Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Bava Batra 156: Adolescents, Gifts, Searching for Pubic Hair

We know that adolescents (under the age of 18 or 20) were giving land as gifts.  Perhaps these sales should be invalidated, it is argued, even if they received more than the worth of the land.  But we learn that one does not give gifts unless the recipient did something nice for the giver.  The Sages decide that adolescents are permitted to give gifts, as this will encourage people to do nice things for them.

The Gemara discusses what is permitted at which ages.  Boys over 13 and girls over 12 are checked for at least two pubic hairs regarding a number of legally regulated practices: kiddushin, engagement, gittin, divorce, chalitza, marriage of a childless widow to her brother-in-law, and mi'un, the refusal of/annulment of a marriage of a girl under 12.   The rabbis walk through practical reasons for each of these situations.  It is interesting to note which rabbis advocate for checking for pubic hairs and in which situations.  One of the more striking examples of this is Rabbi Yehuda, who asserts that a girl can do mi'un until it is "black", meaning that one hair grows into the area of the next hair and the pubic area is covered.  Rav Nachman states that she must protest before two hairs are found.  The halacha follows Rav Nachman.

In researching today's daf I came across a lecture that noted, from Tosafot, that the rabbis did not know how to search for hairs property.  Thus it should not be done and it should not have been done for two thousand years.  Why would this particular rite have been forgotten and eradicated?  There are a number of options.  The more innocuous would include the challenge of being consistent across different bodies and the need for men to look at girls' genitals, which is ordinarily forbidden.  The more likely reasons might include men becoming aroused in the process of searching, men having to put their faces very close to girls' and boys' genitals, children protesting, wives protesting, and other reasons related to the violation of privacy that this would cause.  

A new Mishna teaches that giving property is done similarly for those who are ill and those who are healthy.  Property with acharayut, responsibility, is purchased with money, a document, or chazakah, presumption of ownership based on past ownership.  Property without acharayut is acquired through meshichah, pulling or moving the property.

The Gemara shares the example of a dying mother who asks the Sages to give a certain clasp to her daughters for it was worth 1200 zuzim.  The Chachamim fulfilled her wish even though mothers are not permitted to bequeath to their daughters.  The commentary suggests that her sons did not deserve the clasp and that their action was a fine on her sons.

Another new Mishna is introduced.   Rabbi Eliezer states that a document would be required for a deathbed gift to be valid on a weekday but on Shabbat a verbal agreement would do.  Rabbi Yehoshua says that a fortiori, a verbal agreement would also be acceptable on a weekday.  Similarly, one can accept property on behalf of a minor but not on behalf of an adult because an adult could acquire on their own.  The Gemara attempts to understand exactly which rabbi says which statement.

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