For the week ending 23 May 2009 / 28 Iyyar 5769

Bava Metzia 30 - 36

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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  • Handling and mishandling a found object till it is claimed
  • Who is exempt from responsibility of returning lost object
  • When is it assumed that an animal is a lost object
  • The double terms in the Torah which mandate repeated fulfillment
  • Compensation for returner of lost object who sustained loss
  • Finding animal in an unlocked barn or in the street
  • When a father's wish must be disobeyed
  • The obligation to help unload or load an animal in distress
  • Torah source for consideration of an animal's suffering
  • When it is a choice between returning the lost object of his father and that of his own or that of his Torah teacher
  • The relative importance of Mishna and Gemara
  • The reward of the guardian who pays the owner of the animal stolen from him rather than free himself by taking an oath
  • The oath taken even when the guardian pays
  • When borrower and lender disagree on value of object given as security
  • Does borrower have option of reclaiming property confiscated by the court for lack of payment
  • When the guardian appoints another guardian in his place

The Third Oath

  • Bava Metzia 34b

When a shomer responsible for guarding the object placed in his custody claims that he is unable to return it to its owner because of circumstances that exonerate him, he is obliged to take three oaths to prove this innocence. He must swear that he was not negligent in guarding the object, that he did not make unwarranted exploitation and that the object is no longer in his possession.

In the event that his claim does not exonerate him and he pays the owner, he is still obligated to swear that the object is no longer in his possession. The reason for this is the suspicion that the shomer coveted the object, and because he knew that it was not for sale decided to appropriate it and pay the owner who assumed that it was really lost.

RaMbaM (Laws of Borrowing and Guardianship 6:1) points out that this law presented by Rabbi Huna in our gemara applies only to such objects that are not available for purchase in the marketplace, such as a particular sort of animal, garment or vessel. But if the object placed in his safekeeping is something that can easily be purchased, there are no grounds for suspecting the shomer of lying, and therefore no need for him to take an oath that it is no longer in his possession.

What the Sages Say

"There is no part of Torah study which is as valuable as gemara (which explains the mishnayot and reconciles the conflicts between them – Rashi)."

  • Beraita, Bava Metzia 33a

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