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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Mezi'a
THREE COINS ON THE TOP OF EACH OTHER,1 BUNDLES OF SHEAVES IN PRIVATE PREMISES, HOME-MADE LOAVES, FLEECES OF WOOL FROM THE CRAFTSMAN'S WORKSHOP, JARS OF WINE OR JARS OF OIL, THEY HAVE TO BE PROCLAIMED.
GEMARA. Obviously it is only when fruit is found in a vessel, or money in a purse. [that they have to be proclaimed]; but if the fruit is in front of the vessel, or the money in front of the purse, they belong to the finder. Our Mishnah thus teaches the same as our Rabbis taught [in another place]: If one finds fruit [lying] in front of a vessel, or money in front of a purse, they belong to the finder. If [the fruit is] partly in the vessel and partly on the ground, or if [the money is] partly in the purse and partly on the ground, they have to be proclaimed.
But the following contradicts it: If a man found an object lacking an identification mark at the side of an object possessing it, he is bound to proclaim [them];2 if the identifier of the mark came and took his own,3 the other [sc. the finder] is entitled to the object without a mark! — Said R. Zebid: There is no difficulty. The former [Baraitha] refers to a cask and flax; the latter, to a basket and fruit.4 R. papa said: Both refer to a basket and fruit, yet there is no difficulty. The latter [Baraitha] holds good if something was still left therein; the former, if nothing was left therein.5 Alternately, both [Baraithas] mean that nothing is left therein, yet there is no difficulty. In the latter, its [sc. the basket's] mouth is turned towards the fruit; in the former, it is not. Another alternative: in both its mouth faces the fruit, yet there is no difficulty. The former [Baraitha] treats of baskets with rims; the latter, of the baskets without.6
HEAPS OF FRUIT; HEAPS OF COINS. This proves that number is an identification mark!7 — [No.] Read: A heap of fruit.8 Then it proves that place is a means of identification! [No.] Read: HEAPS OF FRUIT.9
THREE COINS ON TOP OF EACH OTHER. R. Isaac said: provided that they lie pyramid-wise.10 It has been taught likewise: If a man finds scattered coins, they belong to him. If they are arranged pyramid-wise he is bound to proclaim them. Now is not this self-contradictory? [First] you state, 'If a man finds scattered coins they belong to him,' thus implying, but if they overlap,11 he must proclaim them.12 Then consider the latter clause: 'If they are arranged pyramid-wise, He is bound to proclaim them,' implying, however, that if they merely overlap, they are his? — All [coins] not arranged conically the Tanna designates scattered.
R. Hanina said: This was taught only of [coins of] three kings;13 but if of one king, he need not proclaim them. How so? If they lie pyramid-wise, then even [if they are] of one king [the proclamation should be made]; if they do not lie pyramid-wise, even if they are of three kings there should be no need [to proclaim them]? — But if stated, it14 was thus stated: 'This was taught only of [coins of] one king, yet similar to those of three.'15 How so? When they lie pyramidically, the broadest at the bottom, the medium-sized upon it, and the smallest on top of the middle one; in which case we assume that they were placed thus. If, however, they are of one king, all being of equal size, then even if they are lying upon each other they belong to him [the finder]: we assume that they fell thus together by mere chance. R. Johanan [however] maintained: Even if of the same king,16 he must proclaim them.17
R. Jeremiah propounded: What if they were disposed in a circle,20 in a row, triangularly.21 or ladderwise?22 — Solve at least one [problem]. For R. Nahman said in Rabbah b. Abbuha's name: Wherever a chip can be inserted23 whereby they [the coins] may be lifted simultaneously, a proclamation must be made.24
R. Ashi propounded:
Baba Mezi'a 25b
What if they are arranged as the stones of a Merculis way-mark?1 — Come and hear: For it has been taught: If one finds scattered coins, they belong to him; [but if they lay] as the stones of a Merculis way-mark, he must proclaim them. And thus are the stones of a Mercules way-mark arranged: one at each side, and a third on top of both.2
Our Rabbis taught: If one finds a sela' in a market place, and then his neighbour accosts him and says. 'It is mine; it is new, a Nero coin or of such and such an emperor' — he is ignored.3 Moreover, even if his name is written upon it, his claim is still rejected,4 because an identification mark is of no avail in respect to a coin, for one can say, He may have expended it and someone else lost it.5
MISHNAH. IF A MAN FINDS FLEDGLINGS TIED TOGETHER BEHIND A FENCE OR WALL, OR IN THE PATHWAYS THROUGH FIELDS, HE MUST NOT TOUCH THEM.6 IF A MAN FINDS A VESSEL IN A DUNGHEAP: IF COVERED UP, HE MUST NOT TOUCH IT;7 IF UNCOVERED. HE MUST TAKE AND PROCLAIM IT.
GEMARA. What is the reason?8 — Because we say, A person hid them here, and if he [the finder] takes them, their owner has no means of identifying them. Therefore he must leave them until their owner comes and takes them. But why? let the knot be a means of identification!9 — Said R. Abba b. Zabda in Rab's name: They were tied by their wings, everyone tying them thus. Then let the place [where they were found] be an identification mark. — Said R. 'Ukba b. Hama: It refers to such that can hop. But if they hop, they may have come from elsewhere, and should be permitted!10 — One may surmise that they came from elsewhere, but one can also surmise that a person hid them there: hence it is a case of doubtful placing, and R. Abba b. Zabda said in Rab's name: Whenever it is doubtful if an article was left [in a certain spot], one must not take it in the first instance; but if he took, he need not return it.
IF A MAN FINDS A VESSEL ON A DUNG HEAP: IF COVERED UP, HE MUST NOT TOUCH IT; IF EXPOSED, HE MUST TAKE AND PROCLAIM IT. But the following contradicts it: If one finds an article hidden in a dungheap, he must take and proclaim it, because it is the nature of a dungheap to be cleared away!11 — Said R. Zebid: There is no difficulty. The one refers to casks and cups; the other to knives and forks: in the case of casks and cups, he must not touch them;12 in the case of knives and forks, he must take and proclaim them.13 R. papa said: Both refer to casks and cups, yet there is no difficulty. The one refers to a dungheap that is regularly cleared away; the other, to one that is not cleared away regularly.14 'A dungheap which is regularly cleared away'! — But then it is a voluntary loss?15 — But it refers to a dungheap which was not regularly cleared away, but he [its owner] decided to clear it out.16 Now, as for R. papa, it is well; on that account17 it is stated, 'because it is the nature of a dunghill to be cleared away.'18 But according to R. Zebid, what is meant by, 'because it is the nature of a dunghill to be cleared away'? — [This:] Because it is the nature of a dunghill that small articles should be cleared therein.19
MISHNAH. IF HE FINDS [AN ARTICLE] AMIDST DEBRIS OR IN AN OLD WALL,20 THEY BELONG TO HIM. IF HE FINDS AUGHT IN A NEW WALL: IF IN THE OUTER HALF [THEREOF], IT IS HIS; IN THE INNER HALF, IT BELONGS TO THE OWNER OF THE HOUSE.21 BUT IF IT [THE HOUSE] USED TO BE RENTED TO OTHERS, EVEN IF HE FINDS [ARTICLES] IN THE HOUSE ITSELF, THEY BELONG TO HIM.
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