Masechet Bava Batra 84a-90b

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12 Nov 2009

The Coming Week’s Daf Yomi by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz

This essay is based upon the insights and chidushim (original ideas) of Talmudic scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, as published in the Hebrew version of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud.

Bava Batra 84a-b

We have learned that there are a number of different ways of performing a kinyan – an act that demonstrates ownership. Even after a buyer and a seller have agreed to a price, and verbally agreed that they want the sale to take place, it is still necessary for the purchaser to perform a kinyan in order to take possession of the object. Generally speaking there are three symbolic acts that can serve this purpose, each of them under different circumstances.

  1. Hagbaha – lifting up the object to be purchased
  2. Meshicha – pulling an object
  3. Mesira – when the object is handed over from the owner to the buyer.

The appropriate kinyan for anything that normally is lifted and can be picked up easily is hagbaha. Only if it is hard to lift the object can it be bought through an act of meshicha. Some things cannot be pulled either; they can be purchased by using kinyan mesira. Hagbaha, which is the most powerful act of ownership, can be performed anywhere, even on the property of the seller. Meshicha works on jointly owned property, or off the public thoroughfare. Mesira will work only in the public thoroughfare or in a place that does not belong to either of them.

According to the Mishnah, if the purchaser did an act of hagbaha on fruit that he agreed to purchase, he now owns the fruit even if he did not weigh or measure it. The Rashbam explains that weighing the fruit is necessary only to determine the final price to be paid, but the act of hagbaha creates the kinyan. If, on the other hand, the fruit was weighed and measured but not picked up by the purchaser, he has not taken possession of it. Most of the commentaries agree that if it was the buyer who took the fruits to weigh them, then that act could also serve as a kinyan. The Ra’avad disagrees, arguing that an act of measurement is not a kinyan, even if the fruits are lifted.

Bava Batra 85a-b

As we learned on yesterday’s daf, the current concern in the Gemara focuses on how a proper kinyan can be made – i.e. how does someone take possession of an object that he has purchased. Part of this discussion involves the question of where the object is at the moment of purchase, as there are differences between taking possession of something in the public thoroughfare, in an alley off of the public area, or on someone’s private property.

Ordinarily, the buyer can take possession of an object if it is placed in something that belongs to him. Rav Sheshet asks Rav Huna whether something that is placed in an object belonging to the buyer will become his, if the buyer’s thing is resting on private property owned by the seller. In response, Rav Huna suggests looking at a parallel in the rules of gittin – divorces. Although the Torah appears to require that the get actually be placed in the wife’s hand (…v’natan b’yadahDevarim 24:1), the tradition that the sages had was that that passage was not to be taken literally, rather that it had to be placed in her possession and control.

The first Mishnah in the eighth perek of Masechet Gittin (77a) teaches that if the husband threw a get to his wife and it landed near her in a property that belonged to her, the divorce will take effect. If she was standing in his property, however, the fact that the get was thrown in her proximity has no significance, and the divorce does not work. The Mishnah concludes that if the husband threw the get to his wife and it lodged on her body or in her kaltah, then it would be a good get. This is true even if she was standing in his house, since these places are on her person and therefore it is as though the get was placed in her hand.

All agree that a kaltah is a basket. According to Rashi, it is a small basket within which a woman keeps pins, needles and other sewing or weaving materials. In his commentary to the Mishnah, the Rambam suggests that it is a basket in which the woman keeps the finished products that she wove, which would indicate that it is a fairly large basket. The origin of the word kaltah is Greek. On occasion such baskets were worn on an individual’s head, as in this picture of a Greek woman.

Bava Batra 86a-b

As we noted on yesterday’s daf, the current concern in the Gemara focuses on how a proper kinyan can be made – i.e. how does someone take possession of an object that he has purchased. Part of this discussion involves the question of where the object is at the moment of purchase, as there are differences between taking possession of something in the public thoroughfare, in an alley off of the public area, or on someone’s private property.

We learned that Rav Sheshet asks Rav Huna whether something that is placed in an object belonging to the buyer will become his, if the buyer’s thing is resting on private property owned by the seller. Our Gemara concludes this discussion by quoting both Rav and Shmuel as agreeing that an object that belongs to someone can play a role in creating a kinyan for him in any place. The Gemara then limits this, however to a situation where the seller – who also owns the land where the kinyan is taking place – says to the buyer zil kenei – “go and purchase it.”

The Rashbam explains that the statement zil kenei effectively offers to lend the area of land where the buyer’s object is resting, so that when the thing that he wants to purchase is placed in the object that he owns, it is also on property that – temporarily – belongs to him. The Ramah argues with the Rashbam and suggests that the statement zil kenei simply offers permission to the buyer to make use of the land for this purpose, and since he has permission, the fact that the land is owned by the seller is not important. The Rosh feels that full ownership of the land would be required, and that the statement zil kenei offers full ownership. What is unusual about this case is that full ownership can be transferred with a simple statement, as opposed to the formal requirements that ordinarily must be arranged.

Bava Batra 87a-b

When a child is sent to the store to purchase something, who will be responsible if the child loses or breaks the object?

The Mishnah on today’s daf teaches that someone who sends his child to the store with a coin – a pundyon – in his hand, and the storekeeper gives him an issar worth of oil, together with change (a pundyon is worth two issars), the storekeeper will be responsible if the coin is lost or if the flask of oil is broken, since he handed them to the child. Rabbi Yehuda disagrees, arguing that the fact that the child came to the store with money in his hand indicates that the intention of the parent was for him to give oil to the child. The Gemara explains that the first opinion in the Mishnah would argue that sending the child was done simply to inform the storekeeper that the family wanted oil, but that there was no expectation that the child would be entrusted with it.

The question raised by the Gemara is why the storekeeper should ever be held responsible for the broken flask, since the parent entrusted his child with it. The Gemara offers a number of possible approaches, concluding that the storekeeper has taken possession of the flask for his own purposes before returning it to the child, so he may have accepted some level of responsibility for it.

Tosafot ask why the Gemara does not ask the same question about the money. If the parent entrusted a coin to the child (the pundyon), why should the storekeeper be held responsible if a different coin (the issar) was given as change to the child and was lost?

Tosafot answer that the individual who last gave a coin to the irresponsible child is the one who will always be held responsible. The Tiferet Yisrael offers a different approach, arguing that the size of the coin is the difference. The pundyon is a large coin that is more difficult to lose, but the issar, which is a small coin, is easy to lose and should not be given to a child.

Bava Batra 88a-b

The Torah requires honest weights and measures (see Vayikra 19:36). The Mishnah on today’s daf teaches that business people who sell items like wine or oil are required to clean their scales on a regular basis in order to ensure that their customers are not being cheated. There are three different types of sellers, and each has a different schedule for washing his weights and scales:

  1. The ba’al ha-bayit – in this context refers to the manufacturer – the farmer who harvests his grain or produces wine from his grapes or oil from his olives, keeping enough for his own private needs and selling the rest to sitona’im.
    2. The sitona’i – the wholesaler who purchases in bulk from the ba’al ha-bayit and sells to the henvani
    3. The henvani, or storeowner, who purchases from the wholesaler and sells in small amounts out of his hanut, or store.

According to the Tanna Kamma of the Mishnah, the ba’al ha-bayit must clean his scales once every twelve months, since he uses his scales only on rare occasions, while the sitona’i must wash them every thirty days, since spills and other remnants will make the scales unreliable. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel argues that the rule should be the other way around, that is, that the sitona’i need clean his scales only once a year, while the ba’al ha-bayit must do so monthly. The Rashbam explains that the volume of business done by the sitona’i helps keep the scales clean, since liquids will not have time to dry and congeal. The ba’al ha-bayit, on the other hand, does business only occasionally, so it is important that he make sure that nothing was left on his scales. The Me’iri offers a different explanation for Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel’s ruling. He argues that it is a question of ona’ah – of unreasonably inflated profits, which are forbidden. Since the ba’al ha-bayit sells to just one person, if the scales are off, then there is great potential for unreasonable profit from this sale. The wholesaler, however, sells to many storekeepers, and even if there is a slight discrepancy in the weights, it will make only a very small difference to each purchaser – a small amount that will likely be forgiven.

Bava Batra 89a-b

Whenever you walk into a store to buy fruit, or pump gasoline into your car, you can see the inspection sticker indicating that the scales were checked to see that they are giving you what you paid for.

As we learned on yesterday’s daf, there is a biblical requirement that businesspeople have honest weights and measures (see Vayikra 19:36).

What obligation do the communal authorities have to inspect these weights? How about other issues of business practice?

Our Gemara teaches, based on the passage in Devarim (25:14) that market officers are appointed to ensure the honesty of weights and measures, but no such officers are appointed for checking that prices are fair. Nevertheless, people from the Nasi’s House appointed market officers for weights and measures as well as prices. The Gemara relates that Shmuel asked Karna to teach publicly that market officers are appointed only to oversee measures, but no such officers are appointed to regulate prices. Instead, Karna went and taught that market officers are appointed for both measures and prices, following the opinion of Rami bar Hama quoting Rabbi Yitzhak who required price supervision because of rama’im – tricksters.

The Rashbam explains that the courts are certainly obligated to checks weights, since the customer cannot discern whether the scale is accurate. Prices, however, are meant to fluctuate on the open market. If one shopkeeper raises his prices too high, customers will shop elsewhere. Thus there is no need for market oversight.

The opinion that price controls are necessary, as well, explains that this is because of “tricksters.” According to the Ramah, this does not refer to people who raise prices too high, rather to those who sell “loss leaders” in order to bring people into their stores, where they will trick them in other ways. Others suggest that it refers to people who artificially lower prices and when their competitors have sold out they bring out their remaining stock at higher prices.

Bava Batra 90a-b

As we learned on yesterday’s daf, the Torah teaches clear laws that govern honest weights. According to some opinions, the sages instituted rules regarding price fixing, as well. On today’s daf, the Gemara teaches that there are also strong recommendations about how to deal in an upstanding way with regard to certain other business practices, as well. Based on a passage in Amos (8:5) the Gemara concludes that God will neither forgive nor forget people who hoard fruit, lend with interest, are dishonest with weights and measures and raise prices.

Rabbi Yochanan identifies someone who is atzar perei – who hoards fruit – as a well-known figure at the time, Shabtai Atzar Peirot. This character is contrasted with Shmuel’s father, who was known to sell his produce at the beginning of the season when prices were low. The Gemara relates that his son, Shmuel, would hold his fruit until prices rose, at which time he would sell them at the lower prices. According to the Gemara, Shmuel’s father’s activities were deemed more honorable than Shmuel’s, since prices usually remained low throughout when the market had had an abundance of produce at the beginning of the season.

The rishonim explain that Shmuel also had good intentions, thinking that if he were to make produce available at reduced prices just as the supply began to dwindle, he would help those people who would ordinarily have paid higher prices were it not for his intervention. Nevertheless, market forces during Talmudic times were such that when Shmuel held his fruit from the market, prices rose higher than they would have ordinarily. Even though Shmuel was ready to flood the market just when prices began to rise, still the prices ended up higher than they would have been had he followed his father’s behavior. The Rashbam explains that Shmuel’s father was well-respected in his community, and many people followed his lead in marketing their produce early, thereby holding down prices throughout the season.

In addition to his monumental translation and commentary on the Talmud, Rabbi Steinsaltz has authored dozens of books and hundreds of articles on a variety of topics, both Jewish and secular. For more information about Rabbi Steinsaltz’s groundbreaking work in Jewish education, visit or contact the Aleph Society at 212-840-1166.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.