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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Mezi'a

Baba Mezi'a 42a


GEMARA. As for all, it is well, since indeed he did not guard it in the manner of bailees: but if HE BOUND IT UP AND SLUNG IT OVER HIS SHOULDER — what else should he have done? — Said Raba in R. Isaac's name: Scripture saith, and thou shalt bind up the money in thine hand2  — even if bound up, it should be in thy hand.3

R. Isaac also said: One's money should always be ready to hand,4  for it is written, and thou shalt bind up the money in thy hand.

R. Isaac also said: One should always divide his wealth into three parts: [investing] a third in land, a third in merchandise, and [keeping] a third ready to hand.

R. Isaac also said: A blessing is found only in what is hidden from the eye,5  for it is written, The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy hidden things.6  The School of R. Ishmael taught: A blessing comes only to7  that over which the eye has no power,8  for it is said, The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy hidden things.

Our Rabbis taught: When one goes to measure [the corn in] his granary, he should pray, 'May it be Thy will, O Lord our God, to send a blessing upon the work of our hands.' Having started to measure, he prays, 'Blessed is He who sendeth a blessing on this pile.' But if he measured and then prayed,9  it is a vain prayer, because a blessing is not found in that which is [already] weighed, measured, or counted, but only in that which is hidden from the eye, for it is said, The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy hidden things.

Samuel said: Money can only be guarded [by placing it] in the earth.10  Said Raba: Yet Samuel admits that on Sabbath eve at twilight the Rabbis did not put one to that trouble.11  Yet if he tarried after the conclusion of the Sabbath long enough to bury it [the money] but omitted to do so, he is responsible [if it is stolen]. But if he [the depositor] was a scholar, he [the bailee] might have thought, He may require the money for habdalah.12  But nowadays13  that there are money-diviners,14  it can be properly guarded only [by placing it] under the roof beams. But nowadays that there are house breakers,15  it can be guarded only [within the void spaces] between bricks. Raba said: Yet Samuel admits [that it may be] hidden] in the wall. But nowadays that there are rappers,16  It can be guarded only in the handbreadth nearest to the earth or to the uppermost beams.17

R. Aha, son of R. Joseph, said to R. Ashi: We learnt elsewhere: If ruins collapsed on leaven, it is regarded as removed.18  R. Simeon b. Gamaliel said: Provided that19  a dog cannot search it out.20  And it was taught [thereon]: How far is the searching of a dog? Three handbreadths.21  How is it here?22  Do we require [that it shall be covered by] three handbreadths or not? — There, he replied, we require three handbreadths on account of the smell [of the leaven];23  but here [it is put into the earth] in order to cover it from the eye; therefore three handbreadths are not required. And how much [is necessary]? — Said Rafram of Sikkara:24  one handbreadth.

A certain man deposited money with his neighbour, who placed it in a cot of bulrushes.25  Then it was stolen. Said R. Joseph: Though it was proper care in respect to thieves,26  yet it was negligence in respect to fire: hence the beginning [of the trusteeship] was with negligence though its end was through an accident, [and therefore] he is liable. Others Say: Though it was negligence in respect to fire, it was due care in respect to thieves, and when its beginning is with negligence and its end through an accident, he [the bailee] is not liable.27  And the law is that when the beginning thereof is with negligence and the end through an accident, he is responsible.

A certain man deposited money with his neighbour. On his demanding, 'Give me my money,' he replied, 'I do not know where I put it.' So he went before Raba, [who] said to him: Every [plea of] 'I do not know' constitutes negligence: go and pay him.

A certain man deposited money with his neighbour, who entrusted it to his mother; she put it in her work basket and it was stolen. Said Raba: What ruling shall judges give in this case? Shall we say to him, 'Go and repay'?28  Then he can reply,

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. Lit., 'behind him'.
  2. Deut. XIV, 25.
  3. Not over the shoulder, so that it can be properly guarded.
  4. And not in another man's keeping, so that advantage can immediately be taken of a trading bargain that is available.
  5. I.e., the exact quantity of which the owner does not know.
  6. Ibid. XXVIII, 8. (E.V. 'storehouses'.)
  7. Lit., 'is found only in'.
  8. I.e., hidden, and so not subject to the evil eye.
  9. Lit., 'uttered a benediction'.
  10. Otherwise the bailee is guilty of negligence — In ancient days there was probably no other place as safe. [Cf. Josephus, Wars, V. 7, 2, '…which the owners had treasured up under ground against the uncertain fortunes of war.']
  11. If one receives a bailment then, he cannot be expected to place it in the earth, and his not doing so does not constitute negligence. [Some texts rightly omit 'at twilight', all manner of work being then in any case prohibited.]
  12. Lit., 'separation', a short blessing recited as a rule over wine, thanking God for the distinction between the Sabbath and week-days. — In that case, the bailee was justified in not burying the money, as the scholar might require same for wine. The practice of reciting habdalah at home was not widespread; v. Ber. 331.
  13. [In the third century, when Babylonia entered upon its bitter struggles with the Romans for the possession of the rich lands of the Euphrates; v. Krauss, op. cit., p. 415.]
  14. Lit., 'sounders', who can sound the earth to discover cavities where money may be hidden.
  15. Who break through the beams.
  16. Who by rapping at the wall can discover its cavities and treasures.
  17. Asheri a.l. observes that all this held good only in the days of Samuel and his successors, when rappers, diviners, etc. were to be feared. Nowadays, however, we do not fear all this, and it is sufficient if a bailee puts the money entrusted to his charge in the place where he keeps his own.
  18. All leaven had to be removed from the house before Passover (Ex. XII, 15); if ruins fell on leaven, the leaven is regarded as removed, since it is inaccessible.
  19. Lit., 'whatever'.
  20. Pes. 31b.
  21. I.e., the leaven must be covered by not less than three handbreadths of debris; otherwise a dog can search it out, and it would therefore be necessary to remove the debris and destroy the leaven.
  22. In respect to placing money in the earth.
  23. If the leaven is covered by less, a dog can smell it.
  24. A town S. of Mahuza.
  25. So Jast. Rashi: in a fowler's trap.
  26. Who would normally not think of looking there for it.
  27. V. supra 36b.
  28. Because if a bailee entrusts the deposit to another he is responsible.

Baba Mezi'a 42b

'All who deposit do so with the understanding that the wife and children [of the depositary may be entrusted with the bailment].' Shall we say to his mother, 'Go and pay:' she can plead, 'He did not tell me that it [the money] was not his own, that I should bury it.' Shall we say to him, 'Why did you not tell her?'1  he can argue, 'If I told her it was mine, she was the more likely to guard it well.' But, said Raba, he must swear that he had entrusted that money to his mother, and his mother must swear that she had placed that money in her work basket, and it was stolen. Then he [the bailee] is free.

A certain steward for orphans2  bought an ox on their behalf and entrusted it to a herdsman. Having no molars or [front] teeth to eat with, it died.3  Said Rami b. Hama: What verdict shall judges give in this case? Shall we say to the steward, 'Go and pay:' he can reply, 'I entrusted it to the herdsman.'4  Shall we say to the herdsman, 'Go and pay:' he can plead, I put it together with the other oxen and placed food before it: I could not know that it was not eating! [But, why not] consider [the fact that] the herdsman was a paid keeper of the orphans, and as such should have made careful observation? — Had the orphans suffered loss, it would be even so. But we treat here of a case where the orphans suffered no loss, because the [first] owner of the ox was found and they received their money back from him.5  Then who is the plaintiff? — The owner of the ox, who pleads that he [the steward] should have informed him. But what was he to inform him? He knew full well that it was a sale under false pretences! — He [the owner of the ox] was a middleman, who buys here and sells there.6  Therefore [rules Rami] he [the middleman] must swear that he did not know [of the animal's toothless condition], and the herdsman must pay at the cheap price of meat.7

A certain man deposited hops with his neighbour, who himself also had a pile thereof. Now, he instructed his brewer, 'Take8  from this pile;' but he went and took from the other. Said R. Amram: What verdict shall the judges give in this case? Shall they say to him, 'Go and pay:' he can plead. 'I said to him, "Take from this [pile]."' Shall we say to the brewer, 'Go and pay'? He can argue, 'He did not say to me, "Take from this [pile] but not from that."' But if he [the brewer] tarried sufficient time to bring him [his own hops], yet did not do so,9  then he [the bailee] revealed his mind that he was pleased therewith!10  — There was no tarrying. Yet after all, what loss is there: did he [the depositary] not benefit thereby?11  — Said R. Samma, son of Raba: The beer turned into vinegar.12  R. Ashi said: The reference is to thorns,13

Original footnotes renumbered. See Structure of the Talmud Files
  1. And therefore you are responsible.
  2. Appointed by the court to administer their estate until they attained their majority.
  3. This loss could have been avoided had it been slaughtered and rendered fit for food.
  4. And thus fulfilled my obligations.
  5. On the grounds that it was bargain under false pretences.
  6. I.e., who does not keep the animal in his possession for any length of time, and need not have been aware of the animal's condition.
  7. Which is two thirds of the usual price. Rashi explains that this was a compromise, since the cowherd had a semi-valid plea, viz., 'I put it together with other oxen, etc.' Tosaf., however, holds that the verdict was strictly in accordance with the law, for since the animal could not live long, it would have had to be slaughtered before market day, when flesh does not fetch its proper price.
  8. Lit., 'cast (into the beer)'.
  9. The deposited hops being further away.
  10. For he must have known that the brewer was taking the deposited hops, and yet did not stop him.
  11. When the hops were put in his beer. Then he must pay in any case.
  12. And so the bailee did not benefit thereby.
  13. I.e., not hops were deposited, but the thorns on which the hops hang, and this yielded an inferior brew (so Jast.). Rashi translates: inferior hops, mixed with thorns.