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.

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