Baba Mezi'a 20a
From this1 we may infer that Samuel's [law] holds good, for Samuel said: If one sells a note of indebtedness to one's neighbour and then renounces [the debt], it is renounced,2 and even the heir [of the lender] may renounce it. Abaye maintained: You may even say that Samuel's [law] does not hold good, [for] here we deal with a case where the deed of the Kethubah marriage is produced by her.3 Raba, however, says that the production of the deed of the Kethubah makes no difference, for we apprehend that she may have had two copies of the Kethubah.4 Abaye again says [in reply]: Firstly, we do not apprehend that she may have had two copies of the Kethubah, and secondly, a receipt has validity from its date.5 This is consistent with Abaye's view, for he says: 'The witnesses acquire it for him by their signatures.'6
MISHNAH. IF ONE FINDS DEEDS OF VALUATION,7 DEEDS OF MAINTENANCE,8 DOCUMENTS OF HALIZAH9 OR REFUSAL,10 DOCUMENTS OF BERURIN,11 OR ANY OTHER DOCUMENT ISSUED BY A COURT OF LAW, ONE SHALL RETURN THEM.12 IF ONE FINDS [DOCUMENTS] IN A SMALL BAG OR IN A CASE,13 [OR IF ONE FINDS] A ROLL OR A BUNDLE14 OF DOCUMENTS, ONE SHALL RETURN THEM.15 AND HOW MANY DOCUMENTS CONSTITUTE 'A BUNDLE'? THREE FASTENED TOGETHER. RABBAN SIMEON B. GAMALIEL SAYS: [IF THEY BELONG TO] ONE PERSON WHO BORROWED FROM THREE [LENDERS] ONE SHALL RETURN THEM TO THE BORROWER;16 [IF THEY BELONG TO] THREE PERSONS WHO BORROWED FROM ONE [LENDER] ONE SHALL RETURN THEM TO THE LENDER.17 IF ONE FINDS A DOCUMENT AMONG ONE'S PAPERS AND DOES NOT KNOW HOW IT CAME THERE18 IT SHALL REMAIN WITH HIM UNTIL ELIJAH COMES.19 IF THERE ARE NOTES OF CANCELLATION AMONG THEM20 ONE MUST ABIDE BY THE CONTENTS OF THE NOTES.21
GEMARA. What are DOCUMENTS OF BERURIN? — Here [in Babylonia] it has been interpreted [as meaning] 'documents containing records of pleadings.'22 R. Jeremiah said: [Documents stating:] 'This party chose one [judge], and that party chose another [judge].'23
OR ANY [OTHER] DEED ISSUED BY A COURT OF LAW, ONE SHALL RETURN. In the court of R. Huna there was once found a bill of divorcement24 in which was written: 'In Shawire, the town which is situate by the canal Rakis.' Said R. Huna:
Original footnotes renumbered.
- I.e., from the fact that we do not apprehend the contingency referred to, and that consequently it must be assumed that the buyer would have no claim against the husband, even if the wife's receipt had in fact been written in Nisan.
- The borrower's debt is cancelled, and the person who bought the note of indebtedness from the lender loses his money: (Cf. B.K. 89a; B.B. 147b.) In the same way the person who bought the Kethubah from the wife while it was still unpaid loses his claim when the wife cancels the Kethubah on being paid by the husband in Tishri.
- Which shows that the wife has not sold it, as otherwise the buyer would have taken possession of it.
- [One of which she disposed of by selling, and were it not for the fact that Samuel's ruling is accepted there would be good reason for not returning the receipt to the husband.]
- I.e., from the date of writing, irrespective of the date of delivery, so that even if the debt had been sold in the interval the buyer has no claim, so that the Baraitha affords no support to Samuel's ruling.
- V. supra 13a; 19a. Cf. infra 35b.
- I.e., deeds in which the valuation of a debtor's property by a Court of Law, for the purpose of assigning it to the creditor, is recorded.
- I.e., deeds in which the Court records a man's undertaking to provide maintenance for his step-daughter.
- Documents testifying that the ceremony of 'pulling off the shoe' has been performed in the case, of a childless widow whose brother-in-law refuses to perform the levirate marriage. V. Deut. XXV, 5-10, and thus enabling the widow to re-marry.
- [H], the refusal of a fatherless girl, whose mother or brother gave her in marriage while still a minor, to accept the husband when she attains her majority. Her declaration before the Court that she does not desire the man as her husband sets her free, and the Court writes a document recording the refusal, which entitles her to marry another man.
- Relating to the selection of arbiters by contending parties, as explained in the Gemara below.
- in such cases there is no reason to apprehend that the writers of the documents may have changed their minds before handing them over, as the Court of Law would not have executed them unless the transactions were completed. Nor is there any ground to question the validity of the documents in case they have been 'paid'.
- Which form distinguishing marks. V. Gemara below.
- V. Gemara below.
- When they are identified by the loser. V. Gemara below.
- As it is obvious that the borrower had them in his possession and fastened them together before losing them. It may therefore be assumed that they were paid bills.
- As this makes it clear that it was the lender who had them in his possession and fastened them together before losing them. The assumption is therefore that they have not been paid.
- The reference is to a note of indebtedness found among other documents, the owner not being able to remember whether it was deposited with him by the borrower or the lender, or whether it was partly paid or not.
- For all time, or until the truth is ascertained. Cf. supra p. 6, n. 2.
- If there are any notes found attached to the documents showing that the debts referred to in the documents have been paid or cancelled.
- I.e., the debts referred to in the documents are assumed to have been paid, and although the notes of cancellation, or receipts, should have been held by the borrower, it is assumed that the lender had them merely as a result of neglect or forgetfulness.
- Of litigants in a court of law, from [H] 'to make clear'.
- I.e., documents recording the choice of judges by contending parties to decide their case, from [H] 'to select', 'to chose'. V. Sanh. 23a.
- Endorsed by the court. Cf. supra, 18a and b.
Baba Mezi'a 20b
We apprehend that there may be two [towns called] Shawire. R. Hisda then said to Rabbah: Go and consider it carefully, for in the evening R. Huna will ask you about it. So he went and examined it, and he found that we learnt, ANY DEED ISSUED BY A COURT OF LAW ONE SHALL RETURN.1 R. Amram then said to Rabbah: How does the Master derive a law relating to a religious prohibition from a civil law?2 — [Rabbah] answered him: Idle talker!3 The Mishnah taught [this law also] in regard to documents of 'halizah' and 'refusal'!4 Whereupon the cedar column of the College split in two.5 One6 said: 'It split because of my lot,'7 and the other8 said: 'It split because of my lot.'9
IF ONE FINDS [DOCUMENTS] IN A SMALL BAG OR IN A CASE. What is 'hafisah'?10 Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said: A small bag. What is 'deluskama'?11 Rabbah bar Samuel said: A case used by old people.
A ROLL OF DOCUMENTS OR A BUNDLE OF DOCUMENTS, etc. Our Rabbis taught: How many documents constitute A ROLL? Three rolled together.12 And how many constitute A BUNDLE? Three tied together. Will you deduce from this that a knot is a distinguishing mark?13 — [No] for behold R. Hiyya taught: Three rolled together.14 But if so, this is the same as A ROLL?15 — A ROLL is [made up of documents] placed end to end [and then rolled together]. A BUNDLE is [made up of documents] placed on the top of each other and then rolled together. What does [the finder] announce?16 — The number [of documents found].17 Then why [does the Mishnah] mention 'THREE', would not [the same law apply] also to two?18 — But as Rabina says:19 He announces [that he found] coins:20 Here also — he announces [that he found] documents.21
RABBAN SIMEON B. GAMALIEL SAYS: [IF THEY BELONG TO] ONE PERSON WHO BORROWED FROM THREE, ONE SHALL RETURN [THEM] TO THE BORROWER, etc. For if you were to assume that they belonged to the lenders — how did they [the documents] come to be together? But may not [the lenders] have gone [with them to the Clerk of the Court] to have them endorsed?22 — They were [already] endorsed. But may they not have been dropped by the Clerk [who endorsed them]? — people do not leave their endorsed documents with a clerk.
[IF THEY BELONG TO] THREE PERSONS WHO BORROWED FROM ONE [LENDER] ONE SHALL RETURN THEM TO THE LENDER, etc. For if you were to assume that they belonged to the borrowers23 — how did they [the documents] come to be together? — But may not [the persons mentioned in the documents as borrowers] have gone [to the same Clerk] to have them written?24 They were written in three different handwritings. But may not [the borrowers] have gone [with them to the Clerk of the Court] to have them endorsed? — The lender gets his document endorsed, but not the borrower.
IF THERE ARE NOTES OF CANCELLATION AMONG THEM ONE MUST ABIDE BY THE CONTENTS OF THE NOTES. R. Jeremiah b. Abba said in the name of Rab: A note of cancellation25 that is produced by the lender26 even if it is written in his own hand, is to be regarded merely as a prank, and is invalid. [This is so] not only when it is written by a scribe, in which case it may be said that the scribe happened to meet him [the lender] and wrote [the note],27 but even if it is in his own handwriting28 it is invalid, [for we assume that he wrote it] thinking, 'The borrower may come at dusk and pay me, and if I do not give him [the note of cancellation] he will not give me the money. I shall write [the note now], so that when he brings me the money I shall give it to him.' [But] we have learned [in the Mishnah]: IF NOTES OF CANCELLATION ARE FOUND AMONG THEM ONE SHALL ABIDE BY THE CONTENTS OF THE NOTES?29 — As R. Safra said30 it was found among torn documents, so here also it was found among torn documents.31
Come and hear: If one found among his documents [a note stating] that the note of indebtedness of Joseph b. Simeon was paid, [and there were two debtors bearing that name] the notes of both [debtors] are [deemed to have been paid]?32 — As R. Safra said it was found among torn documents, so here also it was found among torn documents.
Come and hear: We swear that our father has not instructed us or said anything to us, and that we have not found [any note] among his documents, to the effect that this note [of indebtedness] has been paid?33 R. Safra answered: If it is found among his torn documents.34
Come and hear: A note of cancellation which bears the signatures of witnesses must be corroborated by the signatories?35 Say: It must be corroborated through [the evidence of] the signatories:
Original footnotes renumbered.
- V. supra loc cit. for notes.
- In the sentence quoted from the Mishnah the reference is obviously to documents regarding commercial transactions and similar matters falling within the scope of civil law, while the question of the validity of a divorce is one ultimately affecting a moral or religious issue, and one may not derive one from the other. Cf. Ber. 19b.
- [H], a person who talks foolishly. Cf. B.K. 105b.
- Which are matters of religious law, like marriage and divorce.
- This was regarded as a protest against the incident just described.
- R. Amram.
- I.e., because of the insulting remark addressed to him by Rabbah.
- Because of the way in which R. Amram tried to refute him in public.
- The word used in the Mishnah and translated here as 'small bag'.
- [H] The word used in the Mishnah and translated here as 'a case'. The word is also frequently spelt [H] probably from the [G] = receptacle.
- This is regarded as a 'distinguishing mark' by which the loser may identify the documents when they are advertised by the finder. The finder would just announce that he had found certain documents, and the person who came forward to claim them would have to state their number and the manner in which they were rolled up.
- I.e., does the definition of a bundle as 'three fastened together' imply that the fastening, or knot, is regarded as a distinguishing mark.
- This definition implies the answer to the previous question. As R. Hiyya defined a bundle as 'three rolled together,' without being tied, it follows that the fastening or knot is not essential, and that being rolled together is in itself 'a distinguishing mark'.
- Mentioned separately in the Mishnah.
- When he advertises the find.
- He mentions the number of documents contained in the roll, and then he can claim the documents by merely stating the way in which they were rolled up.
- If the loser has not to state the number for the purpose of identification, there is no point in the Mishnah's reference to 'THREE' documents.
- Infra 25a.
- Without stating the number, which the loser has to state for the purpose of identification when he comes to claim the coins.
- Without stating the number, and the loser has to state how many documents there were. The Mishnah therefore says 'THREE' — for if there were only two documents, and the finder used the plural ('documents') in announcing them, which means at least two, the number might be guessed, and could not therefore be regarded as 'a distinguishing mark'.
- And the Clerk may have rolled them together and then lost them.
- Who received the documents back after paying their debts.
- And the clerk lost them after writing them, so that they were not used at all, and no money was lent.
- [ [H], from [G], an agreement, then the provision made for the cancellation of a contract under certain conditions.]
- Instead of being produced by the borrower.
- So that the lender might have it ready when the borrower would call to pay and would ask for a receipt.
- Showing that the lender was himself able to write, and there was no reason why he should have it written before the borrower paid the debt.
- And it is obvious that here it is the lender who produces the notes of cancellation, for it is he who found them among the notes of indebtedness in his possession.
- Below in our Gemara.
- [The bill to which the cancellation relates was found intact among torn documents, which shows that the cancellation is genuine, as otherwise the bill would not have been placed among the torn notes of indebtedness.] According to Rashi's second explanation the note of cancellation was found torn among the other torn documents held by the lender, and the fact that it was found among useless documents shows that the borrower just left it with the lender after paying him, and the latter discarded it and put it among his other useless papers. Had the lender written it for the purpose of having it ready when required he would not have put it among his useless papers.
- As each of them can claim to be the person named in the receipt. Cf. B.B. 172a. This proves that a note of cancellation in the possession of the lender is valid.
- V. Shebu. 45a. This oath has to be taken by orphans who wish to collect debts due to their father. From the text of this oath it appears that if a note of cancellation is found among the lender's documents it is valid, which contradicts the previous teaching that a note of cancellation produced by the lender is invalid.
- It is valid if it is found among the lender's torn documents. This is why the orphans have to swear that no such note has been found.
- V. Sanh. 31b. This refers to a note of cancellation in possession of the lender, who denies having been paid, as is proved by the fact that he did not surrender it to the lender. The lender is not believed if the witnesses who signed the note testify that they signed it though they are unable to testify whether the debt was paid. Otherwise the lender is believed. This proves in any case that a note of cancellation in the possession of the lender is considered valid.