For the week ending 16 May 2009 / 21 Iyyar 5769

Bava Metzia 23 - 29

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Food found in the public domain
  • If naming the place where one lost an object qualifies as proof of ownership
  • When a "white lie" is permitted
  • Money found in a house of worship or any public area
  • Acting beyond the letter of the law
  • Which found objects must be announced
  • Determining whether coins were lost or placed
  • When a found object should be left alone
  • Something found in a garbage dump or in a wall
  • The boarding house and partnership mysteries
  • The Torah commands regarding found objects
  • Money found in a shop or bank
  • The value of a found object requiring return
  • The source for relying on an identifying siman
  • For how long must a find be announced
  • Investigating swindlers and caring for found object

The Puncturing Prefix

  • Bava Metzia 25b

Coins that are found may either be assumed to have been lost by their owner and therefore the property of the finder, or purposely placed at that location by the owner, obligating the finder to announce his find so that the owner may make his claim. It all depends on the manner in which the coins are found.

If coins are found in a pattern associated with the pagan idol kulis the find must be announced. The worship of this idol consisted of casting stones before it in pyramid fashion. Should one find three coins lying in such planned fashion anywhere – one placed on the halves of two below it – he must assume they were purposely placed there and must announce his find.

Tosefot points out that the idol referred to in our gemara was called kulis by its worshippers, which comes from the word kilus thatmeans praise. Our Sages, however, in the tradition of ridiculing idol worship, added the prefix mar, which means the opposite. The use of the term kulis in our gemara, which relates to a pattern rather than the idol itself, is an indication that this was the name applied to the idol by its worshippers, rather than the mocking term markulis found elsewhere in the Talmud.

What the Sages Say

“…and it (a found object) shall remain with you until your brother inquires after it and you return it to him.”

  • Devarim 22:2

“You must not return it until you inquire of the claimant to determine that he is not a swindler.”

  • Mishna, Bava Metzia 23b

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