  In discussing this point, the rabbis consider someone who says that a house can fit one hundred barrels when the house can actually fit 120 barrels.  While the rabbis use this to describe a real estate transaction, we learn of a novel measuring system.

The rabbis continue to discuss halacha regarding the sale and retention of trees when selling a field.  After discussing the requirement to buy trees separately from a field, the rabbis note that trees do weaken and dry up, at which point they could be removed.  They are aware that trees are nurtured by the surrounding land.  If that land is consecrated, then one cannot benefit their trees by using the nutrients of the land.  Perhaps this suggests that sellers sell generously, as well.  Or perhaps one does keep a path to access his pit, and so we do not need to argue that one must keep land for one's trees. The rabbis end our daf with the suggestion that if trees fall, one may even plant new trees.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Bava Batra 70: Swearing and Collecting Half

In amud (a), the rabbis discuss what should happen when a person states that they will sell their field including all trees except for some.  Perhaps the sycamore; the carob tree.  Is this like one who wishes to sell a group of field except for one field?  What about selling some of the sycamores but not all of them?  The rabbis tend to lean toward voiding this sale.  

Rabbi Amram poses a question: if a person gives another person a document, and then when he asks for it back, the document's holder says "I returned it to you", what is the law?  Do we believe that the document was lost?  

The rabbis argue about whether or not we believe the person claiming to have already returned the document.  Must he swear, either that the document was lost, or that he returned it?  If he swears, is he believed?  They consult another related case regarding a found business document.  Can a collector win all - or half - of the property of orphans if he swears that their father never paid?  The rabbis note that this document is half a loan and half a deposit.  And if a person holds that document, is that proof that he has not been paid?  Does it matter if the orphans swear that they did not know of their father's debts?  The rabbis teach that Rav Chisda wins this argument: he says that there is a migo against the argument: if he had paid half he would have told his children.  But what if he died suddenly, the rabbis question?

The rabbis lean back upon the suggestion that when one swears, s/he can collect half.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Bava Batra 69: Stones, Trees and Other Possible Inclusins in the Sale of Land

According to a Mishna introduced yesterday, we are specific about what is included when selling one's field.  Today, the Gemara begins with several options that explain what the MIshna has suggested.  One of those debates what is meant by the rocks that are used by the ground.  Are these referring to the rock that anchor down the sheaves so that they don't blow away?  What about the rocks that are built into a fence?  More difficult, what about the rocks that are waiting to be built into a fence?  Because of this discussion, we are privy to some of the agricultural and architectural practices of the ancient middle east.  

The Gemara considers the need for explicit clarification regarding the sale of trees or vineyards along with land that is sold.  What if the palm trees are promised to another person?  Might the new contract take precedence, or will the new contract be held as null and void?