Bava Batra

07 Jun 2006

The “Last Gate” is the third “masechet” (volume) of “Seder Nezikin,” the fourth of the six “Sedarim” of the “Mishnah” and the “Gemara,” the two primary components of the Torah she-B’al Peh, the Oral Law. The meaning of “Nezikin” is Damages, and all of the ten volumes in the Seder and the ten chapters of “Bava Batra” deal in some way with Damages. Actually, “Bava Batra” was originally combined with “Bava Kamma,” the “First Gate” and “Bava Metzia,” the “Middle Gate,” in a miniature “Seder Nezikin.” However, the three “Gates” were separated because their contents were enormous, and “Seder Nezikin” was expanded to ten volumes because, large as they were, the three “Bavos” did not encompass all that Jewish Law had to say about the subject of Damages.

Masechet Bava Batra, consisting of 176 “dapim,” folios, or double-sided pages, is the largest Masechet in the Talmud.

A capsule description of the contents of the ten chapters of “Bava Batra” follows:

1. Laws of Partnership; for example, How Partners are Required to Respond to damage to their Property, etc.

2. Limitations on Placement of Certain Types of Construction in Close Proximity to One’s Neighbor

3. Methods of Establishing Proof of Ownership of Various Types of Property by other than Documentary Evidence; for example, by Establishing Residence on it for Three Years

4. Limitations on Transfer when Selling Various Entities, such as Houses, Privately Owned Cities, or Neighborhoods, etc.

5. Additional Limits on Transfer when selling various other entities, such as Boats, Animals, Wagons, etc.

6. Definition of Legal Responsibility of Seller when Selling various Items which fail to perform per Specification, Definition of Acceptable Spoilage, etc.

7. Implications of Various Phraseology for Establishing Limits of Sale, etc.

8. Those Who Bequeath and their Inheritors, Language of Wills, etc.

9. Impact of Gender upon Laws of Inheritance, Deathbed Requests, etc.

10. Physical Specification for Documents, Witness Signatures, Special Foldings and Stitchings, Erasures, Receipts, Identification of Parties Who Pay Scribal Expenses [Seller, Lender…], etc.

Many concepts taught in law schools that are presented as having originated within the western legal tradition, such as invasion of privacy, definition of partnership, easements, buyer-seller rights and obligations, are seen in Bava Batra, and the other Bavos, as having originated in the Torah’s system of jurisprudence.