כ״ח בשבט ה׳תשע״ז (February 24, 2017)

Bava Batra 33a-b: Culling Dates

Sometimes, the certainty of a claim is enough to make the court believe someone.

The Gemara on today’s daf quotes Rav Yehuda as teaching that if a man goes by carrying his magala and tovelaya, saying “I will go and cull the dates from the date palm that I purchased from so-and-so” we will believe him. The Gemara explains that this is based on the assumption that no one would have the gall to publicly harvest a date palm that was not his.

Tosafot and other rishonim point out that what gives this individual “believability” is not his public statement, so much as his public actions, i.e. harvesting the dates. He would even be believed if he harvested them without public fanfare, so long as he did not do it in a way that appeared to be covert. The Rashbam explains that this assumption only works after the fact, but if the original owner of the date palm stood in his way and objected to his actions, we would not trust his claim of purchase simply based on trust.

Two harvest implements are mentioned – magala and tovelaya. The magala is a type of sickle used in cutting down the dates. The tovelaya is the subject of some dispute.

According to Rabbeinu Ḥananel, the tovelaya is a rope that was commonly used by harvesters when climbing trees. Rabbeinu Gershom suggests that it was a basket which was used to catch the dates as they were cut with the magala. People would bring a sickle with a long handle and attach the long handle to the basket so that the fruit would land in the basket. Another explanation that appears in the Arukh is that the tovelaya is a cloth that was placed on the ground during the harvest so that the fruits would fall on it and could be collected easily without falling on the floor.

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