For the week ending 17 October 2009 / 28 Tishri 5770

Bava Batra 58 - 64

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Rabbi Banah measuring the tombs of the righteous, deciphering mysterious wills and advising courts
  • Claims regarding drainpipes, ladders, windows and extensions which affect a neighbor
  • Protecting privacy of a courtyard by restricting placement of windows and doors
  • Protecting public thoroughfare against tunneling and extending
  • Mourning for the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash
  • What is included in the sale of a house or a field
  • Describing the boundaries of the property sold
  • Interpreting the language of a gift or a sale
  • Does a seller sell in a generous fashion

Z.P.G. – The Road to Disappearance

  • Bava Batra 60b

Circles obsessed with the Mathusian theory that population growth threatens the survival of mankind in a world of limited resources have made a Zero Population Growth (ZPG) their goal. This means that no parents should have more than two children to replace them when they leave this world, thus keeping the total world population at static level.

In our gemara we find an interesting view of what would happen to the Jewish people if they ascribed to ZPG.

"Since the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash," says Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha, "we should really have decreed upon ourselves to abstain from eating meat and drinking wine (as an expression of mourning), but we cannot make decrees that most people will not be capable of obeying."

He then adds: "Since the evil empire (the Romans) issued evil decrees and prevented us from learning Torah and doing mitzvot, we should really have decreed upon ourselves to refrain from marrying and bringing children into the world and thus passively allowing for the seed of our Patriarch Avraham to disappear – but since people will not be able to abide by such a decree it is preferable to leave them alone."

Tosefot raises a question in regard to the suggestion made for refraining from bringing children into the world. In contrast to the consumption of meat and wine mentioned in the first suggested decree, procreation is mandatory on the basis of the Torah command to "be fruitful and multiply." (Bereishet 1:28). How then could we make a decree to ignore this command?

The answer given by Tosefot is that the decree would have been limited to continuing married life after minimal fulfillment of the mitzvah through the birth of one son and one daughter. Such a policy would not clash with the obligation of procreation, but would nevertheless have passively led to the disappearance of the Jewish people.

What the Sages Say

"The bed of a Torah sage has nothing beneath it except for storing his winter shoes during the summer and his summer shoes during the winter, while beneath the bed of the ignoramus is a whole treasure (of food and vessels – Rashbam)."

  • Rabbi Banah - Bava Batra 58a

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