Talmud Tips

For the week ending 2 May 2015 / 13 Iyyar 5775

Ketuvot 93 - 99

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
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Rabbi Yochanan said, “A Rabbi who prevents his Torah student from serving him is as if he withholds chesed (lovingkindness) from his student”.

Rav Nachman bar Yitzchak says, “He (the Rabbi) is also removing from him the fear of Heaven”.

These two statements show the extreme closeness of the bond between Rabbi and student in this world and its ramifications for the next world as well. Both teachings are derived from Sefer Iyov (6:13-14 – Rashi). The halachic authorities rule that these statements pertain to a student and his “special” Rabbi (Rav muvhak), from whom he has gained the majority of his Torah wisdom. A student who shows his honor for G-d and His Torah by serving his Rabbi is rewarded with chesed from Above and fulfills what Rabbi Elazar bar Shamua taught in Pirkei Avot (4:12) that "your awe of your Rabbi should be like your awe of Heaven". These teachings are codified in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 242:50.

  • Ketuvot 96a

Rabbi Yossi says, “They divide the extra amount.”

Our gemara quotes a beraita of a case where a person sends a shaliach (agent) with a certain amount of money to spend for making a purchase. In the event that the seller gave the agent more than was expected, who gets the “bonus”? Whereas Rabbi Yehuda says that the agent keeps the extra, Rabbi Yossi rules that the buyer and the agent divide the extra amount.

The gemara explains that their dispute is in a case where the item purchased has a fixed price. If it was without a fixed price we would assume that the seller sold it for less than was anticipated and entire amount belongs to the buyer. However, in this case where there is a fixed price we assume that the seller gave the extra amount as a gift. Since we have a doubt whether the seller intended the gift for the buyer or for the agent, the extra amount is divided (Rashi).

This ruling, which is taught on our daf as being the halacha, is recorded in Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 283:6. However, a question is posed on this ruling. There is a well-known teaching that “hamotzi mechaveiro alav haraiya” — one who is taking away from a person in possession must bring a proof that it is his in order to take it. Since the extra amount is in the possession of the agent why does the buyer receive half without proof that the seller intended to give him that amount, or any amount, as a gift? (Mitzpeh Eitan)

An explanation I have heard from a great Rabbi in Jerusalem is that the agent is not completely considered “in possession” of the add-on. If the seller gave it to the agent as a gift for the buyer, the agent is holding it for the buyer and is not considered “possessing” it. He would be a thief to keep it. Since we have a doubt whether it was a gift for the buyer or for the agent the fair path to take is to award each one half of the extra amount.

  • Ketuvot 98b

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