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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Mezi'a

Baba Mezi'a 46a

then he may say. 'Let it [sc. the produce] be redeemed for the money I have at home.'1  Hence it is because he has no money with him;2  but if he had money in his hand he should rather give possession thereof to his friend through meshikah,3  who would then redeem [the tithe], which is a preferable [procedure], since he would then be a [real] stranger.4  But if you say that coin may be acquired through barter, let him [the tithe-owner] give possession of the money [he has at home] to his friend by means of a scarf, and then let the latter redeem it!5  — The latter has no scarf. Then let him give possession thereof through soil!6  — He has no soil. But it is stated, 'If one is standing in a granary!' — It means in a granary not belonging to him.7  And does the Tanna take the trouble of teaching us about a naked man, who possesses nought!8  Hence it must surely be that coin cannot be acquired by barter.9  This proves it.

And R. Papa himself — retracted, as we find that R. Papa had thirteen thousand denarii at Be-Huzae,10  which he transferred to R. Samuel b. Aha along with the threshold of his house.11  When he [R. Samuel b. Aha] came [with the money], he [R. Papa] went forth to meet him up to Tauak.12

[To revert to the original discussion:] And 'Ulla said likewise: Coin cannot effect a barter; and R. Assi said likewise: Coin cannot effect a barter; and Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said likewise in R. Johanan's name: Coin cannot effect a barter. R. Abba raised an objection against 'Ulla: If his carters or labourers demanded [their wages] from a man in the market place, and he said to a money-changer, 'Give me copper coins for a denar, and I will pay them,13  whilst I will return you a denar's worth14  and a tressis15  Out of the coins which I have at home:' then if he has money at home, it is permitted; otherwise, it is forbidden.16  Now, should you think that coin cannot effect a barter, it is a loan, and hence forbidden!17  Thereupon he was silent. Said he to him: Perhaps both18  refer to uncoined metal which bear no imprint.19  so that they rank as produce, and therefore may be acquired by barter? — Even so, he replied. This too follows from the fact that he [the Tanna] states, a denar's worth and a tressis, but does not state. a current denar20  and a tressis. This proves it. R. Ashi said: After all, [the return may be] in the character of repayment, though the reference indeed is to uncoined metal: since he has them [at home], it is as though he said, 'Lend me until my son comes, or until I find the key.'21

Come and hear: Whatever can be used as payment for another object, as soon as one party takes possession thereof, the other assumes liability, for what is given in exchange.22  'Whatever can be used as payment for another object' — what is that? Coins: which proves that coins can effect a barter!23 — Said Rab Judah: It means this:

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. M. Sh. IV. 5. The reference is to second tithe produce, which, as stated above, might be redeemed instead of being taken to Jerusalem. Now, when a man redeemed his own second tithe produce, he had to add a fifth of its value, but not if he redeemed produce belonging to another. Cf. Lev. XXVII, 31: And if a man will at all redeem ought of his tithes, he shall add thereto a fifth part thereof. But, in order to evade this addition, a legal fiction might be resorted to: one gave his Produce to another and then redeemed it, thus redeeming the produce of another-then received it back. The Mishnah quoted gives an instance of such an evasion, which, as may be seen from the phraseology, was recognised and sanctioned by law.
  2. That is why the Tanna recommends that particular procedure, explicitly stating that it is to be followed when the tithe owner has no money with him.
  3. V. Glos.
  4. I.e., if he gave the money to his neighbour, whilst retaining the produce himself, his friend would actually be redeeming a tithe that is not his own! That is not such a glaring evasion as when a person gives the produce to his neighbour and then redeems it himself, and therefore is preferable; and the Tanna obviously permits the other procedure only because the latter is impossible, since the tithe owner has not the money with him.
  5. Instead of his gifting the produce to him, let his friend give him a scarf or handkerchief as halifin (v. supra p. 30. n. 3), for the money, and then redeem the tithe with this money (which need not actually be in his hand for the purpose of redemption), since the Tanna prefers this procedure. Hence it follows that money cannot be acquired through barter.
  6. I.e., the tithe owner should have given him a piece of soil, in virtue of which his friend could acquire the money too, it being a general principle that movables may be acquired by dint of real estate (Kid. 26a). — This is not an objection against the view that money can be acquired through barter, but is a difficulty that arises in this Mishnah itself. Rashi recognises it as such, and though Tosaf. attempts to shew that it is indeed an objection against the opinion just mentioned, the reasoning is not very plausible. It is quite possible that this passage bearing on the acquisition of money by dint of real estate is a later editorial interpolation. V. Kaplan. Redaction of the Talmud. Ch. XIII.
  7. But merely rented.
  8. This reverts to the objection that his friend should have acquired the money through barter, to which the answer was given that he had no scarf wherewith to effect the barter. This of course must mean that he had nothing at all, since any object can be used for the purpose, and so the Talmud objects further: surely the Tanna did not take the pains of stating such an exceptional case!
  9. Therefore the tithe owner has no other alternative but that stated in the Mishnah.
  10. V. p. 508. n. 2. — R. Papa was a very wealthy man, Cf. infra 65a.
  11. V. p. 273. n. 5. Since he had recourse to this mode, and did not employ the simple means of barter, he must have withdrawn from the view that coin can be acquired by means of barter. His purpose in transferring the money was that R Samuel b. Aba should bring it to him from Be-Huzae; without such transference, the bailee might have refused to let it out of his possession, as he would then have to bear the risks of the road.
  12. V.B.B. (Sonc. ed.) p. 310 and nn.
  13. Lit., 'supply them'.
  14. The Heb. expression is very peculiar, [H]. At this stage, this was thought to be the equivalent of [H] a good, I.e., current denar.
  15. A coin worth three issars. The text has [H], an incorrect form of [H] (Jast.).
  16. It was assumed that the reason is this: If he has money at home, immediately he takes possession of the coins the money-changer acquires the ownership of the money at home by the process of barter; hence there is no usury, since theoretically the banker does not wait for his money. But this cannot operate if he has no money, in which case it is a pure loan upon which the tressis is interest.
  17. V. preceding note; the reasoning there is possible only on the assumption that coin can effect a barter.
  18. Sc. that which is given by the banker, and that which is returned.
  19. Uncoined pieces of metal were used as small change.
  20. V. p. 274. n. 6.
  21. V. infra 75a. The preceding discussion has assumed that the only basis upon which the transaction is permissible is barter. R. Ashi, however, points out that since it has been explained that the reference is to uncoined metal, the transaction may be viewed and carried out as a loan, the return being actually in the nature of repayment thereof; nevertheless it is permitted for the reason stated.
  22. l.e., for the halifin, or barter thereof. When A takes possession of the first, B automatically accepts the risks of the barter; e.g., if an ox is being given in exchange, the full risks of anything happening to it are now borne by B, though it has not actually reached his hand.
  23. For if the coins are given in the character of payment, they do not consummate the sale to render the purchaser responsible for all risks. Hence they are used as barter, as the passage stated.
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Baba Mezi'a 46b

Whatever is assessed as the value of another object,1  as soon as one party takes possession thereof, the other assumes liability for what is given in exchange. Reason too supports this — For the second clause teaches: How so? If one bartered an ox for a cow, or an ass for an ox. This proves it. Now, on the original hypothesis that coin [is referred to], what is meant by 'How so?'2  — 'It means this: And produce3  too can effect a barter. How so? If one bartered an ox for a cow, or an ass for an ox. Now, that is well on the view of R. Shesheth, who maintained that produce can be employed for barter. But according to R. Nahman, who said: Only a utensil, but not produce, can effect a barter, what is meant by 'How so'?-It means this: Money sometimes ranks as [an object of] barter. How so? If one bartered the money of an ox for a cow, or the money of an ass for an ox.4  What is R. Nahman's reason?5  He agrees with R. Johanan, who said: Biblically Speaking, [the delivery of] money effects a title. Why then was it said that only meshikah gives possession? As a precautionary measure, lest he say to him, 'Your wheat was burnt in the loft.'6  Now, the Rabbis enacted a preventive measure only for a usual occurrence, but not for an unusual occurrence.7  Now, according to Resh Lakish, who maintains that meshikah is explicitly required by Biblical law: it is well if he agrees with R. Shesheth: then he can explain8  it as R. Shesheth. But if he holds with R. Nahman, that produce cannot effect a barter, whilst money does not effect a title [at all], how can he explain it?9 — You are forced to assume that he explains it as R. Shesheth.

We learnt: ALL MOVABLES ACQUIRE EACH OTHER, whereon Resh Lakish said: Even a purse full of money [when bartered] for a purse full of money.10 — R. Aha interpreted it as referring to the Bithynian and Ancyrean11  denarii, one of which was cancelled by the State, and one by local authorities.12  And both are necessary. For if we were taught this of State cancellation,13  that is because such coins have no [official] currency at all; but in the case of local repeal, since these coins circulate in another province, I might regard them as money, which cannot be acquired through barter. Whilst if it were stated in connection with local repeal, that is because they have neither a secret nor an open circulation [within that province]; but when cancelled by the State, since they circulate clandestinely, I might still regard them as coin, which cannot be acquired through barter. Thus both are necessary.14

Rabbah said in R. Huna's name: [If A said to B,] 'Sell [it] me for these [coins],' he acquires title thereto,15

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. I.e., anything but money. which needs no assessment.
  2. I.e., why is an instance given which does not illustrate the use of money as barter?
  3. Heb. [H] whilst this term is generally applicable only to objects of the vegetable kingdom, it may also be used, as here, to denote the animal kingdom too, in contradistinction to [H], articles or utensils of use.
  4. E.g. A sold an ox to B for a certain sum of money, and B took possession, thereby becoming indebted to A for the purchase price. Then B said, 'I have a cow which I can give you for the purchase price of the ox,' to which A agreed. Now, notwithstanding that this is theoretically a fresh transaction, viz., B sells a cow to A, the money owing by B for the ox being regarded as though delivered to him by A for the cow, and it is a principle that the delivery of money alone does not consummate a purchase, it does so in this case, and neither can retract; i.e., it is barter, not payment.
  5. Why in fact should it be regarded as barter here, though normally money does not effect a title?
  6. V. infra 47b.
  7. I.e., such a transaction as the one under discussion is unusual; consequently, the Biblical law operates. Hence the delivery of the money effects a title, and neither can withdraw.
  8. The Mishnah under discussion.
  9. For, as we have seen, it involves either that produce can effect a barter, or that money should effect a title.
  10. This proves that money can effect a barter.
  11. Bithynia, a district in Asia Minor; Ancyra, a city of Galatia in Asia Minor (Jast.). [Zuckermann, Munzen, p. 33, on basis of variant [H] for [H] renders: victory ([G]) and Nigerian denarii, the former referring to coins of conquered countries recalled by the victorious state; the latter to the coins struck by Pescennius Niger, the rival of Septimius Severus, the currency of which was strictly limited to the province over which he ruled.]
  12. The exchange consisted of these coins which, being cancelled, are just the same as any other produce. — Coins repealed by the State might still have a clandestine circulation within a particular province: on the other hand, those cancelled by a local authority would have no currency at all within that province, but a full currency without.
  13. That these coins rank as produce.
  14. It may be observed that this type of reasoning is generally applied to two Tannaitic statements, as found in a Mishnah or a Baraitha. Here, however, it is applied to an Amoraic (R. Aha's) interpretation of what is itself an Amoraic (Resh Lakish's) comment on a Mishnah.
  15. If A was holding an undetermined number of coins in his hand, and suggested that B should sell him an article for them, without stating their value, and B agreed, immediately B takes possession of the coins the transaction is consummated, and neither can retract, though normally the delivery of money does not effect a title. The Talmud proceeds to discuss the reason for this.
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