כ״ג בניסן ה׳תשע״ז (April 19, 2017)

Bava Batra 87a-b: The Child and the Storekeeper

When a child is sent to the store to purchase something, who will be responsible if the child loses or breaks the object?

The Mishna on today’s daf teaches that someone who sends his child to the store with a coin – a pundeyon – in his hand, and the storekeeper gives him an issar worth of oil, together with change (a pundeyon is worth two issars), the storekeeper will be responsible if the coin is lost or if the jug of oil is broken, since he handed them to the child. Rabbi Yehuda disagrees, arguing that the fact that the child came to the store with money in his hand indicates that the intention of the parent was for him to give oil to the child. The Gemara explains that the first opinion in the Mishna would argue that sending the child was done simply to inform the storekeeper that the family wanted oil, but that there was no expectation that the child would be entrusted with it.

The question raised by the Gemara is why the storekeeper should ever be held responsible for the broken jug, since the parent entrusted his child with it. The Gemara offers a number of possible approaches, concluding that the storekeeper has taken possession of the jug for his own purposes before returning it to the child, so he may have accepted some level of responsibility for it.

Tosafot ask why the Gemara does not ask the same question about the money. If the parent entrusted a coin to the child (the pundeyon), why should the storekeeper be held responsible if a different coin (the issar) was given as change to the child and was lost?

Tosafot answer that the individual who last gave a coin to the irresponsible child is the one who will always be held responsible. The Tiferet Yisrael offers a different approach, arguing that the size of the coin is the difference. The pundeyon is a large coin that is more difficult to lose, but the issar, which is a small coin, is easy to lose and should not be given to a child.

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