כ׳ באלול ה׳תשע״ו (September 23, 2016)

Bava Kamma 115a-b: Salvaging the Honey

The Mishna on our daf tells a story of two people who were walking with their respective barrels, one full of valuable honey and the other filled with less valuable wine. When they realized that the barrel of honey was leaking, the man holding the barrel of wine poured it out so that he could save his friend’s more valuable honey. According to the Mishna, the man who spilled out his wine will only receive appropriate wages for his assistance (he will not receive the value of the wine he spilled out) unless he clearly reaches an agreement with the owner of the honey that he will be paid for his loss.

The Gemara objects that since it was going to be lost, the honey should be seen as hefker, similar to a case where a person transporting barrels of wine or oil, realizing that they had broken, cannot declare the wine and oil to be the teruma on the grapes and olives that he has at home. In that case, he cannot do that because once the barrels were broken, the wine and oil no longer belong to him – they automatically become hefker since they are in the process of being destroyed. The Gemara answers that we must be dealing with a case where the barrels will not be entirely destroyed, and the contents will not go totally to waste.

According to Rashi, the Gemara’s suggestion is that the person who saved the honey can claim it for his own. The Rosh explains that if the honey is hefker the person who saved it can tell his friend that if he will not pay for the lost wine then he will keep the honey for himself, since he is not really obligated to do so.

This image was taken from the Hebrew edition of the Steinsaltz Talmud, Tractate Nedarim, page 108.The Gemara’s description of a case where the barrel may break but still retain its contents is ekel bet ha-bad. The ekel is the place where olives were placed in an olive press. A heavy beam – the korat bet ha-bad – pressed down on the olives, whose oil would then pour from the hole in the ekel.

This image was taken from the Hebrew edition of the Steinsaltz Talmud, Tractate Nedarim, page 108.

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