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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Bathra

Folio 89a

from And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently,1  to to serve them,'2  and cursed them with twenty-two, from But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken,3  to And no man shall buy you.4


(Mnemonic: Neither exact weight nor heaped up with market officers and with a pound three and ten , weights, a thick strike, you shall not do, he shall not do.)5

Our Rabbis taught: Whence [may it be inferred] that [the measure] must not be levelled6  where the practice is to heap it up, and [that] it must not be heaped up7  where the practice is to level it? — For it has been definitely stated, A perfect … measure.8  And whence [may it be inferred] that we are not to listen to one who Says, 'I will level where the practice is to heap up, and reduce the price' or 'I will heap up where they level, and raise the price'? — For it has been definitely stated, A perfect and just measure thou shalt have.8

Our Rabbis taught: Whence [is it to be inferred] that the exact weight must not be given where the practice is to allow overweight, and that overweight must not be allowed where the practice is to give the exact weight? — For it has been definitely stated, A perfect weight.9  And whence [may it be inferred] that we are not to listen to one who says, 'I will give the exact weight where the practice is to allow overweight, and reduce the price', or 'I will allow overweight where they give the exact weight, and raise the price'? — For it has been definitely stated, A perfect and just weight. Rab Judah of Sura said:10  Thou shalt not have [anything]11  in thy house;12  why? — Because of [thy] diverse measures.7  Thou shalt not have13  [anything] in thy bag;14  why? — Because of [thy] diverse weights.13  But [if thou keep] a perfect and just weight, thou shalt have15  [possessions]; [if] a perfect and just measure, thou shalt have [wealth].

Our Rabbis taught: Thou shalt have,15  teaches that market officers16  are appointed to [superintend] measures, but no such officers are appointed for [superintending] prices.17  Those of the Nasi's18  House appointed market officers to [superintend] both measures and prices. [Thereupon] said Samuel to Karna: Go forth and teach them [the law that] market officers are appointed to [superintend] measures, but no such officers are appointed to [superintend] prices. [But Karna] went forth [and] gave them the [following] exposition: Market officers are appointed to [superintend] both measures and prices. He said unto him: Is your name Karna? Let a horn19  grow out of your eye. A horn,20  [consequently] grew out of his eye. But whose opinion did he follow? — That voiced by Rami b. Hama in the name of R. Isaac that market officers are appointed to [superintend] both measures and prices, on account of the impostors.

Our Rabbis taught: If one asked him for a pound,21  a pound must be weighed. [If] half a pound, half a pound must be weighed. A quarter of a pound, a quarter of a pound must be weighed. What does this teach us? — That weights must be provided in these [three] denominations.22

Our Rabbis taught: If he ordered from him three quarters of a pound, he shall not tell him, 'Weigh out for me the three quarters of the pound one by one'.23  But a pound weight is laid [on the scale] against a quarter of a pound weight with the meat [on the other scale].

Our Rabbis taught: If he ordered from him ten pounds, he shall not say, 'Weigh out for me each [pound] separately and allow overweight [for each].' But all are weighed together and one overweight is allowed for all of them.

Our Rabbis taught: The nefesh24  of a balance25  must be suspended in the air three handbreadths [removed from the roof from which the balance hangs].26  And [the scales must be] three handbreadths above the ground.27  The beam28  and the ropes29  [must contain a total length of] twelve30  handbreadths.31  [The balances] of wool-dealers and glass-ware dealers [must] be suspended in the air two handbreadths [from the ceiling] and two handbreadths above the ground. Their beams and ropes [must contain a total of] nine handbreadths [in length]. [The balance] of a shopkeeper and of a producer32  [must] be suspended in the air one handbreadth [from above], and one handbreadth above the ground. The beam and ropes [must be of a total length of] six handbreadths. A gold balance [must] be suspended in the air three fingers from above, and three fingers above the ground. [The length of] its beam and cords I do not know. But what [kind of balance is] that [which has been mentioned] first?33  —

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Deut. XXVIII, 1, begins with Waw, ([H]) [H]
  2. Ibid. v. 14, ends with Mem, ([H]) [H] (Waw — Mem, eight letters).
  3. Ibid. v. 15, begins with Waw. [H] V. following note.
  4. Ibid. v. 68. ends with He, [H] The section beginning with the sixth letter of the alphabet (Waw [H]) and ending with the fifth (He, [H]) includes, therefore, all the alphabet.
  5. The mnemonic consists of key words and phrases in the teachings of the Rabbis that follow.
  6. Even with the consent of the buyer.
  7. Even with the desire of the seller.
  8. Deut. XXV, 25. By deviating from the usual practice the buyer, or the seller, may be the means of defrauding, or misleading others.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Expounded the following verse.
  11. Anything of value; i.e., thou wilt be poor.
  12. Ibid. v. 14.
  13. Ibid. v. 13.
  14. I.e., purse.
  15. Ibid. v. 15.
  16. Heb. [H] cf. [G], 'market commissioner.
  17. In order to allow for free and unfettered competition.
  18. [H] 'Prince'. Here R. Judah II.
  19. [H]
  20. I.e., a sty (Aruch).
  21. V. Glos.
  22. These denominations are essential. Any other weights have to be computed from these.
  23. As it is impossible to give the exact weight, the seller would be losing the overweight three times, once with each quarter.
  24. [H] the hollow handle in which the tongue of the balance rests.
  25. Big scales, for the weighing of heavy things such as iron and copper, which are suspended from the roof of the house.
  26. So that the beam may have sufficient space in which to move without knocking against the ceiling and impeding the free movement of the scales.
  27. To allow for the free movement of the scales and to prevent their knocking against the ground and their consequent re-bounding, which would interfere with proper weighing.
  28. To each end of which the ropes are fastened.
  29. To which the scales are attached.
  30. The beam's length must be four handbreadths and that of the two ropes four handbreadths each; total twelve.
  31. If the length of these were less, the scales would not easily move, and small variations in weights could not be detected.
  32. V. p. 361. n. 5.
  33. Since the balances of wool and glass-ware dealers, shopkeepers, producers, and goldsmiths have been specifically mentioned, what kind of balance, then, is the one mentioned first?

Baba Bathra 89b

R. Papa said: [A balance used] for heavy pieces of metal.1

R. Mani b. Patish said: The same [restrictions] that have been said [to apply to balances] with reference to their disqualification [for commercial uses] have also been said [to apply to them] with reference to their [liability to] Levitical defilement.2  What does he come to teach us? [Surely] this has [already] been taught [in the following]:3  The [length of the] cords4  of a shopkeeper's, and of producers' balances [which may be subjected to the laws of Levitical defilement, must be] one handbreadth! [And, since this restriction5  has specifically been applied to one kind of balance, are not the other kinds of balance to be implied?]6  — [The statement of R. Mani] is required [on account of the sizes of] the beam and the cords, which have not been mentioned [there].

Our Rabbis taught: Weights must not be made either of tin or of lead or of gasitron7  or of any other kinds of metal,8  but they must be made of stone or of glass.

Our Rabbis taught: The strike must not be made of a gourd because it is light,9  nor of metal because it is heavy,10  but it must be made of olive, nut, sycamore, or box wood.

Our Rabbis taught: The strike may not be made thick11  on one side and thin on the other.12  One may not strike with a single quick movement, for striking in this manner causes loss13  to the seller and benefits14  the buyer. Nor may one strike very slowly because [this] is disadvantageous13  to the buyer and beneficial14  for the seller. Concerning all these [sharp practices of traders], R. Johanan b. Zakkai said:15  Woe to me if I should speak [of them]; woe to me if I should not speak. Should I speak [of them], knaves might learn [them]; and should I not speak, the knaves might say, 'the scholars are unacquainted with our practices' [and will deceive us still more]. The question was raised: Did he [R. Johanan] speak [of these sharp practices] or not? R. Samuel son of R. Isaac said: He did speak [of them]; and in so doing16  [he based his decision] on17  the following Scriptural text: For the ways of the Lord are right, and the just do walk in them; but transgressors do stumble therein.18

Our Rabbis taught:19  [It is written], You shall do no unrighteousness in judgments in meteyard, in weight. or in measure.20  In meteyard relates to the measuring of ground; one should not measure out for one person in the hot21  season and for another in the rainy22  season. In weight, [means] that one shall not keep his weights in salt.23  In measure, that one shall not cause [liquids] to froth.24  And by inference from minor to major, [the following may be deduced]. If the Torah cared [for proper measure in] a mesurah25  which is one thirty-sixth of a log. how much more [should one be careful to give proper measure in the case] of a hin.26  half a hin, a third of a hin, a quarter of a hin, a log,27  half a log, a quarter [of a log], a toman,28  half a toman and an 'ukla!29

Rab Judah said in the name of Rab: A person is forbidden to keep30  in his house a measure [which is either] smaller or larger [than the nominal capacity] even if [it is used as a] urine tub. R. Papa said: This applies only in [the case of] a place where [measures] are not [officially] marked,31  but where they are [officially] marked [they may be used; for] if [the buyer] sees no mark he does not accept [them] — And even where they are not marked, this has been said only in the case where they are not supervised,32  but if they are supervised32  it does not matter. But this is not [right]; for [the buyer] may sometimes happen [to call] at twilight33  and accidentally accept [the faulty measure]. The same, indeed, has been taught [in the following]: A person must not keep in his house a measure [which is either] smaller or larger [than the nominal capacity], even if [it is used as a] urine tub. But a person may make a se'ah,34  a tarkab,35  half a tarkab, a kab,36  half a kab, a quarter [of a kab], a toman,37  half a toman

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Broken pieces of iron, copper and the like, which sometimes weigh as much as a hundred pounds. The size of the beams, ropes etc. are determined by the weight of the articles for which they are used.
  2. I.e., scales which are prohibited for commercial use cannot be regarded as 'vessels' subject to the laws of Levitical defilement.
  3. Kel. XXIX, 5.
  4. The beam of a balance is suspended by a cord, corresponding to nefesh, supra.
  5. Requiring a distance of a handbreadth from above in the case of shopkeepers' and producers' balances.
  6. What, then, is the purpose of R. Mani's statement?
  7. A fusion of different metals. Others compare the word with [G], tin; perhaps of a special kind.
  8. Because the friction caused by constant use reduces their weight.
  9. And does not strike well, causing loss to the seller.
  10. And penetrates too deeply, causing loss to the buyer.
  11. Because a thick one cannot penetrate so well as a thin one. Cf. the following note.
  12. Because one might use the thin side when selling, and the thick side when buying.
  13. Lit., 'bad'.
  14. Lit., 'good'.
  15. Kelim XVII, 16.
  16. Lit., 'he said it'.
  17. Lit., 'from'.
  18. Hos. XIV, 10.
  19. B.M. 61b.
  20. Lev. XIX, 35.
  21. When the measuring rope is dry and unyielding.
  22. When the rope is moist and capable of extension.
  23. Salt reduces the weight. According to others, salt increases weight and the warning is addressed to the buyer.
  24. By pouring rapidly from a certain height, foam is generated and, consequently, less liquid enters the measure.
  25. [H] the term used for 'measure' in the verse from Lev. XIX, 35 that is here discussed.
  26. Hin = twelve log.
  27. Log = volume of liquid that fills the space occupied by six eggs.
  28. Toman = half a log, or one eighth of a kab. V. BaH, a.l.
  29. Ukla is explained in the Gemara.
  30. Even if not intended to be used for measuring purposes; since others may use it as a measure, by mistake.
  31. By the seal of the recognised authority.
  32. By duly appointed officers, [H] Others, 'marked by means of incisions'.
  33. When everyone is in a hurry.
  34. Se'ah = two Tarkab or six Kab.
  35. Tarkab = three kab.
  36. Kab = four log.
  37. Toman, v. p. 369, n. 10.