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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Mezi'a

Baba Mezi'a 45a

A denar may not be lent for a denar [to be returned].1  Now, which denar is meant? Shall we say, a silver denar for a silver denar [to be repaid]: but is there any view that it does not rank as money even in relation to itself?2  Hence it must obviously mean a gold denar for a gold denar. Now, with whom [does this ruling agree]? If with Beth Hillel — but they maintain that it ranks as coin! Therefore it must surely be in accordance with Beth Shammai, thus proving that it was R. Johanan who held that such redemption is not permissible! — No. In truth, I may assert that R. Johanan ruled that such redemption may be made, but a loan is different. For since the Rabbis treated it as produce in reference to buying and selling,3  as we say that it is that [sc. gold] which appreciates or depreciates,4  it ranks as produce in reference to loans too. This is reasonable too. For when Rabin came,5  he said in R. Johanan s name: Though it was ruled that a denar may not be lent for a denar [to be repaid], yet the second tithe may be redeemed therewith. This proves it.6

Come and hear: If one changes7  a sela''s worth of second tithe [copper] coins, Beth Shammai rule: the full sela''s worth of coins must be changed.8  But Beth Hillel rule: [He may change] only a shekel's worth into silver, and retain a shekel's worth of coins.9  Now, if in Beth Shammai's opinion redemption may be made with [copper] perutahs,10  can there be a doubt that it may be redeemed with gold? — Copper coins are different, for where they circulate, they have greater currency.11

Another version puts is thus: R. Johanan and Resh Lakish [differ thereon]: One maintains that the dispute concerns changing sela's for [gold] denarii. Beth Shammai hold that 'the money' implies the first money, but not the second;12  whereas Beth Hillel argue, 'the money … money' implies extension,13  thus including even a second [redemption of] money. But all agree that [actual] produce may be redeemed by [gold] denarii, since it [sc. the gold denarii] is, after all still the first money. Whilst the other maintains: The dispute concerns the exchanging of [real] produce for [gold] denarii too.14  Now, on the view that the dispute refers only to the exchange of sela's for denarii, instead of stating the dispute in reference to the exchange of sela's for denarii, let it be stated in reference to the exchange of sela's for sela's!15  — If the dispute were stated thus, I might have thought that it applies only thereto, but as for exchanging sela's for [gold] denarii, Beth Hillel concede to Beth Shammai that gold ranks as produce in respect to silver, and therefore such redemption is not permissible. Hence we are taught otherwise.

Come and hear: If one exchanges a sela' of second tithe in Jerusalem,16  Beth Shammai say: He must exchange the whole sela' for [copper] coins.17  But Beth Hillel rule: He must change it into a silver shekel, and [retain] a shekel's worth of [copper] coins.18  Now, if silver may be redeemed with [copper] Perutahs, and we do not say. [It may be exchanged into] money once, but not twice: are we to say it in respect of gold, which is more valuable?19  — Said Raba: Do you raise an objection from Jerusalem! Jerusalem is different, since it is written thereof, And thou shalt bestow that money [sc. in Jerusalem] for whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, for oxen, for sheep, [etc.].20

Come and hear: 'If one changes a sela''s worth of second tithe [copper] coins, Beth Shammai rule: the full sela''s worth of coins must be changed.21  But Beth Hillel rule: He must change only a shekel's worth into silver, and retain a shekel's worth of coins'?22  — Hence [we must assume that] all agree, that 'the silver … silver' is an extension, including even a second redemption of money.23  But if a dispute between R. Johanan and Resh Lakish was stated, It was stated thus: One maintains: Their dispute concerns the changing of sela's into [gold] denarii only. Beth Shammai hold: We forbid this as a precautionary measure,

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Lest it appreciates in the interval, and so the injunction of usury be violated.
  2. Since the aforementioned injunction applies only to produce, not coin.
  3. v. Mishnah: GOLD ACQUIRES SILVER.
  4. I.e., when the rate of exchange between silver and gold varies, we regard the change as having taken place in the value of the gold, the value of the silver remaining unaltered. That follows from the Mishnaic ruling. GOLD ACQUIRES SILVER, and it is axiomatic that variation is to be attributed to the produce, not the money.
  5. From Palestine to Babylon.
  6. The distinction between redemption and loan.
  7. Heb. [H] denotes to break up, hence primarily to change coins into others of smaller denomination. By extension, however, it came to mean any changing of coin, even for those of a larger denomination, and is thus used here.
  8. I.e., if one has that amount of coins for changing, he must change it all for a single sela'. Beth Shammai insist that the whole of the exchange must be done at once, not in two or three times, because the banker takes his commission on every single transaction, and so there is less left for spending in Jerusalem (Tosaf.); v. next note. But from Rashi it would appear that Beth Shammai's ruling is merely permissive, and is in contradistinction to the view of Beth Hillel. In that case, the passage should be translated: the full sel'a's worth of coins may be changed.
  9. For as soon as he enters Jerusalem, he needs small change-perutahs-to buy food. This will cause a general rush on the banker, the rate of exchange will advance, and the purchasing power of the money will be diminished, with the consequent reduction in the quantity of comestibles to be purchased and consumed as second tithe; v. 'Ed. I, 9.
  10. Since Beth Shammai discuss the changing of copper coins of the second tithe into silver, they must admit that in the first place the produce was redeemed by these copper coins.
  11. So that though it may be redeemed for copper, it is nevertheless possible that it may not be redeemed with gold, in accordance with one of the views stated above.
  12. The reference is to Deut. XIV. 25: Then thou shalt turn it into money and bind up the money in thine hand, and shalt go unto the place which the Lord thy God shall choose. 'The Money', in the opinion of Beth Shammai, implies that the first money for which the second tithe was redeemed must be carried to Jerusalem, but not the second: i.e., once it was redeemed, the redemption money may not be exchanged for other coins.
  13. 'Money' is stated several times in the passage: Thou shalt turn it into money and bind up the money … And thou shalt bestow that money… this repetition implies an extension of changing. I.e., that the money may be changed or redeemed more than once.
  14. Beth Shammai regard gold as produce, for which the agricultural products cannot be redeemed.
  15. Since here too it is a second redemption of money, which, according to Beth Shammai, is forbidden.
  16. Having brought sela's to Jerusalem, he now proceeds to change them into smaller coins for current use.
  17. v. p. 267. n. 4, which applies here too.
  18. For he may not stay long enough in Jerusalem to expend it all, in which case he must leave the rest there until his next visit. But copper coins are liable to corrosion, and therefore unsuitable for preserving; whilst should he wish to change them back into silver at the end of his stay, he must pay commission again (Ed. 1, 10); v. p. 267, n. 4.
  19. And consequently has a greater claim to be regarded as produce (v. p. 262, n. 3). Tosaf. observes: It is obvious even to the questioner that a distinction must be drawn between Jerusalem and elsewhere. Outside Jerusalem, the main form of exchange is that of produce for perutahs or sela's, to lighten the burden of carrying, whereas in Jerusalem it is the reverse: the sela's being exchanged either for foodstuffs direct or into perutahs, for day-to-day purchases. Consequently, this cannot be urged as an objection against the first version of the difference between Resh Lakish and R. Johanan, or against the view expressed in the second version that Beth Shammai and Beth Hillel differ even in respect of the exchange of produce for gold denarii, the dispute centering on the question whether gold ranks as produce or coin. But it is raised as an objection against the view that Beth Shammai permit only one exchange into money, but not a further exchange; this difficulty is urged on the hypothesis that in that respect there is no difference between Jerusalem and elsewhere, to which Raba replies (v. text) that here too a distinction is drawn.
  20. Deut. XIV, 26: i.e., every form of exchange is permitted, even into coins of smaller denominations, for greater convenience.
  21. v. p. 267. n. 4.
  22. Though this does not refer to Jerusalem, both Beth Shammai and Beth Hillel agree that a second money change is permissible.
  23. v. p. 268, n. 2.
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Baba Mezi'a 45b

lest one postpone his pilgrimages [to Jerusalem], for he may not have the full number of silver coins1  required for a [gold] denar, and so will not take them up [thither];2  whilst Beth Hillel are of the opinion that we do not fear that he may postpone his pilgrimages, for even if they are insufficient to change into a denar, he will still take them up.3  But all agree that produce may be redeemed with [gold] denarii, for since it rots [if kept long], he will certainly not keep it back. But the other maintains: The dispute refers even to the exchange of produce for denarii.4

Now, according to the version that by Biblical law it [the exchange] is indeed permitted, but that the Rabbis forbade it, it is well: hence he [the Tanna] teaches 'he may turn'…'he may not turn.'5  But according to the version that they differ in Scriptural law, he should have stated, 'One can redeem'…'one cannot redeem!'6  This difficulty remains.

It has been stated: Rab and Levi-one maintains: Coins can effect a barter; the other rules that they cannot — 7 Said R. Papa: What is his reason who maintains that a coin cannot effect a barter? Because his [the recipient's] mind is set on the legend thereof,8  and the legend is liable to cancellation.9

We learnt: GOLD ACQUIRES SILVER. Does that not mean, even in virtue of barter, thus proving that a coin may effect a barter? — No; only in virtue of payment.10  If so, instead of stating, GOLD ACQUIRES SILVER, he should have said, 'Gold sets up a liability for silver'!11 — Learn: 'Gold sets up a liability for [etc.].'12  Reason supports this too;13  since the second clause states. SILVER DOES NOT ACQUIRE GOLD. Now, should you agree that it means, 'in virtue of payment.' it is well: thus we say, gold ranks as produce, silver as money, and money cannot effect a title in respect of produce. But should you maintain that the reference is to barter — let each acquire the other!14  Moreover, it has been taught: Silver does not acquire gold: E.g.. If one sells twenty-five silver denarii for a gold denar, even if the other party takes possession of the silver, he does not acquire it until he [the first] takes possession of the gold. Now, should you agree that the reference is to payment, it is well: therefore he gains no title thereto. But if you maintain that this treats of barter, let him acquire it! — What then: as payment? If so, consider the first clause: Gold acquires silver: e.g. If one sold a gold denar for twenty-five silver denarii, immediately the other party takes possession of the gold, the ownership of the silver vests [in the first] wherever it be. Now, should you agree that the reference is to barter, it is well: hence it is taught, the ownership of the silver vests [in the first] wherever it be.15  But should you maintain that it treats of payment, instead of saying thus, he [the Tanna] should have taught: The man [the recipient of the gold] becomes liable [for the silver]!16  — Said R. Ashi: After all, it refers to payment, and what is meant by 'wherever it be', is 'just as it is,' viz., as he stipulated. [Thus:] If he had stated. 'I will give you [coins] out of a new purse',17  he cannot give him [coins] out of an old purse,18  even If they are superior.19  Why? Because he can say, 'I need them to store away.'20

R. Papa said: Even on the view that a coin cannot effect a barter, — though indeed it cannot effect a barter, it can nevertheless be acquired through barter.21  For this may be compared to produce, according to R. Nahman's view. Thus, though in R. Nahman's view produce cannot effect a barter,22  yet it can surely be acquired through barter; so coin too is not [in any way] different.

An objection is raised: If one is standing in a granary and has no money with him, he may say to his friend, 'Behold, this produce is given to you as a gift;'

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Lit., 'zuzim'.
  2. A gold denar was a large sum of money, and might exceed the whole value of the second tithe. Hence, if one were permitted to change the silver sela's into gold, he might postpone the pilgrimage altogether until another harvest.
  3. The weight of these silver coins will certainly not prevent anyone from going to Jerusalem.
  4. Even there the fear of postponement is entertained.
  5. Supra 44b.
  6. One may turn, etc., (lit., 'do') implies that such redemption is possible, and the only question is whether it is permitted (by the Rabbis) or not. But if it is a question of Biblical law, then the dispute is whether such a redemption is effective or not, for if e.g.. sela's cannot be redeemed by denarii, they still retain their sanctity even if so redeemed.
  7. Halifin = barter, exchange. It is a technical term, connoting delivery of a small object representing a larger one which is being bartered. Upon this delivery, the recipient becomes liable for the object he is to give in exchange, though he has not yet received the real object of barter, the transaction having been consummated by this delivery. Now, as was stated in the Mishnah, in a purchase the delivery of the money does not effect the transaction. That, however, may be only if it is delivered in payment. But what if the transaction is made as barter instead of purchase, i.e.. money is bartered for goods: can a coin received by one party in exchange for goods, or as a mere token of delivery, consummate the transaction? This is disputed by Rab and Levi.
  8. I.e., the figure which is stamped on the coin, and which gives it its value. Now, when an ordinary object is used as halifin, the recipient accepts its own intrinsic value as symbolical of the whole. But when a man receives a coin, he does not think of the intrinsic value of the metal, but merely of its worth on account of the legend it bears.
  9. The State may cancel that particular coin. In that case, nothing of value has been given at all, since, as stated in the previous note, the value of the metal is disregarded. Symbolical delivery, however, can be effected only by an article that has some intrinsic value.
  10. I.e., when it is delivered as actual payment for the silver coin, but not as a mere symbolical delivery of barter.
  11. GOLD ACQUIRES SILVER implies that immediately after the gold coin is delivered, the recipient's silver coin vests in the other party, wherever it be; and that indeed is the effect of a transaction consummated as barter. If, however, the gold coin is legally regarded as payment for the article, its effect is merely to create an obligation upon the recipient of an agreed amount of silver, which then ranks as an ordinary debt. In that case, the Mishnah should have stated, GOLD SETS UP A LIABILITY FOR SILVER.
  12. Though this type of answer frequently means that the text of the Mishnah actually needs emending (v. Weiss, Dor. 111, 6 n. 14) that is probably not so here. The answer simply states that the Mishnaic phrase GOLD ACQUIRES SILVER means, 'Gold sets up a liability for silver.'
  13. Sc. that the Mishnah refers to the delivery of gold coin as payment, not as barter.
  14. Since they are not regarded as coins at all, what is the difference between gold and silver?
  15. V. p. 271, n. 2.
  16. V. n. 2.
  17. I.e., new coins.
  18. I.e., old coins.
  19. E.g. better cast or weightier.
  20. Hence I require new coins, as old ones may become mouldy. According to this interpretation, the Baraitha does in fact refer to the recipient's liability.
  21. I.e., once the owner of the coin takes possession of an object either delivered to him symbolically or in exchange against it, the ownership of the money vests in the other party.
  22. I.e., one cannot make a symbolical delivery of fruit and thereby acquire the object that is being bartered. — For this view of R. Nahman, and the opposing view of R. Shesheth v. infra 47a.
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