Masechet Bava Batra 91a-97b

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19 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 91a-b

Must a person live in Israel? Under what circumstances can someone leave Israel to live in the Diaspora?

Our Gemara quotes a baraita that teaches that a person can only leave Israel if basic foods double in price. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai teaches that this is only true if he cannot afford to purchase food at that price, but if he can afford the inflated prices, then he should not leave Israel. In a similar vein, Rabbi Shimon interpreted the story in Megillat Rut as teaching this lesson. According to Rabbi Shimon, Elimelech, Machlon and Chilyon – the father and two sons who left Israel in a time of famine – were among the leaders of their generation. Their punishment and death is attributed to their decision to abandon Israel during a difficult time. This helps explain the passage (Rut 1:19) that describes the city of Beit Lechem as being shocked by Naomi’s return, as Rabbi Yitzhak interpreted – the people saw her return as a poor widow who had lost her sons as proof that the decision to search for a better fate in the Diaspora was a bad one.

The Gemara qualifies this ruling with the statement of Rabbi Yochanan who taught that as long as someone can support himself and purchase food he must remain in Israel, but if someone cannot earn a livelihood, he is not bound by this ruling.

The Rashbam presents the basis for this law as being connected with the mitzvot ha-teluyot ba’aretz – the commandments that can only be fulfilled in the land of Israel.  If someone leaves Israel, he has lost his ability to perform those commandments. Rashi (in Gittin 8a) appears to suggest that there is an inherent problem with leaving Israel for the Diaspora, irrespective of the mitzvot ha-teluyot ba’aretz, a position that has support in many statements throughout the Talmud.

Bava Batra 92a-b

The sixth perek of Masechet Bava Batra continues the discussion of business transactions involving moveable objects. The case in the first Mishna involves someone who purchases seeds that turn out to be useless for planting, but can still be used for other purposes – they can be eaten.

Our Gemara brings a parallel case from Masechet Bava Kamma (46a) where an ox was sold, and the purchaser discovers that he was sold a shor mu’ad – a goring ox that cannot be used for plowing. When he complains, the seller tells him that he sold him the animal for slaughter, so it should make no difference whether or not the animal is dangerous; the buyer claims that he bought it to work his fields and cannot use this animal.

In this case, Rav rules that the buyer can claim mekach ta’ut – the entire transaction was made under a mistaken impression – and the sale can be cancelled. He bases this ruling on the fact that rov – the majority – of purchasers buy animals for field work, so the sale can be assumed to have been made with that in mind. Shmuel argues that following rov is only appropriate in cases of issur – discussions of what is ritually permitted or forbidden. In cases of mammon – money matters – we follow the principle of ha-motzi me-chaveiro alav ha-ra’ayah – the party that is making a claim on the other one must prove his claim. Thus the purchaser would need to bring proof that he only bought the animal with the intention of using it in the field.

The Rashash asks why Rav is concerned with what most people do, given that our concern is the intention of this particular purchaser, and the Gemara has already established that he buys animals for both meat and for work. He suggests that the case in the Gemara must be talking about a wholesaler who purchases both types of animals, but since most of his customers will want to buy animals for work, he prefers to buy those types of animals.

Bava Batra 93a-b

What level of responsibility does a supplier have if his failure to supply the item that was ordered leads to other losses or difficulties?

Our Gemara quotes a baraita that discusses a case where a farmer brings grain to the miller, who does not soften them properly and poor quality flour is produced. Or flour to a baker who bakes poor quality bread, or an animal to be slaughtered and the shochet kills it improperly so it is not kosher. In all of these cases the Tanna Kamma rules that the craftsman who is paid for his work is held responsible to make up the loss. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel goes further, and requires the craftsman to also pay for the embarrassment that is suffered if the person was relying on this food for a public affair. Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel offers two other examples of a “great tradition in Jerusalem” that took into consideration the embarrassment of others:

  1. Someone who agreed to cater a festive meal for his friend will have to pay for his embarrassment if the meal is not prepared as promised.
  2. A cloth was spread out at the entrance to festivities, and people knew that as long as the cloth was there they were welcome to join the party, but when it was removed, they did not come in.

The Maharsha explains that Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel brought these cases to show that in Jerusalem the concern for the feelings of others was so great that even when someone was not being paid for his participation, if he caused embarrassment to his friend it was accepted practice for him to pay for what he did.

The final story relates to a situation where someone was making a wedding or some other large party, and did not invite a specific number of guests. When the food ran out, a signal was arranged with the cloth so that people would know that there was no more food, and they would refrain from coming in to eat – although they may still come in to offer their good wishes to the celebrants.

Bava Batra 94a-b

According to the Mishna (93b) it is reasonable to anticipate that there will be a certain amount of waste with produce that is purchased. Ten figs out of every hundred, ten barrels of slightly sour wine out of every hundred, ten bad jugs out of every hundred, and up to a quarter tinofet – waste – per se’ah of grain.  Rabbeinu Gershom explains that this is the normal amount of waste that can be expected during the harvest season, given that other plants also grow in the fields together with the grain.

On our daf, the Gemara brings Rav Huna‘s teaching that a buyer can sift the grain that was purchased, and if he finds that there is more than a quarter tinofet he can demand that the seller replace the entire amount that he had agreed to sell, not only the three-quarters that was to be expected. Two approaches are offered in explanation of Rav Huna’s ruling – either it is dina, this is what is owed according to the letter of the law, or it is kenasa – it is a penalty.

The Gemara explains:

If we view this as a the letter of the law, then we assume that the person who makes such a purchase really intends to purchase the full amount, and that ordinarily he is not concerned with a certain amount of waste. Since this individual showed that he did care about the waste, he must receive the full amount.
If we view this as a penalty, then we are saying that a quarter waste can be expected. Since in this case there was more than the average amount, we suspect that the seller had added in “filler.” Now that it has been discovered, he will have to pay the full amount.

Bava Batra 95a-b

As we learned on yesterday’s daf it is reasonable for a buyer to anticipate that there will be a certain amount of waste with produce that is purchased. One of the examples that appears in the Mishna (93b) is that ten barrels of slightly sour wine out of every hundred is a reasonable percentage to expect.

The Gemara on our daf examines this ruling and its parameters. According to a baraita brought by the Gemara, if a person agrees to sell a wine cellar, all of the wine must be of good quality. If he agrees to sell a specific wine cellar, then the wine can all be of lower quality – what the Gemara refers to as yayin ha-nimkar be-chanut – wine that is sold in stores. If he agrees to sell a cellar, without specifying that it was a wine cellar, then whatever was there is what was sold.

Yayin ha-nimkar be-chanut refers to low quality wine. When the vintner realizes that his wine is beginning to turn, he needs to sell it quickly before it becomes vinegar. The simplest way of doing this was by selling it to a storekeeper who would sell it to people passing in the street who were not ordinarily as careful about the quality of the wine that they drank as were people who purchased wine by the barrel. The continuation of the Gemara refers to this as wine that smells like vinegar but tastes like wine.

The explanations for the differences are clear. An agreement to purchase a wine cellar indicates an interest in buying what is considered wine on every level. Once the agreement specified wine that was in the cellar, as long as it could still be considered wine, the agreement is fulfilled. If the word “wine” is not mentioned in the agreement at all, then any contents of the cellar will suffice, even if the wine had all turned to vinegar.

Bava Batra 96a-b

What brachot – blessings – are recited on fruit juice?

While discussing the sale of wine, our Gemara turns to a ritual question about blessings on drinks, teaching that mead made from dates or beer made from grains, as well as wine made from sediment, will all receive the basic shehakol blessing. Others say that wine made from sediment will retain its unique blessing of borei pri hagafen if it retains the taste of wine.

The general principle regarding brachot is that when a product is produced from a fruit or vegetable that is not the essence of the fruit itself, the product will lose its unique bracha – borei pri ha-etz for dates or borei pri ha-adama for the grain – and the more general blessing of shehakol will suffice. On rare occasions, the product is considered a significant improvement over the original fruit or vegetable and a new bracha will be applied, e.g. borei pri hagafen for wine and hamotzi lechem min ha-aretz for bread. Nevertheless, date mead and beer are not considered significant enough to even retain their original blessings.

Regarding the wine, it was common practice to try and maximize the volume of wine that was produced by adding water to the barrel after the wine was removed from it, so that the sediment that remained would mix with the water, which, after a time, would produce a liquid that would have the taste and smell of wine, and even some level of alcohol content.

Rava teaches that all agree that this drink is considered to be wine if three parts water are poured into the barrel and four parts are removed, since that shows clearly that the wine is a significant component of the mixture. In fact, in the time of the Gemara, wine was often sold in a concentrated form and in order to be drunk it was necessary to dilute the concentrate with three parts water to one part wine. Furthermore, Rava teaches that all agree that if the same amount of water is poured in as is removed, then it cannot possibly be considered wine.

Bava Batra 97a-b

Do you make Kiddush on Friday night with wine or with grape juice? Is your wine red or white?

The Gemara on today’s daf brings Rav Zutra bar Tuvia who quotes Rav as teaching that only wine that could be used as a libation on the altar in the Temple can be used for kiddush. At first, the Gemara assumes that this statement comes to exclude yayin mi-gito – literally “wine from the press,” or grape juice. This supposition is rejected by the Gemara, which quotes Rabbi Chiya as teaching that if used for libation, such wine will be acceptable on the altar, at least ex-post facto. In fact, regarding kiddush, the Gemara quotes Rava as teaching that someone can squeeze a bunch of grapes into his cup and use it for kiddush.

Several other suggestions are raised in an attempt to identify the wine that will not be appropriate for kiddush given that it cannot be used for libation in the Temple, all of which are wines that are considered of lower quality, e.g. yayin kushi – black wine. Sometimes, when wine was stored in iron casks, or even if there was a high concentration of iron in the ground where the grapes were grown, the small amounts of iron oxide (Fe2O3) together with the natural tannin in the wine can oxidize, which turns the wine bluish, and eventually black as ink. Although this does not affect the taste of the wine, it is considered to be of lower quality.

The conclusion of the Gemara seems to be that white wine could not be used, although it is not clear whether the Gemara is referring to libation or to Kiddush. This leads to differences of opinion regarding the halacha, with the Ramban rejecting the use of white wine for kiddush, and others suggesting that if possible it should not be used. Rabbeinu Yonah, however, permits its use for Kiddush, arguing that in some places white wines are considered to be finer than their red counterparts.

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.