י״ט באדר ה׳תשע״ז (March 17, 2017)

Bava Batra 54a-b: Acquisition With the Strike of a Hoe

The Gemara has been discussing a case where someone takes possession of land by performing an act that expresses ownership – the ḥazaka (presumption of ownership) of na’al, gadar u-faratz – if the recipient of the land locked the door, or put up a fence.

Our Gemara adds another action that is considered to be significant – if the person digs a hole or furrow in the ground. This act is significantly different than the others, since it relates to a specific place on the field and not to the fence that surrounds the entire field. Therefore, the Gemara on our daf brings a difference of opinion with regard to the effectiveness of digging in the ground. Can the entire field be claimed by means of this action? Rav Huna quotes Rav as saying that as long as the field is enclosed by a fence, a single hoe in the ground is a claim on the entire field. Shmuel rules that it is only significant in the place that he struck with the hoe.

The commentaries point out that this argument only applies to a case where it is an ownerless field that is being claimed – e.g. the case of the field of a convert who passed away with no living heirs. Were this a normal case with a seller and a buyer, the da’at makneh – the intent on the part of the seller to transfer ownership – will play a role in giving significance to a symbolic act and allow transfer of the entire field.

The Gemara appears to accept Rav’s opinion that if the field is enclosed, a symbolic act of digging in the ground is a claim to the entire field.

What if the field does not have a fence around it? Rav Pappa rules that it claims the amount that the ox driver ordinarily plows and then returns, beginning at the place where the hoe entered the ground.

Several different opinions are offered in explanation to this ruling.

The Rashbam understands that once a person digs two furrows on the side of the field, the entire field is claimed by him.

The Rashba and Ritva explain that it is talking about a square the length and width of the normal furrow, centered at the place where the hoe struck.

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