The Weekly Daf

Week of 6 - 12 Sivan 5761 / May 28 - June 3, 2001

Kiddushin 21-27 ; Issue #381

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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A Different Kind of Pull

Meshichah (pulling an object) is the most common form of kinyan — the virtual expression of ownership which finalizes a transaction involving a movable possession. It is used in regard to both the sale of an animal and that of a Canaanite slave.

The Sage Shmuel, however, makes a distinction between the two. Whereas an animal can be acquired by the buyer either by calling to it and having it come after him or by hitting it with a stick and causing it to run before him, the only way one can acquire the slave is by physically pulling him towards himself. In explaining why it is not sufficient to call to the slave as it is to the animal, Shmuel points out that the animal comes instinctively because it is called and this is considered an expression of ownership by the buyer who initiated its motion. A slave, however, has human intelligence and makes an independent decision to respond to the call of the buyer; therefore, there is no expression of ownership to qualify as a kinyan to finalize the transaction.

A charming application of the two methods used in the meshichah of an animal has been suggested regarding a passage in Shir Hashirim (1:4): In his Song of Songs, King Solomon speaks on behalf of his people in asking their beloved Creator to "Pull me after You and we shall run." It is our fervent wish for Hashem to acquire us as His beloved people. But finalization of such an acquisition requires the kinyan of meshichah. This can take place by our being struck by a Heavenly blow which causes us to run ahead or by being called to follow. We certainly prefer the call to the blow and therefore appeal, through the voice of Solomon, that Hashem call to us and we shall come running after Him. In contrast to the Canaanite slave, however, we will do so with a total subjugation of our will to that of our Heavenly Master so that our relationship becomes irrevocably finalized.

Kiddushin 22b

Elephant Walk

How do you lift an elephant?

This is not a theoretical question but rather a challenge posed by Rabbi Yosef to the position of Rabbi Shimon. While some sages say that a transaction concerning a large animal can be finalized through the seller handing over the animal to the buyer or by allowing him to grasp its reins or hair, and others contend that it is sufficient to cause the animal to move towards the buyer at his bequest, it is the view of Rabbi Shimon that only by actually lifting the animal is the transaction finalized. How, asks Rabbi Yosef, is this viable when dealing with an animal as large as an elephant?

One of the solutions proposed by the gemara is to use bundles of vines. Rashi and Tosefot differ in their explanations as to how these vines are used to lift the elephant.

According to Rashi the bundles of vines are set before the elephant at a height of three tefachim (handbreadths, with approximately ten centimeters to a handbreadth) so that they are no longer considered as being on the ground. Once the elephant is made to walk upon these bundles of vines, it is considered as if the purchaser lifted him a degree sufficient to finalize the transaction.

Tosefot challenges this approach by asking why the gemara chose something as uncommon as bundles of vines rather than having the elephant walk upon stones or wood which are the height of three tefachim. Rabbi Meshulam’s approach is then cited by Tosefot as an alternative to that of Rashi:

Vines are elephant food, says the gemara (Mesechta Shabbat 128), and one may therefore move bundles of vines on Shabbat and they are not considered muktzeh. The way to lift an elephant then is to tempt him with bundles of vines raised above his head so that he will have to jump up to reach them. This is considered as having lifted the elephant from the ground and finalizes the transaction even according to Rabbi Shimon.

Kiddushin 26a

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