Bava Metzia

June 7, 2006

The “Middle Gate” is the second “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 Metzia” deal in some way with Damages. Actually, “Bava Metzia” was originally combined with “Bava Kamma,” the “First Gate” and “Bava Batra,” the “Last 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.

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

1. Examination and application of the principles involved in basic monetary disputes; when the disputed value is split, when oaths are required, etc.
2. Examination and application of the principles involved in the handling of found items, when the “loser” is considered to have abandoned the article, etc.
3. Examination and application of the principles involved regarding the different types of watchmen: unpaid, paid, the renter, and the borrower
4. Analysis of different types of monetary systems
5. Laws of usury and interest
6. Laws involved in the hiring of craftsmen
7. Rights and Obligations of Workers and Employers [“Labor-Management Relations”]
8. Rights and Obligations of Lenders and Borrowers
9. Detailed Analysis of a Specific Type of Worker-Employer Relationship; where the Worker is paid according to a fixed percentage of the yield, or a fixed volume of the Yield
10. Examination of Mutual Rights and Obligations of Pair of Individuals who Own Property (Lead-in to Next Masechet, the first chapter of which is Laws of Partners)

Perhaps more that in any other Masechet, the ability to understand just and moral principles that underlie conflict resolution in monetary disputes is developed from study of Masechet Bava Metzia.