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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Mezi'a

Baba Mezi'a 113a

but when it matures, he charges himself therewith and remembers it. But is the employee then likely to transgress [the law, Thou shalt not rob?1  — There [in the case of the employer] we have two presumptions [in his favour]; whilst here there is only one. Thus: In respect to the employer there are two presumptions. Firstly, that he will not transgress [the law]. [It] shall not abide all night, etc.; and secondly, that the employee will not permit delay of his payment. But in favour of the employee there is only the one presumption [stated above].

YET IF HE HAS WITNESSES THAT HE DEMANDED PAYMENT, HE CAN STILL SWEAR AND RECEIVE IT, But he [still] demands it now! Said R. Assi: It means that he demanded payment within the set time. But perhaps he paid him subsequently! — Abaye answered: He demanded it all the set time.2  And [does this hold good] for ever!3  — Said R. Hama b. 'Ukba: [He is thus privileged only] for the period following4  the day of his claim.5


GEMARA. Samuel said: Even the court officer7  may only forcibly seize [it], but not [enter to] take a pledge.8  But did we not learn: IF A MAN LENDS MONEY TO HIS FELLOW, HE MAY TAKE A PLEDGE OF HIM ONLY THROUGH THE COURT, which proves that a pledge may be taken by the court? — Samuel can answer you: Say, He may forcibly seize [outside the house] only through the court. That interpretation too is logical. For the second clause States: AND HE MAY NOT ENTER HIS HOUSE TO TAKE THE PLEDGE. To whom does this refer? Shall we say, to the creditor?9  But that is known from the first clause! Hence it must surely refer to the court officer.10  As for that, it is not proof. For11  this is its meaning: IF A MAN LENDS MONEY TO HIS FELLOW, HE MAY TAKE A PLEDGE OF HIM ONLY THROUGH THE COURT, from which it follows that a pledge may be taken through the court. But the creditor himself may not even seize forcibly [outside], so that HE MIGHT NOT ENTER HIS HOUSE TO TAKE THE PLEDGE.12

R. Joseph raised an objection: No man shall take the nether or the upper millstone to pledge;13  hence, other things may be taken to pledge. Thou shalt not take a widow's raiment to pledge:14  implying, if it belongs to others, it may be taken in pledge.15  By whom? Shall we Say, the creditor? But it is written, Thou shalt not go into the house to fetch his pledge.16  Hence it must surely mean the court officer!17  — R. Papa, the son of R. Nahman, explained it before R. Joseph — others state, R. Papa, the son of R. Joseph, before R. Joseph: In truth, the creditor is meant, and it is to intimate that he violates two prohibitions.18

Come and hear: From the implication of the verse, Thou shalt stand without,19  do I not know that the man of whom you claim shall bring it out? Then what is taught by, And the man? The inclusion of the court officer. Surely that means that he is like the debtor!20

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Surely not! Just as it is assumed that the employer must have paid him, because he would not transgress a Biblical injunction, so the same should be assumed of the employee, and therefore he should be believed,
  2. Until the set time lapsed, the employer thus transgressing the Biblical prohibition.
  3. Can we really say that whenever the labourer demands payment, even years after, he is believed on oath, since he has witnesses that he once demanded it of him during all the set time? Surely that is most inequitable!
  4. Lit., 'against.'
  5. E.g., if he was a day worker, engaged for Monday, he must be paid between Monday evening and Tuesday morning. If he has witnesses that he claimed his money during the whole of that period, he is believed on oath from Tuesday morning until evening, but not later. (So explained in H.M. 89, 3.)
  6. Deut. XXIV. 11.
  7. Lit., 'agent'.
  8. [H] denotes to take by force; [H], to enter the house and take a pledge. Thus, he may only seize an article from him in the street, but not enter the house and distrain.
  9. That he may not enter without the Permission of the Court.
  10. Which supports Samuel's ruling.
  11. [MS.M. and Tosaf. insert: There is a lacuna (in the text of the Mishnah).]
  12. But as for the court officer, he may enter the house.
  13. Ibid, 6.
  14. Ibid. 17.
  15. [The term [H], 'take to pledge', occurring here, as with the millstone, is taken to denote entering the house for the purpose.]
  16. Ibid. 10.
  17. Which proves that he may enter, and so refutes Samuel.
  18. I.e., no man shall take the nether, etc., and, Thou shalt not take a widow's, etc., refers to the creditor himself; but these injunctions do not teach that other articles may be distrained, or that one may distrain upon any but a widow, for these two are forbidden in the verse, Thou shalt not go into his house, etc. Their purpose is to intimate that in respect of these, two injunctions are transgressed, viz., the general one last cited, and the specific one.
  19. Ibid. 11.
  20. That he and the debtor enter the house to take the pledge, translating, and the man — sc. the court officer — and he of whom thou dost claim, etc. This refutes Samuel.
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Baba Mezi'a 113b

— No. It means that the court officer is like the creditor.1

Come and hear: If thou at all take thy neighbour's raiment to pledge:2  this refers to the court officer. You say it refers to the court officer, but perhaps it is not so, the reference being to the creditor? When Scripture writes, Thou shalt not go into his house to fetch his pledge, it obviously speaks of the creditor.3  Hence, to whom can I refer, if thou at all take thy neighbour's raiment to pledge? Surely to none but the court officer?4  — It is a controversy of Tannaim. For it has been taught: When the court officer comes to take a pledge of him, he must not enter the house, but stand without, whilst he [the debtor] takes the pledge out to him; for it is written, Thou shalt stand without, and also the man.5  Whereas another [Baraitha] taught: When the creditor comes to take a pledge of him, he must not enter the house, but stand without, whilst he [the debtor] enters, and brings him out his pledge. But when the court officer comes to take a pledge of him, he may enter the house and take it.6  And he must not take in pledge articles used in the preparation of food. Further, a couch, a couch and a mattress must be left in the case of a wealthy man, and a couch, a couch and a matting for a poor man. Only for himself [the debtor] must these be left, but not for his wife, sons, and daughters. Just as an assessment is made in favour of a debtor,7  so also is it made in the case of 'valuations'.8  On the contrary! The main law of assessment is written in reference to 'valuations'. — But say: just as an assessment is made in the case of 'valuations', so also in favour of a debtor.

The Master said: 'Further, a couch, a couch and a mattress must be left to a wealthy man, and a couch, a couch and a matting for a poor man.' For whom [is the second couch]? Shall we say, For his wife, sons, and daughters? But you say, 'but not for his wife, sons and daughters'! Hence both are for himself. Then why two? — One at which he eats and the other on which he sleeps. Even as Samuel said, viz.: For all things I know the cure, except the following three: [i] eating bitter dates on an empty stomach; [ii] girding one's loins with a damp flaxen cord; and [iii] eating bread and not walking four cubits after it.9

A tanna recited before R. Nahman: Just as assessment is made in the case of 'valuations', so is it also made for debtors. Said he to him: If we even sell [his property], shall we make an assessment for him!10  But do we really sell [his property]? Did we not learn: AND HE MUST RETURN THE PILLOW AT NIGHT, AND THE PLOUGH BY DAY? — The tanna recited the view of R. Simeon b. Gamaliel before him, whereupon he observed: Seeing that according to R. Simeon b. Gamaliel we even sell [his property], shall we make an assessment for him! For we learnt: R. SIMEON B. GAMALIEL SAID: EVEN TO HIM HIMSELF [THE DEBTOR] HE MUST RETURN IT ONLY UP TO THIRTY DAYS; AFTER THAT, HE MAY SELL IT ON THE INSTRUCTIONS OF THE COURT. But how do you know that R. Simeon b. Gamaliel means an outright sale: perhaps he means this: until thirty days he must return it as it is; after that, only what is fitting for him [the debtor] is returned, whilst what is not fitting for him is sold!11  — Should you think that R. Simeon b. Gamaliel accepts this view, there is nothing that is unfitting for him. For Abaye said: R. Simeon b. Gamaliel, R. Simeon,12  R. Ishmael and R. Akiba, all maintain that all Israelites are princes. R. Simeon b. Gamaliel — for we learnt: Neither lof13  nor the mustard plant [may be moved on the Sabbath].14  R. Simeon b. Gamaliel gave permission in the case of lof, because it is food for ravens.15  R. Simeon: For we learnt: Princes may anoint their wounds with rose oil on the Sabbath, since it is their practice to anoint themselves on week-days.16  R. Simeon said: All Israel are princes.17  R. Ishmael and R. Akiba: For we learnt: If one was a debtor for a thousand zuz, and wore a robe a hundred manehs in value, he is stripped thereof and robed with a garment that is fitting for him. But therein a Tanna taught on the authority of R. Ishmael and R. Akiba: All Israel are worthy of that robe.18

Now, on the original assumption that he [the debtor] was allowed what was fitting for him, whilst that which was unfitting for him was sold, [it may be asked:] as for a pillow and bolster, articles of inferior quality may suffice for him;19  but in respect of a plough, what is there available?20  — Raba b. Rabbah replied: [The Mishnah refers to] a silver strigil.21  To this R. Haga demurred: But let him [the creditor] say to him: you are not thrown upon me!22  — Abaye answered him:

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Translating: thou — sc. the creditor — shalt stand without together with the man, i.e., the court officer; whilst he of whom thou dost claim etc.
  2. Ex. XXII. 25.
  3. Who is forbidden to enter.
  4. Thus the two are placed in opposition, shewing that the court officer may enter the house. This definitely refutes Samuel.
  5. Sc. the court messenger; v, n. 2.
  6. Thus the two Baraithas differ on Samuel's dictum.
  7. He must be left sufficient to be able to earn a livelihood.
  8. Vows whereby one's own value is promised to the Temple. Scripture set a fixed value, depending on the age and sex of the vower (Lev. XXVII. 1-8). But if he was poor, his means were assessed and the valuation reduced. Cf. ibid, 8: But if he be poorer than thy estimation, then he shall present himself before the priest, and the priest shall value him: according to the means of him that vowed shall the priest value him.
  9. Before retiring. Rashi: hence one must have a couch for dining placed four cubits distant from the sleeping couch, so that he will be bound to take the necessary exercise!
  10. To leave him sufficient money to buy these articles! — (Tosaf.).
  11. E.g., if silk nightwear was seized, it is sold, and out of the proceeds cheaper nightwear is bought for the debtor, and the residue goes to the creditor. Thus even R. Simeon b, Gamaliel may agree that some exemption is made.
  12. I.e., R. Simeon b. Yohai.
  13. A plant similar to colocasia, with edible leaves and root, and bearing beans. It is classified with onions and garlic (Jast.). The beans are edible when boiled, but not raw.
  14. It is a general principle that only those foodstuffs which are fit for consumption on the Sabbath may be moved on that day. Since, however, the lof beans may not be boiled, nor may the mustard grains be ground. on the Sabbath, they are not fit for food, and therefore must not be handled.
  15. And since it was a royal practice to keep ravens — for sport or adornment — it is fitting that Jews too should keep them; (v. Shab. 126b) hence the lof has its uses on the Sabbath, and therefore may be moved from one place to another.
  16. Even when they have no bruises, but merely for suppleness. Therefore it does not appear as a healing ointment, and so is permitted on the Sabbath (v. Shab. 111a). (Healing in general is forbidden on the Sabbath, excepting in cases of urgency.)
  17. Hence it is permitted for all.
  18. Because they are of princely descent.
  19. Lit., 'the difference (between these lower priced articles) is available for him (the creditor).'
  20. Nothing inferior can be substituted, yet in respect of that too R. Simeon b. Gamaliel ruled that it was to be sold after thirty days.
  21. A flesh scraper or brush, used for exciting the action of the skin, This too is called [H], and R. Simeon b. Gamaliel rules that after thirty days it must be sold, an inferior one bought, and the creditor pockets the difference.
  22. 'I have no particular responsibility toward you.'
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