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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Mezi'a

Baba Mezi'a 88a

until it sees the front of the house,1  for it is written, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house.2  R. Johanan said: Even a courtyard establishes liability to tithes, for it is written, that they may eat at thy gates and be filled.3  But according to R. Johanan, is it not written, out of mine house? — He can answer you: [It teaches that] the court yard must be similar to the house [in order to impose liability]: just as a house is guarded, so also must the courtyard be guarded.4  But R. Jannai! Is it not written, 'in thy gates'? — That is required [to shew] that it must be brought into [the house] through the gates, but not over the roof or through [back] enclosures, when no liability is established.

R. Hanina of Be-Hozae5  raised an objection: As thine own person: as the person of the employer, so the person of the employee; just as thou thyself mayest eat [thereof] and art exempt [from tithes], so also the employee may eat, and is exempt. This thus implies that a purchaser is liable:6  and does it not mean even in the field?7  — R. Papa said: This refers to a fig tree growing in a garden, but with its branches inclining to the court-yard,8  or, to the house, on the view that [it must see the front of] the house. If so, even the [first] owner should be liable!9  — The owner's eyes are upon the [whole] fig-tree, whereas the buyer has eyes only for his purchase.10  But is a purchaser at all liable by Biblical law? Has it not been taught: Why were the bazaars of Beth Hini11  destroyed? Because they based their actions upon Scripture.12  They used to say,

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. I.e., unless it is taken into the house through the front door, not through the roof or backyard.
  2. Ibid. XXVI, 13: the deduction presumably is thus: as it is openly brought out of the house through the front, so it must have been taken in, in order to become 'hallowed', i.e., tithed.
  3. Ibid. 22: 'they' refers to the Levite etc., who eat the tithes 'at thy gates', which implies that the crops had not entered the house but remained at 'thy gate', i.e., in the courtyard.
  4. But if free and open to all, it establishes no liability.
  5. [The Modern Khuzistan, province S. W. Persia, Obermeyer, op. cit. pp. 204ff.]
  6. V. P. 507, n. 3.
  7. For just as the employee eats it on the field, by implication, if a purchaser desires to eat thereof on the field, he is liable, though it has not yet seen the front of the house or the courtyard.
  8. So that immediately the fruit is plucked it sees the front thereof.
  9. For immediately it is plucked it fulfils the conditions of liability by seeing the front of the house or court.
  10. I.e., the owner does not regard a single branch; therefore, since the whole tree does not face the house, he is exempt. But the purchaser is interested only in his purchase; hence, if the branch from which his figs are gathered faces the house or courtyard, he is liable.
  11. Bethania, a place near Jerusalem; Jast. [The parallel passage in J. Pe'ah I, has the bazaars of Beth Hanan, v. Sanh. (Sonc. ed.) p. 267, n. 4. These were stores set up on the Mount of Olives for the supply of pigeons and other commodities required for sacrifices, and owned by the powerful priestly family, to whom they proved a source of wealth. They were destroyed three years before the fall of Jerusalem; v. Derenbourg, Essai, p. 468, and Buchler, Priester und Cultus, p. 189.]
  12. Disregarding Rabbinical law.
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Baba Mezi'a 88b

Thou shalt truly tithe … And thou shalt eat, [implies] but not if thou sellest it; the increase of thy seed, but not if it is purchased!1  — But [the liability of a purchaser] is only by Rabbinic law, and the verse2  is a mere support. Then what is the purpose of, 'as thine own person?3  — As has been taught: 'As thine own person': just as if thou muzzlest thine own [mouth], thou art guiltless, so also, if thou muzzlest [the mouth of] thy labourer, thou art free [from transgression].4

Mar Zutra raised an objection: What is their harvesting time for [liability to] tithes? In the case of cucumbers and gourds, when they are blossomed.5  And R. Assi interpreted this: As soon as their blossoms are shed. Now, does that not mean, as soon as their blossoms are shed even in the field?6  — No, only in the house. If so, instead of saying, 'as soon as', etc., he [the Tanna] should state [they are not liable] 'until their blossoms are shed'.7  Had he stated 'until etc.', I would think that it means until the shedding of their blossom is complete; therefore we are taught, by stating 'as soon as' etc., that it means as soon as the shedding commences.

Mar Zutra, the son of R. Nahman, raised an objection: Its harvesting time in respect of tithes, in that the prohibition of tebel is transgressed,8  is when its work is finished. And what is the finishing of its work? When it is brought in. Now, surely, 'when it is brought in' means, even in the field?9  — No; when it is brought into the house, that is the completion of its work. Alternatively, R. Jannai's dictum10  refers only to olives and grapes, which are not gathered into a threshing floor;11  but in the case of wheat and barley, the threshing floor is distinctly stated.12

We now know that man [may eat when employed upon] what is attached to the soil, and an ox of what is detached;13  whence do we know that man may eat of what is detached?14  — It follows a minori, from an ox: if an ox, which does not eat of what is attached,15  may nevertheless eat of what is detached; then a man, who may eat of what is attached,16  may surely eat of what is detached! As for an ox, [it may be argued] that [sc. the privilege mentioned] is because you are forbidden to muzzle him; can you assume the same of man, whom you are not forbidden to muzzle?17  (But then let the muzzling of man be interdicted, a fortiori, from an ox: if you must not muzzle an ox, whose life you are not bidden to preserve, then man, whose life you are bidden to preserve,18  you must surely not muzzle him! — Scripture teacheth, 'As thine own person', so is the person of the labourer: just as 'thine own person', if you muzzle [yourself], you are free [from penalty], so also, if you muzzle the labourer, you are free.) Then [the question remains], whence do we know that man [may eat when engaged upon] what is attached? — Scripture saith, '[When thou comest into] the standing corn … [but thou shalt not move a sickle unto thy neighbour's] standing corn,' — twice: since its purpose is not to teach that man may eat of what is attached,19  apply it to man, in respect of what is detached. R. Ammi said: That man may eat of what is detached, no [redundant] verse is necessary. For it is written, 'When thou contest into thy neighbour's vineyard': does this not hold good even if he was hired for porterage?20  And yet the Torah states that he may eat [of the grapes].

Whence do we know than an ox [may eat] of what is attached? — It follows, a minori, from man: if man, who does not eat of what is detached,21  may eat of what is attached; then an ox, which may eat of what is detached, may surely eat of what is attached! — As for man, [may it not be argued,] that [sc., the privilege mentioned] is because you are bidden to preserve his life; will you say the same of an ox, whose life you are not bidden to preserve? (But then infer a duty to preserve the life of an ox,22  a minori: if man, though you are not forbidden to muzzle him, you are commanded to preserve his life; then an ox, which you may not muzzle, you are surely commanded to keep it alive! — Scripture saith, That thy brother may live with thee, — thy brother, but not an ox.) Then [the question remains,] whence do we know that an ox may eat of what is attached? — Scripture saith, '[When thou contest into] thy neighbour's [vineyard] … [When thou comest into the standing corn of] thy neighbour' — twice: since it23  is unnecessary for man in respect of what is attached, apply it to an ox in respect of what is attached.

Rabina said: Neither for a man, in respect of what is detached, nor for an ox, in respect of what is attached, are the [above] verses necessary; because it is written, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox, when he treadeth out the corn.24

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. V. Deut. XIV, 22f. Hence, only when the farmer consumes his crops himself must he tithe it, but not if he sells it; likewise, only the increase of one's own seed is liable, but not bought grain. And this is designated Biblical law.
  2. Sc. [H], exempting the labourer.
  3. V. p. 507, n, 3 end. Since, however, a purchaser is exempt by Biblical law, it follows, even without a verse, that a labourer is exempt.
  4. I.e., although the labourer is entitled to eat, yet if the employer stipulates that he shall not, or forcibly prevents him — metaphorically referred to as muzzling, cf. Deut. XXV, 4: Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the corn — he is not punished for transgressing the injunction just quoted.
  5. Ma'as. I, 5.
  6. Though they have not yet faced the courtyard or the house.
  7. 'As soon as etc.,' implies that wherever they are the shedding renders them liable. The suggested emendation, however, would imply, even when brought into the house, they are still not liable until, etc.
  8. Sc. if one eats anything thereof without tithing it. Before it becomes liable to tithes it is permissible to make a light meal of it, without transgressing the prohibition of tebel.
  9. 'Brought in' being understood in the sense of 'collected into a stack'.
  10. Supra 87b, bottom.
  11. Hence the liability to tithes is established only when they 'see the face of the house.'
  12. Num. XVIII, 30: Then it shall be counted unto the Levites as the increase of the threshing floor. This shews that in the case of cereals the threshing floor establishes the Levite's right to the tithe.
  13. Deut. XXV, 4. Threshing follows reaping, when the crops are no longer in the earth.
  14. As stated in the Mishnah.
  15. I.e., which Scripture does not explicitly permit to do so, though it is inferred below.
  16. I.e., permission is explicitly granted: Deut. XXIII, 25f.
  17. V. supra p. 509, n. 5.
  18. V. Lev. XXV, 36.
  19. It being unnecessary to state 'standing corn' twice for that purpose.
  20. I.e., for carrying the cut-off grapes to the press or elsewhere; for Scripture does not specify the nature of the work.
  21. V. p. 510, n. 7.
  22. I.e., until it is actually needed for food, one should be bidden to keep it in good health and save it from an unnecessary death.
  23. The repetition of 'thy neighbor'.
  24. Deut. XXV, 4.
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