For the week ending 15 August 2009 / 24 Av 5769

Bava Metzia 114 - 119

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Confiscation of property of a debtor who defaults
  • The Prophet Eliyahu in a cemetery
  • Who can take security for a loan and from whom
  • Can interpretation of a rationale for a mitzvah affect its application
  • The punishment for taking food preparation vessels as security for loan
  • Lashes for violation of a multiple prohibition
  • Dividing the materials of a collapsed house between two partners
  • Responsibility for repairs of ceiling separating upstairs and downstairs belonging to different people
  • When one of these two wishes to rebuild the collapsed house and the other refuses
  • Responsibility for damage caused by wall or tree crashing into public domain
  • Paying wages to worker from the straw in which he worked
  • Using the public domain for private production
  • Two gardens one atop another and something growing between them

Kohen in a Cemetery

"Is the master not a kohen – what is he doing in a cemetery?"

This is the question which the Sage Rabbah bar Avuha put to the Prophet Eliyahu whom he met in a non-Jewish cemetery.

The question was based on the tradition that the prophet was actually the kohen Pinchas. The answer given was that according to the position of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai a kohen was not prohibited from being within the airspace of a grave of a non-Jew.

The problem that remains, however, is how it was possible for Eliyahu to revive the dead son of the widow whose hospitality he enjoyed, which is forbidden to a kohen. (See Melachim I, 17:21) The resolution offered by Tosefot is that since Eliyahu was certain that Heaven would answer his prayers for restoring life to the dead child, the situation was one of saving a life for which one must put aside the restriction on a kohen becoming spiritually contaminated.

(A radically different approach is offered by Rabeinu Bachya in his commentary on Chumash – Parshat Pinchas – which is based on the assumption that the child was not Jewish and that Eliyahu did not actually touch the child, only entered his airspace by suspending himself above the child. As in the case in our gemara, this was permitted.)

What the Sages Say

"Take even the coarsest material in order to collect your debt."

  • A folk saying quoted in the gemara - Bava Metzia 118a

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