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Tractate Bava Batra:
Chapter 7



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Rules and regulations concerning rocks and pits in ground sold; the quantities of greater or less measure which may or may not void a sale of fields, villages, etc.

MISHNA I.: If one says: "I sell you earth the size where one kur can be sown, and there were crevices ten spans deep, or rocks ten spans high," they are not measured, but if less than that size they are measured. If, however, he said to him, "about the size of a kur," and there were crevices or rocks even more than the size of ten spans, they are measured.

GEMARA: Said R. Itz'hak: The statement of the Mishna about rocks and crevices which are measured when they are less than ten spans holds good only when all of them together do not measure four kabhs, but not if they do. Said R. Uqba b. Hama: Even then they are measured only when they are scattered within five kabhs space (but in less they are not measured); and R. Hyya b. Abba in the name of R. Johanan says that five kabhs do not suffice, and they are measured only when they are scattered within the greater part of the field, which is at least sixteen kabhs, as a kur is thirty kabhs; and R. Hyya b. Abba himself questioned: How is the law according (to R. Johanan's theory) if the greater part of the rocks in question were scattered within the smaller part of the field, and the smaller part of them within the larger part of the field (and if altogether they measured four kabhs)? These questions are not decided. 1

There is a Boraitha: "If there were a single rock (but it bears a separate name; e.g., 'the west rock') even if of less than ten spans, it is not measured; and also if the rock were placed near to the boundary, whatever size it may be it is not measured." 1

MISHNA II.: "I sell you earth of the size wherein a kur can be sown, measured with a line." If there were a trifle less, he may deduct; if a trifle more, the buyer has to return it. If, however, the seller says "about this size, a little more or less," even if there were less than a quarter of a kabh on each saah, the sale is valid; but if it were more than that size, an account must be taken. In case the buyer has to make return, it shall be in money; however, if he wishes to return him land, he may do so. And why was it said that the buyer should return the seller money? To favor the seller, so that if there were a trifle more the buyer should not have the right to return him this trifle, which the seller could not use; but if there were a kabh and a half more than the prescribed size, it means in the case of nine kabhs of land in a field and a half kabh in a garden, and according to R. Aqiba even a quarter of a kabh, then the buyer may return the land, and not only the land which is in excess of the prescribed size, but even that of this prescribed size itself is to be returned with the other.

GEMARA: The schoolmen propounded a question: If the seller said "the size of a kur," without any addition, how is the law? Come and hear. If the seller says, "I sell you an estate the size of a kur," or "about the size of a kur, a little less or more, I sell you," and thereafter it were found a quarter of a kabh less or more to a saah, the sale is valid. Hence we see that even if be does not add to the words "the size of a kur," it is the same as if he would say "about." Nay, the Boraitha is to be explained thus: The last part of the Boraitha explains the first part. If one says, "I sell you of the size of a kur," "about" is to be understood in case he should add a trifle less or more. R. Ashi objected: If this were so, why the repetition "I sell you, I sell you"? Therefore the Boraitha is to be explained as above, that the size of a kur means "about," and so it is.

"It shall be in money." We see from this that the advantage of the seller and not the buyer is taken into consideration; but valid? If, however, the estate is larger, the court compels both the seller to sell and the buyer to buy; hence we see that the advantage of both is taken into consideration? (I.e., that even have we not learned in the following Boraitha: If there were less or more than seven kabhs and a half on a kur, the sale is if the seller insists that the excess should be returned to him, he is not to be listened to if it is an advantage for the buyer to have it.) The Boraitha treats that at the time it was found over the prescribed size, the estate was lower in price and the seller willing to sell. Therefore we say to the buyer, "You may reckon it at the existing price," and the same is said to the seller, "If you do not wish the estate to be returned to you, you must accept the existing price." But have we not learned in another Boraitha that if the buyer compensates the seller, he must reckon at the previous rate? That Boraitha speaks that when the reverse was the case, the price was low at the time of the sale and became higher after it was known that there was an excess over the prescribed size.

"It means in the case of nine kabhs," etc. Said R. Huna: This applies even in a valley which is of more than ten kurs. R. Na'hman, however, says seven and a half to each kur; but if there were a kabh and a half more (which counts nine kabhs) even to one kur, all must be returned, even if to the other kurs the addition were not over the prescribed size. Rabha objected R. Na'hman from our Mishna, which states that if he left nine kabhs in a field, etc. Does not the Mishna mean at least two kurs as the size of the usual field? Nay, it means one kur. Farther on, in a garden, a half of a kabh is given as the minimum of excess. Does it not mean at least two saahs, as usually a garden is called of that size? Nay, it means one saah, and according to R. Aqiba one quarter. Does it not mean, if the garden was a saah? Nay, it means if it was half a saah. R. Ashi questioned: If one sold a field, and afterwards, but before the money was paid, it became a garden, and there were found more than a quarter to a saah, but it should not reach the size of nine kabhs or vice versa, how should the prescribed size be reckoned--as that of a field or that of a garden? This question remains undecided.

There is a Boraitha: "If the estate over the prescribed size sold was conjoined with the other estate of the seller, even if that were but a trifle, the buyer has to return the seller the estate." R. Ashi questioned: How is the law if there were a well between this estate sold and the other estate of the seller, a channel, a public thoroughfare, or a row of trees, should these constitute lines of demarcation or not? This question remains undecided.

"And not only the land which is in excess," etc. How is this to be understood? Taught Rabhin b. R. Na'hman: Not only that which was over the prescribed size the buyer returns the seller, but all the quarters to each kur, although the rest be not over the prescribed size, he must return.

MISHNA III.: "I sell you the estate with a measurement, a trifle more or less." The last words, "more or less," nullify those preceding them. "I sell you a trifle more or less to be measured with a line." The last words here nullify the preceding ones (and the seller must give the purchaser a just measurement; so that if the land were in excess, the excess must be returned, and if less the seller must supply the deficiency), such is the decree of ben Nanas.

GEMARA: Said R. Abba b. Mamal in the name of Rabh: "The colleagues of ben Nanas differ with him." What came he to teach us? Have we not learned in the Middle Gate, p. 269, Mishna 8, that it happened in Ciphorius that one rented a bath-house for twelve golden dinars a year? The payment was to be one dinar monthly; and thereafter the year was made intercalary. When the case came before R. Simeon b. Gamaliel and R. Jose they decided that the payment for the intercalated time should be made at the same rate as for the ordinary time. If from that Mishna one says that the last words, "one dinar monthly," are to be interpreted as a retraction of the first words, "twelve a year," the last words, "a dinar monthly," may also be interpreted as explaining the former, "twelve a year" (over which the sages differed with ben Nanas); however, here, in that the last words cannot be interpreted as an explanation, but as a retraction of the former, the sages agree with him. He comes to teach us that they differ also in this case. R. Jehudah in the name of Samuel said: This which is taught in our Mishna is in the words of ben Nanas, but the sages say that the shorter expression must always have the greater weight (i.e., "with a measurement" is shorter than "a trifle less or more"), no matter whether the shorter phrase were said before or after the longer one. Says the Gemara: Shall we assume that with the expression "this" Samuel meant to say that he himself does not agree with him? Do not both Rabh and Samuel say that if one said "a kur for thirty selas," he may retract even at the last saah; and if he added each saah for one sela, to all which was measured title is acquired, which corresponds with the decision of ben Nanas? Therefore we must say that he meant to say "this," and I agree therewith. But is that so? Did not Samuel say (Middle Gate): "The decision was so made . . ." but if they had appeared in the beginning, would it be entirely the owner's; and if in the end, the renter's? (This, at all events, cannot correspond with ben Nanas' decision.) Therefore it must be said again that by the word "this" he means that "I do not agree," and the reason of his decision in the case of each saah for selah is because that which was measured is considered already in his hands, and the same is the case with the rent for the intercalary month; if at the end of the month, it belongs to the renter, because it is already in his hand. R. Huna said: It was said in the college of Rabh: If one said: "I sell this to you for an istra a hundred moahs, he must give him a hundred moahs; but if he says a hundred moahs an istra he has to give him an istra although it is less in value than a hundred moahs."

What came he to teach us--that the last expression must be considered? Has not Rabh said this already concerning the case of the cited Mishna (page 270): "If I were there, I should give it to the owner of the house" (and that is because the last words were "a dinar monthly")? Lest one should say that in one case the last words ("hundred moahs," or vice versa) are to be considered as an explanation to the first words, he comes to teach us that it is not so.

MISHNA IV.: If one says, "I sell you this estate, the size of a kur, with its marks and boundaries;" and afterwards it were found that the size is less than stipulated--if it were less than a sixth of the whole size, the sale is valid; but if there were a sixth wanting, the buyer may deduct from the payment.

GEMARA: It was taught: R. Huna and R. Jehudah differ in the explanation of our Mishna. According to the former the Mishna means that an exact sixth should be considered as less than a sixth, and the Mishna is to be explained thus: "With less than a sixth wanting, a sixth inclusive, the sale is valid." If, however, more than a sixth is wanting, it may be deducted. According to R. Jehudah the Mishna means that an exact sixth is to be considered as more, and it is to be explained thus: "With less than a sixth wanting the sale is valid; a sixth, however, or more wanting is to be deducted."

An objection was raised from the following Tosephtha: "With its marks and boundaries, and there was a sixth less or a sixth more, it parallels a case wherein the court appraises an estate, and the sale is valid." Now we know that in a case wherein the court appraises, if there were an error as to an exact sixth, it is considered as if it were more, and the appraisement is void; hence this contradicts R. Huna? R. Huna may say that there is no contradiction, as the Tosephtha ends with the words "the sale is valid," and if this paralleled the case wherein the court appraises, how could it be valid in case there were more than a sixth? Does not the law provide that in the case of an error of the court in more than a sixth, the appraisemerit is void? It must be said then that it is parallel in one respect but not in the other; and it is to be explained thus: It parallels the case wherein the court appraises with an error of less than a sixth (which does not affect the appraisement), but it does not parallel the case in which the error of the court is of a sixth or more and affects the appraisement, which differs from our case, as the purchaser has only to deduct the money value of the deficiency, while the sale is still valid. 1

R. Papa bought an estate from some one who told him that it measured the size of twenty saahs. After it was measured it was found that there were only fifteen; and the case came before Abayi, who decided that the sale was valid, because the seller had used the qualifying words "as you see its marks and boundaries." But have we not learned that if there were more than a sixth lacking its value is to be deducted, and here there is a fourth part? In the first case the condition is not known to the buyer before the sale; but in the latter case, as the condition was known to R. Papa and he saw it at the time he bought, it must be supposed that he had considered and accepted it. Rejoined R. Papa: But did he not tell me that it measured twenty? He probably meant to say that "these fifteen are better than twenty elsewhere."

There is a Boraitha: R. Jose said: "Some brothers divided their inheritance by lot, and when to each of them his lot fell, all of them acquired title to their shares." Why so? Said R. Elazar: At the time the land of Israel was allotted to the tribes. But was there not also the Urim v'tumim, as it is said farther on that the high priest Elazar had on the Urim v'tumim, and then the lots were cast? Said R. Ashi: By their arrangement prior to allotment (whereby the estate was divided into shares of equal value) they had prepared themselves that each should acquire title to the share which the lot should cast for him, and therefore no other ceremony was necessary.

It was taught: To two brothers who had divided their inheritance between them came a third brother (of whose existence they were not previously aware). Their division is null and void according to Rabh. Samuel, however, maintains that each of the two must relinquish a third of his inheritance to the third brother (e.g., they inherited six fields, and each of them must give one of these to the newcomer, so that the three brothers may have two fields apiece). Said Rabha to R. Na'hman: According to Rabh, who says that the division is null and void, it must be said he holds that since all of them did not share in the first division, the inheritance must be redivided. Would the same be the case with three partners, two of whom have divided (in the presence of three persons who are considered a Beth Din) in the absence of the third one, and there is a decision (Middle Gate, p. 74) that such holds good? The cases are dissimilar. In the latter case the partners divided the property into three shares, and as it was done in the presence of a Beth Din the division holds good; but in the former case the two brothers had divided the inheritance into two parts only, as they were unaware of the third brother's existence.

Said R. Papa to Abayi: According to Samuel's decision that the first division is valid, it must be said he holds that such an act, done in accordance with the law, must not be abrogated, although thereafter it appears that the brothers took more than belonged to them; but did not both Rabh and Samuel say: If one says, "I sell you a kur for thirty selas," the seller may retract even at the last saah (above, p. 235)? (We see then that even when done in accordance with the law an act may still be abrogated.) There is, however, here a difference. The rabbis enacted that law to please both the seller and the buyer. (I.e., in case the price should become lower, before the buyer has received the property, it is to his advantage to retract; and in case the price becomes higher, the advantage is for the seller. Hence this law is beneficial to both.)

It was taught: If brothers divided their inheritance and a creditor of their father came and took away the share of one of them, according to Rabh the former division is null and void. Samuel, however, said that such was this brother's lot, and it did not concern the other. R. Assi, however, maintains, not as Rabh, that the division is void, and they must divide the remainder, and not as Samuel, that it does not at all concern the other one; but that the second brother must surrender one quarter of his estate and a quarter of the money he has inherited. Rabh holds that the heirs, even after their division, are still to be considered heirs (hence if one of them has lost the property through his father's debt, he is still an heir to the remainder), while Samuel holds that at the time they divide they are considered buyers (each of them buying his share of his brother) without any security; and consequently each has no further concern after the division. R. Assi was doubtful whether they are to be considered heirs of buyers; therefore the half which ought to be taken from the one who did not suffer loss is considered doubtful money, and there is a rule that doubtful money is to be divided. Said R. Papa: The Halakha concerning the two cases, that of the third brother as well as that wherein the share of one was taken away by their father's creditor, prevails in accordance with Samuel, who says the division holds good, and it is for them to divide from their shares in payment of the debt. Amimar, however, said: The Halakha prevails in accordance with Rabh, who said that the division is void and the property must be redivided, and so the Halakha prevails.

The rabbis taught: If there are three who have qualified as a Beth Din to appraise the estate of one deceased, for the support of his widow and daughters, and if one says that in his opinion the estate is worth twenty-five selas (a moanah of 100 zuz), and the two others say two hundred or vice versa, the opinion of the individual is of no effect; but if one appraises the estate at one hundred zuz, which are twenty-five selas, the second for twenty, and the third for thirty, the value is fixed at one hundred zuz. R. Eliezer b. R. Zadok, however, says that it should be taken for ninety zuz, and anonymous teachers say that a third of the difference between the second and third valuations must be added to the second, which will give 93 1/3, zuz. The reason of him who says the estate is worth one hundred zuz is that the opinion of the arbitrator is to be taken into consideration, and the reason for R. Eliezer's opinion that the estate is worth ninety zuz is that he who appraised it at eighty underestimated by ten zuz, while he who appraised it at 100 overestimated by ten zuz, and as there is a majority who appraised it at not more than 100 zuz, the third, who appraised it at twenty zuz over a moah, is not to be taken into consideration at all. Why not say that the one who said 100 zuz has underestimated by ten and he who says thirty has overestimated by ten, and the estate should therefore be valued at 100? Because the majority declare it not worth more than 100 zuz, or one moah. The anonymous teachers maintain that the estate is worth 93 1/3 zuz, because the one who estimated its value at twenty selas (eighty zuz) underestimated by 13 1/3, and the one who said 100 zuz overestimated by 13 1/3, although he had intended to say 103 1/3 zuz, but thought he would not like to make his difference too large. And why not say that the one who said thirty selas (120 zuz) has overestimated by thirteen, and the estimate should be fixed at 113 zuz? The opinion of the majority that the estate is not worth over a moah is to be taken into consideration. Said R. Huna: The Halakha prevails with the anonymous teachers. Said R. Ashi: The reason of the anonymous teachers is not acceptable; should we decide according to them? There is a Boraitha that the judges of the exile are in accordance with the anonymous teachers, and R. Huna said again that so the Halakha prevails, but R. Ashi objected again for the same reason stated above.

MISHNA V.: If one says "I sell you the half of the field" (the half of the value is meant), the better one against the inferior is to he appraised, and the seller has a right to give the buyer the latter. The same is the case when he said "I sell you the southern half of this field," and the buyer takes the half determined on by the seller. The seller, however, has to give space for a partition, and for a large and a small ditch. What is the breadth of a large ditch? Six spans. And of a small one? Three.

GEMARA: Said R. Hyya b. R. Abba in the name of R. Johanan: The buyer has to take the inferior. And he (when he heard this statement from R. Johanan) said to him: Does not the Mishna say "the better one against the inferior is to be appraised"? And should not this be explained to mean that each of them should take half of both good and inferior? And he answered: It seems to me that you have eaten too many dates in Babylon (so that you have no time to descend into the depths of the Mishna). Does not the Mishna contain the same expression, in the latter part, 1 concerning the sale of the south side of his field? And why the repetition? It should read "he should take a half at the south side," and we would understand it to mean half of the size. We must then say that it is repeated to teach that also in that case the half of the value is meant, as the same was in the first part.

"The partition," etc. There is a Boraitha: "The large ditch must be outside and the small one inside of the field, but both beyond the partition, so that beasts may not jump over the partition in the field." Why then the small ditch? Does not the large one suffice for this purpose? Because it is six spans wide, the beasts could enter in it and jump over. But does not the small ditch suffice? Because it is small, the beasts could stand on the edge of it and jump over. And how much shall the space be between the large and the small ditch? One span.


Footnotes

231:1 In the text are some other questions: If the rocks were placed round, or square, etc.; and these need many illustrations, and all remain at last undecided. As they are of no importance, we have omitted them.

232:1 The text contains questions of no importance--e.g., if the rocks were placed round, crooked, etc.--which remain undecided. We have therefore omitted the whole discussion.

236:1 We are compelled to explain this in accordance with R. Gershom, as Rashbam's explanation is still more complicated.

240:1 The Mishna repeats the same language concerning the southern part which we, according to the sense, have translated "the same is the case."


Sources: Sacred Texts

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