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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Mezi'a

Baba Mezi'a 31a

on a road, or a cow running among the vineyards it is lost property. [But if he finds] a garment at the side of a wall, or a spade at the side of a wall, or a cow grazing among the vineyards, it is not considered lost; yet [if he sees it] three consecutive days, it is lost. If one sees water overflowing [its banks] and proceeding [onwards], he must put up a wall1  before it.2

Raba3  said: [And so shalt thou do] with all lost things of thy brother's:4  this is to include the loss of real estate. R. Hananiah observed to Raba:5  It has been taught in support of you: If one sees water overflowing [its banks] and proceeding [onwards], he must put up a wall before it.6  As for that, he replied, it does not support [me]: What are the circumstances here? When there are sheaves [on the field].7  But if it contains sheaves, why state it?8  — It is necessary [to state it only] when it contains sheaves which [still] need the soil. I might think, since they need the soil, they are as the soil itself:9  therefore we are informed [otherwise].

IF ONE FINDS AN ASS OR A COW, etc. This is self-contradictory. You say. IF ONE FINDS AN ASS OR A COW FEEDING BY THE WAY, IT IS NOT CONSIDERED LOST PROPERTY: hence, only when feeding by the way are they not [regarded as] lost; but if running on a road, or feeding among the vineyards, they are considered lost! Then consider the second clause: [BUT IF HE FINDS] AN ASS WITH ITS TRAPPINGS OVERTURNED, OR A COW RUNNING AMONG THE VINEYARDS, THEY ARE CONSIDERED LOST; hence, only if running among the vineyards are they lost; but if running on the road, or feeding among the vineyards. they are not lost! — Said Abaye: His companion telleth it concerning him:10  he [the Tanna] mentions feeding by the way, that it is not a lost animal, and the same applies to [a cow] feeding among the vineyards. He states that if running among the vineyards, it is lost, and the same holds good if it was running on the road. Raba said to him, if 'his companion telleth it of him,' let the lighter aspects be taught, from which the graver ones would follow a fortiori. [Thus:] Let him [the Tanna] teach that if it was running on the road it is considered lost; how much more so if running among the vineyards! And let him teach that when feeding among the vineyards it is not considered lost; how much more so when feeding by the way! — But. said Raba, the two statements on 'running'11  are not contradictory: in the one case its face is towards the field; in the other, towards the town.12  The two statements on 'feeding' are likewise not contradictory: the one treats of the loss of itself;13  the other of the loss of the soil. [Thus:] when he [the Tanna] teaches that if it is FEEDING BY THE WAY. THAT IS NOT CONSIDERED LOST PROPERTY, implying that if it is feeding among the vineyards there is a loss, the reference is to the loss of the soil.14  And when he teaches that if it is running among the vineyards there is a case of loss, implying that if it is feeding among the vineyard there is none, the reference is to the loss of itself;13  for when running among the vineyard it becomes lacerated, but not when feeding among the vineyards.15  Now, if it is feeding among the vineyards, granted that it does not become lacerated, yet it should be necessary [to expel it] on account of the loss of the soil! — This refers to a heathen's16  [vineyard]. Yet should it be necessary [to drive it out] on account of its own loss, lest they [the heathens] kill it? — This refers to a place where a warning is first given,17  and only then is it slain. But perhaps a warning has already been given on its account? — If they gave warning, and care was not taken thereof [to prevent it from trespassing], it certainly ranks as a self-inflicted loss.18

IF HE RETURNED IT AND IT RAN AWAY, RETURNED IT AND IT RAN AWAY, etc. One of the Rabbis said to Raba, Perhaps 'hasheb'19  indicates once; 'teshibem'20  denotes twice? — He replied. 'hasheb' implies even a hundred times. As for 'teshibem', I know only [that he must return them] to his [the owner's] house; how do I know [that he can return them to] his garden or his ruins? Therefore Scripture writes, 'teshibem', implying, in all circumstances. How so? If they [the garden or ruins] are guarded, is it not obvious? Whilst if not, why [can one return them thither]? — In truth, it means that they are guarded, but we are informed this, viz., that the owner's knowledge is not required.21  In accordance with R. Eleazar, who said: All require the owner's knowledge,22  excepting in the case of the return of lost property, since Scripture extended the law to many forms of return.23

[If a bird's nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, on the ground, whether they be young ones, or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young, or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young:] But shaleah teshalah [thou shalt surely let go] the dam etc.:24  let us say that shaleah means once, teshalah twice?25  — He replied, shaleah implies even a hundred times. As for teshalah: I know [this law] only [when the bird is required] for a permissive purpose;26  how do I know it when it is required for the fulfilment of a precept?27  Therefore Scripture writes,'teshalah', implying under all circumstances.

One of the Rabbis said to Raba: [Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart:] hokeah tokiah [thou shalt surely rebuke] thy neighbour.28  Perhaps hokeah means once, tokiah twice? — He replied, hokeah implies even a hundred times. As for tokiah: I know only that the master [must rebuke] the disciple: whence do we know that the disciple [must rebuke] his master? From the phrase. 'hokeah tokiah', implying under all circumstances.

[If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under its burden and wouldst forbear to help him,] thou shalt surely29  help with him.30  [From this] I know it only if the owner is with it; whence do I know [the law] if its owner is not with it? From the verse, 'thou shalt surely help with him' — in all circumstances.

[Thou shalt not see thy brother's ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide thyself from them:] thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again:31  [From this] I know it only if the owner is with it; whence do I know [this law] if the owner is not with it? From the verse, 'thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again'.

Now, why must both unloading and loading be stated? — Both are necessary. For had Scripture mentioned unloading [only], I would have thought, that is because it entails suffering of dumb animals and financial loss;32  but as for loading, where neither suffering of dumb animals nor financial loss is involved,33  I might have thought that one need not [help], Whilst had we been informed in respect of loading, [I would have thought, that is] because it is remunerated;34  but unloading, which is unremunerated,35  I would have thought one need not [help]. Thus both are required. But on R. Simeon's view that loading too is without remuneration, what can you say? — In R. Simeon's view the verses are not explicit.36

Why need these two be written and also [the return of] the lost [animal]? — They are all needed. For had Scripture written these two [only]. [I would think it was] because they entail the suffering of both the owner and itself [sc. the animal]; but as for a lost [animal], which causes grief to the owner but not to itself, [the law] would not apply.37  And if we were informed this of a lost animal, [I would think it was] because the owner is not with it;38

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. I.e., any obstacle to hinder its progress.
  2. That too falls within the category of restoring lost property — i.e., one must take the necessary steps to prevent loss.
  3. [MS.M. 'Rabbah.']
  4. Ibid, 3,
  5. [MS.M.: 'Rabbah,' cf. supra 6b.]
  6. He assumed that its purpose was that the soil should not become waterlogged.
  7. Hence they must be saved, but it is possible, as far as the Baraitha is concerned, that one is not bound to save land.
  8. For it is then obvious.
  9. And therefore, on the hypothesis stated in n. 9, do not need saving.
  10. Job XXXVI, 33; (E.V.: the noise thereof sheweth concerning it), i.e., each clause illumines the other.
  11. I.e., the explicit ruling in the second clause, and the implicit ruling in the first.
  12. If running on the road townwards, it must have been set in that direction, and is therefore not lost. If running forestwards, it is lost.
  13. I.e., of the animal.
  14. I.e., an animal feeding in vineyards causes damage. and therefore must be expelled. — Abedah ([H]) means both a lost article and a loss.
  15. Thus on Raba's interpretation the Mishnah does not give a definition of what animal is to be regarded as lost, but treats of losses which the onlooker must prevent.
  16. V. supra p. 149. n. 6.
  17. To the owners, that the animal is trespassing.
  18. The owner is himself responsible for his loss.
  19. Inf. of the verb, meaning 'to restore.'
  20. 'Thou shalt restore then.'
  21. When lost property is returned, it is unnecessary to inform the owner.
  22. A thief, robber, or bailee, when returning the article stolen or left in his charge, must inform the owner; otherwise he remains responsible in the case of mishap.
  23. I.e., providing it is returned, it does not matter how.
  24. Deut. XXII, 6, 7: the Heb. lit., 'to let go thou shalt let go'; v. p. 192. n. 5.
  25. But if the dam returns after being sent away twice, one may take both it and the young.
  26. I.e., for food.
  27. E.g., as a leper's sacrifice (v. Lev. XIV. 4): how do I know that even then the dam must not be taken?
  28. Lev. XIX. 17; cf. n. 1.
  29. This is expressed in Hebrew by the inf.
  30. Ex. XXIII, 5; this is an exhortation to help to unload the animal.
  31. Deut. XXII. 4. Cf. n. 1.
  32. As a result of the depreciation of the animal if it is not unloaded.
  33. V. infra p. 20.
  34. Though the passer-by is bound to help in the loading, he must be paid for his services.
  35. V. infra 32a.
  36. It is not clear which refers to unloading and which to loading. Therefore, had there been only one verse, I would have taken it to refer to one or the other, but not to both.
  37. I.e., there is no need to trouble to return it.
  38. Hence, since it is quite helpless, the passer-by is called upon to render assistance by restoring it.

Baba Mezi'a 31b

but as for these two, seeing that their master is with them, [the law would] not [apply]: thus both are necessary.

He that smote him shall surely be put to death:1  I know only [that he is to be executed] by the mode of death prescribed in his case: whence do I know that if you cannot execute him with the death prescribed for him, you may slay him with any death you are able? From the verse, 'He shall surely be put to death', meaning under all circumstances.

Thou shalt surely smite [the inhabitants of that city with the edge of the sword]:2  I know only [that you may execute them] with the death3  that is prescribed in their case. Whence do I know that if you cannot slay them with the death that is prescribed in their case, you may smite them in any manner you are able? From the verse, 'Thou shalt surely smite', implying under all circumstances.

Thou shalt surely return [the pledge unto him when the sun goeth down]:4  from this I know it [sc. that the pledge must be returned] only if he [the creditor] distrained with the sanction of the court;5  whence do we know if of one who distrained without the sanction of the court? From the verse, Thou shalt surely return it — implying in all cases.

If thou at all6  take to pledge [thy neighbour's raiment, thou shall deliver it to him by that the sun goeth down]:7  from that I know it [sc. that the pledge must be returned] only if he [the creditor] distrained with sanction [of the court]; whence do we know it of one who distrained without sanction [of the court]? Because it is stated, If thou at all take to pledge, implying in all cases. And for what purpose are both of these verses necessary?8  — One refers to day raiment, the other to night clothes.9

Thou shalt surely open [thy hand unto thy brother, to thy poor, etc.].10  I know this only of the poor of thine own city:11  whence do I know it of the poor of another city? — From the expression, 'Thou shalt surely open', implying, in all cases.

Thou shalt surely give [him]:12  I know only that a large sum must be given;13  whence do I know that a small sum too must be given?14  From the expression, Thou shalt surely give — in all circumstances.

Thou shalt furnish him liberally.15  I know only that if the house [of the master] was blessed for his [the slave's] sake,16  a present must be made. Whence do we know it even if the house was not blessed for his sake? Scripture teaches, 'Thou shalt furnish him liberally'17  under all circumstances. But according to R. Eleazar b. 'Azariah, who maintained: If the house was blessed for his sake, a present is made to him, but not otherwise; what is the purpose of 'ta'anik'?18  — The Torah employs19  human phraseology.20

And thou shalt surely lend him [sufficient for his need].21  I know this only of one [a poor man] who has nought and does not wish to maintain himself [at your expense];22  then Scripture saith. Give him by way of a loan. Whence do I know it if he possesses his own but does not desire to maintain himself [at his own cost]? From the verse, 'Thou shalt surely lend him'.23  But according to R. Simeon, who maintained: If he has his own but refuses to maintain himself [therewith], we are under no obligation toward him, why state 'surely?'24  — The Torah employs human phraseology.

IF HIS LOST TIME IS WORTH A SELA', HE MUST NOT DEMAND, GIVE ME A SELA',' BUT IS PAID AS A LABOURER. A Tanna taught: He must pay him as an unemployed labourer. What is meant by 'an unemployed labourer?' — As a labourer unemployed in his particular occupation.25

'IF A BETH DIN IS PRESENT, HE MAY STIPULATE IN THEIR PRESENCE. Issur and R. Safra entered into a business partnership. Then R. Safra went and divided it [the stock] without Issur's knowledge in the presence of two people. When he came before Rabbah son of R. Huna,26  he said to him, 'Go and produce the three people in whose presence you made the division; or else

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Num. XXXV, 21.
  2. With reference to an idolatrous city. Deut. XIII, 16.
  3. Lit., 'smiting'.
  4. Ibid. XXIV, 13.
  5. V. infra 113a.
  6. This also is expressed in the Hebrew by the inf.
  7. Ex. XXII. 25.
  8. Since they both state the same law.
  9. Deut. XXIV, 13 to the former; Ex. XXII, 25 to the latter. Cf. infra 114b.
  10. Deut. XV, 11.
  11. As implied by thy poor.
  12. Ibid. 10. The reference is to money lent before the year of release.
  13. Maharsha: because 'give' connotes something of value
  14. If one cannot lend much.
  15. Ibid. 24; this refers to the parting gifts made to a slave on his attaining his freedom.
  16. Because the verse ends: as the Lord thy God hath blessed thee thou shalt give unto him.
  17. V. supra note 2.
  18. 'Thou shalt furnish', i.e., the repetition of the verb.
  19. Lit., 'speaks with'.
  20. And that repetition is normal.
  21. Ibid. 8: i.e., one must lend a poor man for his requirements.
  22. I.e., he does not want charity; hence Scripture orders that a loan shall be made to him.
  23. Even then one must lend, and claim the return of his money after the borrower's death. This is the explanation in Keth. 67b.
  24. v. p. 195. n. 2.
  25. Lit., 'as a labourer unemployed in that work from which he was disturbed' (by having to return the lost article) and willing to take less for the lighter task of restoring lost property than for his usual more arduous occupation; cf. p. 398. n. 2.
  26. For confirmation of his division, which was in order to dissolve their partnership.