Blog Yomi – Kesubos #83/Daf 85

We begin on דף פ״ה עמוּד א, ten lines from the top, continuing with discussions about various acts of acquisition:

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אֲבִימִי בְּרֵיהּ דְּרַבִּי אֲבָהוּ הֲווֹ מַסְּקִי בֵּיהּ זוּזֵי בֵּי חוֹזָאֵי, שַׁדְּרִינְהוּ בְּיַד חָמָא בְּרֵיהּ דְּרַבָּה בַּר אֲבָהוּ. אֲזַל פַּרְעִינְהוּ. אֲמַר לְהוּ: הַבוּ לִי שְׁטָרָא. אֲמַרוּ לֵיהּ: סִיטְרָאֵי נִינְהוּ

אֲבִימִי, the son of רַבִּי אֲבָהוּ, owed money to people from the Bay area (בֵּי חוֹזָאֵי). He sent the money in the possession of חָמָא, son of רַבָּה בַּר אֲבָהוּ, who went and paid the money that אֲבִימִי owed. He said to the people from בֵּי חוֹזָאֵי: Give me back the שְׁטַר that shows that the person who sent me owes you money. They said to him: The money that you paid us was for side debts, i.e., money from a different debt, which was not written in a שְׁטַר. We accepted the money from you as payment of that debt. We will therefore not return the שְׁטַר to you, as he has yet to pay off the debt listed in the שְׁטַר.

אֲתָא לְקַמֵּיהּ דְּרַבִּי אֲבָהוּ. אֲמַר לֵיהּ: אִית לְךָ סָהֲדֵי דִּפְרַעְתִּינְהוּ? אֲמַר לֵיהּ: לָא. אֲמַר לֵיהּ: מִיגּוֹ דִּיכוֹלִין לוֹמַר ״לֹא הָיוּ דְבָרִים מֵעוֹלָם״, יְכוֹלִין נָמֵי לְמֵימַר ״סִיטְרָאֵי נִינְהוּ״

This case came before רַבִּי אֲבָהוּ. He said to חָמָא, son of רַבָּה בַּר אֲבָהוּ: Do you have witnesses that you paid them? He said to him: No. רַבִּי אֲבָהוּ said to him: He could have made a more advantageous claim [miggo], so we believe him when he makes the lesser claim. (Since they can say: These matters never occurred, i.e., you never paid them anything, they can also say: These are side debts.) Therefore, you cannot demand from them either the money or the document.

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הָהִיא אִיתְּתָא דְּאִיחַיַּיבָא שְׁבוּעָה בֵּי דִינָא דְּרָבָא. אֲמַרָה לֵיהּ בַּת רַב חִסְדָּא: יָדְעָנָא בָּהּ דַּחֲשׁוּדָה אַשְּׁבוּעָה. אַפְכַהּ רָבָא לִשְׁבוּעָה אַשֶּׁכְּנֶגְדָּהּ

The Gemara relates another incident: There was a certain woman who was obligated to take an oath in order to avoid payment in Rava’s court. The daughter of Rav Chisda said to Rava, her husband: I know that woman, and she bends the truth. Rava reversed the obligation of the oath so that it fell onto the other party, who now had the option of taking an oath that the woman owes him money and collecting his debt. This shows you how important one’s reputation in the community is.

Let’s Zoom ahead to another case:

הָהִיא אִיתְּתָא דְּאִיחַיַּיבָא שְׁבוּעָה בֵּי דִינָא דְּרַב בִּיבִי בַּר אַבָּיֵי. אֲמַר לְהוּ הַהוּא בַּעַל דִּין: תֵּיתֵי וְתִישְׁתְּבַע בְּמָתָא, אֶפְשָׁר דְּמִיכַּסְפָא וּמוֹדְיָא. אֲמַרָה לְהוּ: כְּתֻבוּ לִי זַכְווֹתָא, דְּכִי מִשְׁתְּבַעְנָא יָהֲבִי לִי. אֲמַר לְהוּ רַב בִּיבִי בַּר אַבָּיֵי: כִּתְבוּ לַהּ

There was a certain woman who was obligated to take an oath in Rav Bibi bar Abaye’s court (apparently as well known in his day as Bibi Netanyahu). The opposing litigant said to the judges: Let her come and take an oath in the town. It is possible that she will be ashamed of her lies and will admit that she is liable. She said to the judges: Write me a letter of commendation, so that when I take the oath they will give it to me, and I will then be willing to take an oath in the town. Rav Beivai bar Abaye said to them: Write the document for her.

אָמַר רַב פַּפֵּי: מִשּׁוּם דְּאָתֵיתוּ מִמּוּלָאֵי אָמְרִיתוּ מִילֵּי מוּלְיָתָא

Rav Pappi, unimpressed by this ruling, said: Is it because you come from unfortunate people (מִמּוּלָאֵי) that you say unfortunate things? Rav Beivai was from the house of Eli, whose descendants were sentenced to die at a young age (an alternate explanation is that they were truncated in the sense of being midgets or humpbacked, the implication being that they were known to have physical or mental challenges).

Whoa!!! This retort by Rav Pappi is such a zinger that it made it into the expanded edition of Talmudic Insults and Curses by Dr. Arther Heft, with the entry of “Flawed Ancestry – Flawed Reasoning”. Or as alternately translated, you come from a truncated people, and therefore use truncated reasoning.

The bottom line is that it’s not just what you know. It’s the trustworthiness of your source, or how well you know who you know (almost sounds like the famous Rumsfeld-ism, doesn’t it.)

The Gemara now cites a series of cases in which people leave valuables behind, but don’t specify unambiguously to whom the valuables should belong.

הָהוּא גַּבְרָא דְּאַפְקֵיד שַׁב מַרְגָּנְיָתָא דְּצַיְירִי בִּסְדִינָא בֵּי רַבִּי מְיָאשָׁא בַּר בְּרֵיהּ דְּרַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי. שְׁכֵיב רַבִּי מְיָאשָׁא וְלָא פַּקֵּיד. אֲתוֹ לְקַמֵּיהּ דְּרַבִּי אַמֵּי, אֲמַר לְהוּ: חֲדָא, דְּיָדַעְנָא בֵּיהּ בְּרַבִּי מְיָאשָׁא בַּר בְּרֵיהּ דְּרַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן לֵוִי דְּלָא אֲמִיד. וְעוֹד, הָא קָא יָהֵיב סִימָנָא

There was a certain man who deposited seven pearls (מַרְגָּנְיָתָא) tied up in a handkerchief in the house of רַבִּי מְיָאשָׁא, son of the son of R’ Yehoshua ben Levi. רַבִּי מְיָאשָׁא passed away without instructing the members of his household on his deathbed, and without explaining to whom the gems belonged. רַבִּי מְיָאשָׁא’s family and the depositor came before R’ Ami to discuss the ownership of the gems. He said to them: They belong to the claimant, first of all, since I know about רַבִּי מְיָאשָׁא, son of the son of R’ Yehoshua ben Levi, that he is not wealthy enough to be able to afford such gems. And furthermore, the depositor has provided an identification mark that proves that he is the owner.

So this first of in the series of cases involves identifying characteristics of pearls, the second involves an expensive and distinctive silver goblet, and the third involves valuable silk.

Antique George III Silver Goblet with Gilt Interior (1796)

Mulberry Satin Silk fabric

The determination of the identity of the owner can be either the likelihood of a person owning the object – specifically how wealthy he was and therefore how likely he might be to have passed it along as an inheritance to his children, or the person claiming it being able to supply an identifying feature of the object (for example, the grade of the pearls, an inscription on the goblet, or a snag on the silk).

The fourth and final case we’ll discuss is one in which it is not the object that is in doubt, but the identity of the intended recipient of the property that the deceased intended to give that is in question:

הָהוּא דַּאֲמַר לְהוּ: נִכְסַיי לְטוֹבִיָּה. שָׁכֵיב, אֲתָא טוֹבִיָּה. אָמַר רַבִּי יוֹחָנָן: הֲרֵי בָּא טוֹבִיָּה

There was a man who said to those present at his deathbed: My property should go to Toviya. He passed away, and Toviya came to claim his possessions. R’ Yocḥanan said: Toviya has come, and there is no need to be concerned that he might have meant a different Toviya.

I love these next few lines because there are so many layers of complexity to them:

אֲמַר ״טוֹבִיָּה״ וַאֲתָא רַב טוֹבִיָּה — לְטוֹבִיָּה אֲמַר, לְרַב טוֹבִיָּה לָא אֲמַר. וְאִי אִינִישׁ דְּגִיס בֵּיהּ, הָא גִּיס בֵּיהּ. אֲתוֹ שְׁנֵי טוֹבִיָּה, שָׁכֵן וְתַלְמִיד חָכָם — תַּלְמִיד חָכָם קוֹדֵם. קָרוֹב וְתַלְמִיד חָכָם — תַּלְמִיד חָכָם קוֹדֵם

See the source image

Here is the scenario: What if the individual on his deathbed says that bequeaths the item in question to “Toviya”, and a תַּלְמוּד חָכָם named Rav Toviya comes forward? The straight translation is that if the deceased said my property should go to Toviya, and Rav Toviya came forward, it is assumed that this is not the person the deceased had in mind because he didn’t specify “Rav” Toviya. But if Rav Toviya is a person who is familiar with the deceased, then it can be assumed that the deceased called him by his first name and not by his title because he was familiar with him. If two men named Toviya came forward, and one of them was the deceased’s neighbor and the other a Torah scholar but not his neighbor, the Torah scholar takes precedence. Similarly, if one was a relative and the other a Torah scholar, the Torah scholar takes precedence.

Entry #85 of The Transformative Daf by Rabbi Daniel Friedman is titled “First-Name Basis”, and states the case that this generation has perhaps become too casual in referring to authority figures by their first name, rather than using their title. In earlier generations, even if one was a close friend of a Rabbi or Doctor or Judge, and the two of you were on a first-name basis in personal conversations, you would never think of referring to that individual by his first name in public.

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As an aside, in addition to Rabbi Stern, you may know by now that my two favorite “go to” resources for enhancing the content of Blog Yomi are Talmudology.com and The Transformative Daf. I had considerable difficulty in trying to obtain Volume 2 of The Transformative Daf either in bookstores or online from the publisher. Yesterday, via LinkedIn, Rabbi Friedman shared that shipment of the books by the publisher was delayed for a few weeks, and now bookstores are reluctant to accept them because they feel we’re too far into Kesubos for Volume 2 to sell. So he’s got boxes of them piled up in his living room and is able to give you a good deal. Instead of the list price of $20+tax, he’ll personally deliver it to you for $10 if you’re in the Teaneck, NJ area, or mail it for $14 (all inclusive) anywhere in the United States. He also has a donor willing to sponsor multiple copies for a school or shul. You can contact him directly at transformativedaf@gmail.com, or 973-557-3290. Just be sure to call him Rav Daniel, not Daniel. That is, unless, you’re a close personal friend. 😉

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Why would it be presumed that someone on his deathbed would rather bequeath a valuable item to a תַּלְמוּד חָכָם than a less scholarly neighbor? Rashi writes:

ת”ח קודם – דמסתמא אדם מצדיק מעשיו לזכות בשעת מיתה דאמר מר (ברכות לד:) כל הנביאים לא נתנבאו אלא למהנה תלמידי חכמים מנכסיו

Unlike Dylan Thomas’s exhortation to not go gentle into that good night, rather than raging against the dying light most individuals are occupied with מצדיק מעשיו לזכות, or making their final actions meritorious such as enabling scholars to benefit from their property.

אִיבַּעְיָא לְהוּ: שָׁכֵן וְקָרוֹב מַאי? תָּא שְׁמַע: ״טוֹב שָׁכֵן קָרוֹב מֵאָח רָחוֹק״. שְׁנֵיהֶם קְרוֹבִים, וּשְׁנֵיהֶם שְׁכֵנִים, וּשְׁנֵיהֶם חֲכָמִים? שׁוּדָא דְּדַיָּינֵי

Let’s look at the translation from Sefaria/Steinsaltz:

“A dilemma was raised before the Sages: If two men have the same name and one was a neighbor and the other one was a relative, what is the halacha? The Gemara answers: Come and hear the solution from the following verse: “A close neighbor is better than a distant brother” (Mishlei 27:10). If they were both relatives, or both neighbors, or both scholars, there is no systematic way of determining who is entitled to the property, and the decision is left to the discretion of the judges.”

ArtScroll notes that שׁוּדָא דְּדַיָּינֵי literally means toss of the judges but, as Rabbi Stern points out, this doesn’t mean that they flipped a coin as to which טוֹבִיָּה the man on his deathbed was referring. Rather, as Rashi explains:

שודא דדייני – הטלת הדיינים לפי מה שיראו דיינים שהיה דרכו של מת לקרב את זה יותר מזה או מי שבשניהן טוב ונוהג בדרך ישרה שיש לומר בו נתכוין המת לזכות

The discretion of the judges is in determining which טוֹבִיָּה the man on his deathbed was closer with. Or if that wasn’t clear, the judges would agree which טוֹבִיָּה was the more “ehrlich yid“. The implication being that the man on his deathbed had intent to leave substantial property to whomever provided the greater זְכוּת or merit, adding to the dying man’s brownie points in getting to Heaven.

ArtScroll finishes discussion on the topic by noting that this pertains to a deathbed declaration willing property to “Toviah”. However, if he states that he owes $ to “Toviah”, the money is divided equally by those who claim it, be they relatives, neighbors, scholars, or Englishmen, since he could have just as well borrowed from one as the other.

About Leonard J. Press, O.D., FAAO, FCOVD

Developmental Optometry is my passion as well as occupation. Blogging allows me to share thoughts in a unique visual style.
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2 Responses to Blog Yomi – Kesubos #83/Daf 85

  1. doctuhdon says:

    “Talmudic Insults and Curses” ? ! How in the name of Traumatic Talmudology did you discover this book ?

    Inquiry from NOT Rav Daniel

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