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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Bathra

Folio 164a

If, however, it is objected1  [that, since the writing on the document had been] erased [once, it might] be erased again,2  [it may be replied that anything which] has been erased once is not like [that which] has been erased twice.3  But [is there no cause] to apprehend that ink might first be poured on the place of the witnesses,4  and this5  would be erased,6  so that when the text7  is subsequently erased8  the lower and the upper sections would represent9  a repeated erasure?10  — Abaye replied: Rab is of the opinion [that] Witnesses [must] not sign on an erasure unless the erasure was made11  in their presence.12

An objection was raised: [A deed] the text13  [of which is written] on [clean] paper14  and its witnesses on an erasure is valid. Is [there no cause] to apprehend that [the text] might be erased, and any [terms] one desires substituted,15  and [thus] there would result [a deed] the text13  and witnesses of which [appear] on an erasure?16  — They17  write as follows:18  'We witnesses signed on an erasure and the text is written on paper'. Where, [however], do they write [this]? If below,19  [surely] one [can] cut it off! If above,19  one [can] erase it!20  They write [it]21  between the signatures.22  If so, explain the second clause: [A deed] the text23  [of which appears] on an erasure and its witnesses on [clean] paper is invalid.24  Why, [it may be asked,] should it be invalid? Let them in this case25  also write thus: 'We witnesses signed on paper and the text [is written] on an erasure'. Would you now also reply [that as the writing] was [once] erased,26  one might again erase it?27  Surely, you said [that] what was erased once is not like that which was erased twice! — This28  [has been said in the case only] where the witnesses are signed on an erasure.29  Where, [however], the witnesses are not signed on an erasure but on [clean] paper [the difference30  can] not be detected.31  But let any32  scroll be brought, [on which some writing could] be erased, and compared!33  — The erasure on one scroll is not [always] like the erasure on another scroll.34  Let, then, the signatures of the witnesses be accepted by the court,35  and be erased and compared!36  — R. Hoshaia replied: An erasure of one day's [standing] is not like an erasure of two days [standing]. Let it stand [for some time]!37  — R. Jeremiah replied: Precaution had to be taken [to provide] against an erring court.38

R. HANINA B. GAMALIEL SAID: A FOLDED [DEED] ETC. Rabbi raised an objection against the statement39  of R. Hanina b. Gamaliel:

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Lit., 'thou wilt say'.
  2. And, consequently, while leaving the signatures on the first erasure, the text above them could be erased again. and on this second erasure a forged text might be substituted for the original!
  3. The forgery would be discovered by comparing the signatures which appear on a first erasure with the text appearing on a repeated erasure.
  4. I.e., on the lower section (corresponding to the place of the witnesses) of a paper which has been once erased from top to bottom.
  5. The ink poured.
  6. And thus the witnesses, not suspecting that the section where they append their signatures had been erased twice, whereas the upper section only once, would be signing on a double erasure.
  7. Lit., 'to that'.
  8. from the upper section, and a forged text substituted.
  9. Lit., 'this and this is'.
  10. Lit., 'erased twice'; and since both text and signatures would thus appear on the same kind of erasure, the court would not be able to detect the forgery.
  11. Lit., 'it was erased'.
  12. They would, consequently, be able to satisfy themselves that the upper and lower sections of the erasure were exactly alike.
  13. Lit., 'it'.
  14. I.e., on which nothing has ever before been written.
  15. Lit., 'write'.
  16. Which, as has been said, is valid! Since this would facilitate forgery, why were witnesses allowed to sign on an erasure?
  17. The witnesses.
  18. Lit., 'thus'.
  19. Their signatures.
  20. And the erasure would raise no suspicion since the witnesses also are signed on an erasure.
  21. The formula, 'We witnesses etc.'
  22. Lit., between witness and witness'. Consequently it cannot be cut off without cutting away with it one of the signatures; and should it be erased, it would leave a doubly erased spot which could be easily distinguished from that of the signatures which appear on what was erased only once.
  23. Lit., 'it'.
  24. Because it is possible that the original had been erased and a forged text had been substituted for it.
  25. Lit., 'here'.
  26. The text being written on an erasure.
  27. And substitute a forged text for the original.
  28. Lit., 'these words', that it is possible to distinguish between the two kinds of erasure.
  29. Since the two kinds of erasure appear side by side, on the same document, the contrast between them would be noticed.
  30. Between a first, and second erasure.
  31. The contrast on the document being not that between two kinds of erasure but between an erasure and clean paper.
  32. Lit., 'another'.
  33. With the erasure on the deed. The comparison would determine whether the writing on the deed was erased once or twice.
  34. One of them may be thicker than the other and would not show up the erasure as well as the other.
  35. Provisionally, until it had been ascertained whether the text was, or was not a forgery.
  36. With the erasure on which the text of the deed is written. CF. supra note 11.
  37. When the difference between the old, and the new erasure would disappear and comparison could be made between the erasures on the two sections of the deed.
  38. Which might not think of comparing erasures and, relying on the clear signatures of the witnesses, could accept the validity of the deed. (R. Gersh.) Which might not be aware of the fact that an old erasure differs in appearance from a new one and would, consequently, accept a forged document as genuine (Rashb., cf. BaH, a.l.). Hence it was ordained that any deed the text of which appears on an erasure and the signatures of its witnesses on a clean section of the paper is invalid.
  39. That a folded deed may be turned into a plain one.

Baba Bathra 164b

Surely. the date of the one1  [deed] is not like that of the other;1  [for in the case of] a Plain [deed], the first completed year of a king's reign2  is counted as his first,3  [and] the second completed year4  as his second;4  [while in the case of] a folded [one], the first year of a king's reign2  is counted as his second,4  the second as his third;5  and sometimes [it may happen] that [a person] might borrow money from another6  on a folded [deed] and, in the meantime,7  he might obtain funds and repay him, but [when] requesting the return of his deed,8  [the creditor] might reply to him, 'I lost it', and would write out for him [instead], a receipt; and when the time of its payment9  arrived, he10  might convert it [into] a plain [deed] and say to him, 'You borrowed from me now'!11  — He holds the view that a receipt is not written.12

Was Rabbi, however, familiar with [the dating of] a folded [deed]? Surely, once a certain folded [deed] was brought13  before Rabbi who remarked, 'This is post-dated',14  and Zonin said to him, 'Such is the practice of this nation: [If a king] reigned a [full] year they count it as his second year;15  [if] two [years], they count them as his third16  [year]'!17  — After he heard it from Zonin he knew it.18

In a certain [plain] deed there occurred the [following] date:19  'In the year20  of the archon21  X'. Said R. Hanina: Let enquiry be made when [that] archon assumed office.22  Might he [not on that date] have been in office for some years?23  — R. Hoshaia replied, 'Such is the practice of this nation: [In the] first year they call him, "archon", [in the] second they call him, digon.'24  Is it not possible that he was deposed and re-appointed?25  — R. Jeremiah replied: [In] such [a case] he is designated, 'archon-digon'.

Our Rabbis taught: [In the case where a person said.] 'I am to be a nazarite',26  Symmachus said, [if he added], hena27  [he must observe] one [term];28  [if he added], digon [he must observe] two terms;29  trigon,30  three [terms];29  tetragon,31  four [terms]; pentagon,32  five [terms].33

Our Rabbis taught: A circular, two cornered, three cornered, and five cornered34  house is not subject to uncleanness from [house] plagues;35  a four-cornered house is subject to uncleanness from [such] plagues. Whence is this inferred?36  — for our Rabbis taught: Above it is said, [instead of] 'wall', walls,37  [signifying] two;38  below39  [also]. [instead of] 'wall', it is said, walls,39  [which similarly signifies] two, thus making a total of40  four [walls].41

A folded [deed] was once brought before Rabbi who remarked, 'There is no date on this [deed]'. [Thereupon], R. Simeon son of Rabbi said to Rabbi, 'It might be hidden between its folds'. [On] ripping [the seams] open he saw it.42  Rabbi turned round [and] looked at him with displeasure.43  'I did not write it', [said the other]. 'R. Judah Hayyata44  wrote it'. Keep away from talebearing',45  [Rabbi] called to him.

Once he46  was sitting in his47  presence when he finished a section of the Book of Psalms.48  'How correct is this writing'? said Rabbi. 'I did not write it', replied the other, 'Judah Hayyata wrote it'. 'Keep away from tale-bearing'. [Rabbi] called to him. In the first case49  one can well understand [Rabbi's exhortation, since] there was slander; what tale-bearing, however, was there here?50  — Owing to [the teaching] of R. Dimi; for R. Dimi, brother of R. Safra, taught: A man should never speak in praise51  of his friend, because by praise of him he brings about52  his blame.53

R. Amram said in the name of Rab: [There are] three transgressions which no man escapes for a single54  day: Sinful thought,55  calculation on [the results of] prayer,56  and slander.57  'Slander'? [How] could one imagine [such a thing]!58

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Lit., 'this'.
  2. Lit., 'he reigned a year'.
  3. Lit., 'a year'.
  4. Lit., 'two'.
  5. Deeds were dated according to the year of the reigning sovereign, folded deeds were post-dated by adding one year to the reign of the ruling king. Hence the same date (e.g. 'the fourth year of King X') on a plain and a folded deed would represent a difference of a full year. [The extra year was probably obtained by reckoning the period elapsing between the day of the king's accession to the throne and the end of the civil year as a full year. Cf. R.H. 2b: 'If a king ascends the throne on the 29th Adar, as soon as 1st Nisan comes, it is counted for him as one year.' This practice in vogue among Persians and Babylonians was adopted by the Romans after the days of Trajan, when the years of emperors were counted from 10th December. V. Fischer, L., Jahrb. d. Jud. Lit. Gesel. IX, 67ff; and Bornstein, Sokolow's [H] 184 ff.]
  6. Lit., 'from him'.
  7. Between the date on the folded deed and the corresponding date on a plain deed, i.e., during the one year's interval.
  8. Lit., 'and say to him: give me my deed'.
  9. Lit., 'its time'.
  10. The creditor.
  11. I.e., after the date of the receipt. By converting the folded, into a plain deed, its date is moved a full year forward, and the receipt is thus made to appear as having been given prior to the loan. The creditor is, consequently, in a position to assert that the receipt was given for a previous loan, and to claim payment for the loan recorded on the deed. How, then, in view of such possible fraud, could R. Hanina allow the conversion of a folded, into a plain deed?
  12. If the creditor cannot produce and return the deed he is not entitled to the re-payment of his debt.
  13. Lit., 'that came'.
  14. A year later than the current year.
  15. Lit., 'two'.
  16. Lit., 'three'.
  17. This shows that Rabbi did not know that folded deeds were dated a year later than ordinary ones. How, then, could he raise the objection against R. Hanina, supra, which shows that he knew that the dating of one kind of deed was different from that of the other?
  18. And it was then that he, raised the objection.
  19. Lit., 'written'.
  20. Not specifying which year.
  21. Cf. [G].
  22. Lit., 'when archon stood in his archonship'; and that year is to be regarded as the date of the document. If such a deed relates to a loan, the creditor is entitled to seize any of the creditor's lands that were sold or mortgaged after that date.
  23. Lit., 'that his reign was long'.
  24. [G] (born a second time), 'second term in office', iterum consul; the deed, since the title of 'archon' was used in it, must have been written in his first year of office.
  25. And thus assumed the title of 'archon', a second time. Since there may have been a difference of some years between the first and second archonship, and since the deed may have been written in the second, how could R. Hanina decide that the year of the first archonship was to be regarded as the date of the deed?
  26. If no period has been specified the term is thirty days.
  27. [G] acc. of [G], 'one'.
  28. Of thirty days. Cf. previous note but one.
  29. Each of thirty days.
  30. Cf. [G] 'for the third time'.
  31. Cf. [G] 'for the fourth time'.
  32. Cf. [G] 'for the fifth time'.
  33. Tosef. Nazir, I, Nazir 8b.
  34. Cf. p. 715. n. 12, and the previous three notes but one.
  35. Cf. Lev. XIV, 34ff.
  36. Lit., 'whence these words', that a four-cornered house only is subject to the laws mentioned.
  37. Lev. XIV, 37. The plur. is used where the sing. would have been more appropriate.
  38. The plural, walls, signifies a minimum of two.
  39. Ibid. v. 39.
  40. Lit., 'behold here'.
  41. I.e., four cornered. Cf. supra, II. 11.
  42. Cf. supra 160b.
  43. Rabbi probably believed R. Simeon to have written the deed, well knowing that he opposed the issue of folded deeds which were a constant source of errors.
  44. The tailor or a surname.
  45. He should not have given the name of the writer but should have been content with disclaiming his own responsibility for the writing.
  46. R. Simeon.
  47. Rabbi's.
  48. [Thus R. Gersh. The expression [H] is, however, taken to denote (a) an exposition of a Biblical section (Rappaport, Erek millin s.v. [H]) or, (b) a reading of Biblical verses with due regard to the divisions between then, (Friedmann. Hakedem, I, 120)]
  49. Lit., 'there', in the case of the deed which incurred Rabbi's displeasure.
  50. In connection with the Book of Psalms which elicited Rabbi's praise.
  51. Lit., 'good'.
  52. Lit., 'he comes'.
  53. Lit., 'evil'. By pointing to a person's good actions or qualities attention is inevitably directed to his bad actions and qualities also.
  54. Lit., 'every'.
  55. Usually applied to unchaste or immoral thoughts.
  56. [H] 'contemplation. Or speculation in prayer'. Hence either (a: as elsewhere), 'devotion in prayer' (cf. Pe'ah, I); Or (b: as here). 'speculation on the result of prayer', 'expectation of the immediate grant of one's request'. The offence lies in the presumption of the claim that God must answer prayer of any kind whatsoever; v. Abrahams, I., Pharisaism and Gospels, II, 78ff.
  57. [H] Lit., 'evil speech'.
  58. Surely it is quite possible to avoid slandering one's fellows!