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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Mezi'a

Baba Mezi'a 109a


GEMARA. Abaye said: He has no rights to the sycamore beams, but is entitled to the improvement in the sycamores themselves,4  Raba said: He is not even entitled to the improvement.

An objection is raised: If one leases a field, when his lease expires5  an assessment is made for him. Surely that means that the improvement in the sycamores are assessed for him! — No. The vegetables and beets are assessed for him. The vegetables and beets! Let him uproot and take them away! — It was before market day.6

Come and hear: If one leases a field, and the seventh year [i.e., the year of release] intervenes, an assessment is made for him. Does then the seventh year withdraw the land [from the lessee]?7  — But read thus: If one leases a field, and the Jubilee arrives, an assessment is made for him. Yet even so, does then the Jubilee cancel a leasehold: Scripture [merely] forbade a sale in perpetuity!8  — But read thus: If one buys a field from his neighbour, and the Jubilee arrives, an assessment is made for him! And should you answer: Here too, the vegetables and beets are assessed for him, [I would reply] these are free to all in the Jubilee! Hence It must surely refer to the improvement of the sycamores!9  — Abaye explained the cited Baraitha on the basis of Raba's views: There it is different, because the Writ saith, Then the house that was sold shall go out [in the year of Jubilee]:8  [only] that which was sold is returnable [to the first owner], but not the improvements. Then let us learn from it!10  — There it is a true sale, and Jubilee is a royal revocation.11

R. Papa leased a field for growing fodder. Now, some young trees sprouted up therein. When he [R. Papa] was about to quit, he said to them [the original owners]: Give me the improvement,12  Said R. Shisha the son of R. Idi to R. Papa: If so, [had you leased] palm-trees, and these grew thicker [during the period of lease], would you then, Master, also demand the improvement? — He replied: There, I should not have taken possession for that purpose; but here I leased it13  for that.14  With whom does this agree? With Abaye, who maintained that he is entitled to the improvement In the sycamores? — It may agree even with Raba. There he [the lessee] suffers no loss [through the improvement of the sycamores]; here there is a loss. But he [the lessor] said to him, 'Wherein did I cause you to suffer loss? Through the [diminished] area for fodder. Then take the value of the fodder [that would have grown] in their place, and go.' He replied, 'I would have sown it with garden saffron,'15  Said he to hini, 'You have [thus] shown that your intention was to remove [what you did sow] and depart:16  then take your saffron and go. You are entitled only to the value of the wood.'17

R. Bibi b. Abaye leased a field and surrounded it with a ridge, from which there sprung forth sorb bushes. When he left the field [on the expiration of the lease], he said to them, 'Give me the improvements I effected.'18  Said R. Papi: 'Because you come from Mamla, you speak words of no substance.19  Even R. Papa claimed [improvements] only because he suffered loss; but here, what loss have you sustained?'

R. Joseph had a gardener.20  Now, he died and left five sons-in-law. Said R. Joseph: Hitherto there was one, and now there are five; hitherto they did not rely on each other [to do the work] and so caused me no loss, whilst now they will, and cause me loss. [Therefore] he said to them: If you accept the improvements due to you and quit, it is well; if not, I will evict you without [giving you] the improvements. For Rab Judah — others state, R. Huna — others state, R. Nahman — said: If a gardener dies, his heirs may be evicted without [receiving] the improvements. — But [nevertheless] that is incorrect.

A certain gardener said to his employers, 'Should I cause loss, I will quit.' He did [then] cause loss, Said Rab Judah: He must quit without [receiving] the improvements. R. Kahana said: He must quit, but receives the improvements [he effected]. Yet R. Kahana admits that if he said, 'I will quit without the improvements,' he is evicted without [receiving] improvements. Raba said: [Even then,] It is an asmakta,21  which is not binding. But according to Raba, wherein does it differ from what we learnt: 'Should I neglect and not till it, I will pay with the best [crops]?'22  — There he merely pays for the loss he caused;23  here [it is sufficient that] we make a deduction on account of what he spoiled — whilst the rest must be given him.24

Ronia was Rabina's gardener. Having spoiled it, he was dismissed. Thereupon he went before Raba, complaining — 'See, Sir, how he has treated me.' 'He has acted within his rights,' he informed him. 'But he gave me no warning,' protested he. 'No warning was necessary,' he retorted. This is in accordance with Raba's views. For Raba said: Elementary teachers, a gardeners butcher, a cupper25

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Less than seven years.
  2. Because it greatly impoverishes the soil, which does not regain its fertility until after seven years. This can apply only to a lease on a fixed rental, for if on a percentage basis, the lessor himself profits thereby (Rashi); v. p. 597.
  3. The branches of sycamore trees were lopped off and fashioned into beams for building purposes. But as they required seven years to grow again, a lessee for a short term has no right to them.
  4. If the sycamores improved during his lease, the improvement is assessed, and the lessee is entitled thereto.
  5. Lit., 'his time came to quit.'
  6. And if they are stored, their value depreciates. Hence they are assessed, but left in the field.
  7. This is an interjection.
  8. Cf. Lev. XXV, 33.
  9. This contradicts Raba.
  10. In reference to a lease: Just as there, the vendee is entitled to improvements, so here too.
  11. Of the sale. Hence, only what Scripture distinctly states is to return, sc. the purchase, is returnable, but not the improvements. But in the case of a lease the return is pursuant to a human agreement; hence, in Raba's view, it goes back just as it is, including the improvements.
  12. The value of the trees.
  13. Lit., 'descended therein.'
  14. When leasing palm-trees, the lessee thinks only of the fruit, but when leasing a field for fodder, his mind is set upon anything that may grow there.
  15. Which is much more valuable.
  16. By answering, 'I would have sown it with saffron,' you have shewn that you would have planted something which could be entirely removed when grown, and not that which, whilst the stock remained, would show you a profit on its improvement, e.g., young palm-trees.
  17. I.e., you must regard these trees as though they were saffron and you had to remove them entirely, and thus you have no other claim but for the value of the timber.
  18. The value of these bushes.
  19. The Aruch holds Mamla to be a place name, whose inhabitants were short-lived. Because you come from such a place, you speak words that are short-lived i.e., use untenable arguments. Rashi: Because you are descendants of Eli (who were likewise short-lived, v I Sam. II, 31ff.) you speak etc. [For another interpretation v. B.B. (Sonc. ed.) p. 582, n. 6.]
  20. Who worked for half profit.
  21. V. Glos.
  22. Supra 104a. It is there stated that their condition is binding.
  23. Since he neglects the whole field, he involves its owner in considerable loss, and there are no profits to offset it,
  24. But he must not be deprived of all his share in the improvements, which exceeds the loss.
  25. So translated by Rashi supra 97a. Here he translates: a circumciser.
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Baba Mezi'a 109b

and the town scribe,1  are all regarded as being permanently warned.2  The general principle is this: for every loss that is irrecoverable, [the workers] are regarded as being permanently warned.

A certain gardener said, 'Give me my improvements, as I wish to emigrate to Palestine.' When he came before R. Papa b. Samuel he ordered: 'Give him the improvements'.But Raba protested: 'Has only he effected the increased value, and not the soil?'3  He replied, 'I meant half thereof.' 'But,' he protested, 'hitherto the owner took half and the gardener half; whereas now he must give a share to an aris!'4  He replied, 'I meant a quarter of the improvement.' Now R. Ashi thought this to mean a quarter [of the residue],5  which is a sixth [of the whole]. For R. Minyomi, the son of R. Nehumi, said: Where it is the practice for a gardener to receive half profits and an aris one third,6  and a gardener wishes to quit, he is given [his share of the] profits and dismissed, [a share being computed in such a way] that the employer sustains no loss [through having to engage an arts]. Now, should you assume that he meant a quarter [of the residue after paying the aris his share], which is a sixth of the whole, it is well; but if you say that it means a literal quarter, the employer loses a twelfth!7  R. Aha, the son of R. Joseph, said to R. Ashi: But cannot he [the gardener] say to him, 'Do entrust your own portion to the aris; whilst as for me, I can do what I wish with my own share'?8  — He replied: When you arrive at 'The slaughter of consecrated animals,' come and place your difficulties before me.9

The [above] text states: 'R. Minyomi, son of R. Nehumi said: Where it is the practice for a gardener to receive half profits and an arts one third, and a gardener wishes to quit, he is given [his share of] the profits and then dismissed, [a share being computed in such a way] that the employer sustains no loss.' R. Minyomi, son of R. Nehumi [also] said: Of an old [vine] trunk [the gardener receives] half;10  but if the river inundated it,11  he receives a quarter.12

A certain man pledged a vineyard with his fellow for ten years,13  but it aged after five.14  Abaye said: They [the aged trunks] rank as produce;15  Raba ruled: As principal; therefore land must be bought therewith, of which he [the mortagee] enjoys the usufruct.

An objection is raised: If the tree withered or was cut down, both are forbidden to use it. What then shall be done? It must be sold for timber, land bought with the proceeds, and he [the mortgagee] takes the usufruct.16  Surely 'withered' is similar to 'cut down': just as the latter means, in its due time, so the former too; and yet it is taught, 'It must be sold for timber, land bought with the proceeds, and he [the mortagee] takes the usufruct': thus proving that it ranks as principal? — No; 'cut down' is similar to 'withered:'just as the latter [implies] before its time,17  so the former too.

Come and hear: If aged vines and olive trees fell to her [as an inheritance],18

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. [Or 'barber', v. B.B. (Sonc. ed.) p. 106, n. 7.]
  2. Of dismissal, should their work be unsatisfactory.
  3. Surely the owner of the soil is entitled to at least half.
  4. The gardener having left the work unfinished, an aris (v. Glos.) must be engaged, who will also demand his share, and so the owner loses thereby.
  5. After allowing for the share of the aris, v. n. 9.
  6. A gardener plants the vineyard, whereas an aris comes to a vineyard already in existence, hence he receives a smaller portion.
  7. E.g., if the profits are six denarii, the gardener and the employer would each have received three. But now an aris must be engaged, who receives a third of the net profits, i.e., two denarii. Hence, if the gardener receives a quarter of the whole, i.e., 1 1/2 denarii, the employer is left with 2 1/2, a twelfth of the whole less than his due; but if he is allotted only a quarter of the residue, i.e., of 7 denarii, the employer is still left with his full share.
  8. [Even if the gardener should receive a quarter, not a sixth, the employer stands to lose nothing, for the gardener can tell him to entrust the remaining three quarters to an aris, who will receive a third of it for his labour, and a half of the whole will still be left for the owner. Thus: 1/3 x 3/4 x 6 = 1 1/2 (share of the aris); 3/4 x 6 - 1 1/2 = 3, half of the whole (share of the employer).]
  9. 'The slaughter of consecrated animals' is in the name of a tractate of the Talmud, now called 'Sacrifices' ([H]), of great subtlety. I.e., 'I see from the question that you have a keen subtle mind — it will be particularly interesting to hear your comments on that Tractate.' Rashi gives two views on this remark. One, that he accepted its reasoning, and complimented him thereon; another, that he merely evaded it by a sarcastic reference to its oversubtlety.
  10. When it no longer bears fruit and is cut down for its wood.
  11. Either uprooting it entirely, or waterlogging the soil and making the vine unfit for fruit, at least for a long time,
  12. As a gardener who wishes to quit in the middle. In the first instance, the ageing of a vine is natural, and therefore it is tacitly understood that when no longer fruit-bearing it shall be treated as the rest. But an inundation is unnatural; hence it is considered as though the gardener had suddenly quitted it,
  13. On a time mortgage. V. supra p. 394.
  14. And was unable to produce. This was when it was expected to age.
  15. Therefore they belong to the mortgagee.
  16. V. supra 79a.
  17. Because the ordinary withering due to age is expressed by 'aged', though that too may imply untimely withering, but 'withered' can only mean prematurely, Tosaf.
  18. The reference is to a married woman, of whose inheritance the husband enjoys the usufruct, v. Keth. 79b.
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