כ״ה בשבט ה׳תשע״ז (February 21, 2017)

Bava Batra 30a-b: Too Busy To Protest

On yesterday’s daf we learned about the power of ḥazaka – of presumptive ownership, working or living on land for three years – which can serve as a proof to a claim that one had purchased the property. As we saw, the reasoning behind this rule is that if he did not own the land, the true owner should have challenged his use of the land during that time.

What if the person who claims that he is the true owner was out of the country and claims that he did not know that anyone was on his land?

The Gemara on today’s daf tells of just such a case. Someone approached his friend and exclaimed to him “What are you doing in this house?” The accused answered “I purchased it from you and have been living here for more than three years!” In response the accuser said “I have been away on business in the outer marketplaces – be-shukei bara’ei – and did not know that you were living here.” The accused individual said “but I have witnesses that you spent a month of each year here in the community [and you still did not protest my being here]!” The accuser responded that during the time he was here he was busy with his business, to the exclusion of all other things. Rava rules that the argument is a reasonable one and that the purchaser will have to bring proof of his purchase, the years of ḥazaka notwithstanding.

The claim of be-shukei bara’ei is understood by the Ramban as referring to a specific place that was far away. Most commentaries understand that it is a reference to travel to a place where caravans back and forth were limited or non-existent. Rabbeinu Ḥananel suggests that this halakha is true when there is a war or an emergency situation that did not allow for free travel between the two places.

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