כ״ג באלול ה׳תשע״ו (September 26, 2016)

Bava Kamma 118a-b: Buyer Beware

The Mishna on our daf lists a number of cases where it is forbidden to purchase things because we fear that they may be stolen goods.

These include:

  • Buying wool, milk or kids from shepherds who are watching other people’s flocks.
  • Buying fruit or trees from people who are paid to guard an orchard.
  • In situations where the owner knows and approves of certain activities, there is no problem with purchasing products.
  • Examples of such arrangements are:
  • Buying from women who make woolen garments in Yehuda.
  • Buying from women who make linen garments in the Galilee.
  • Buying calves from women in the Sharon.

The Mishna rules, however, that in all cases where the purchaser is told to hide what he bought, it is forbidden to purchase, since it is likely stolen property.

The Gemara quotes a baraita that expands on these rules, explaining, for example, that already sewn woolen clothing can be purchased from shepherds, since we assume that it belongs to them. The general principle taught by the baraita is that anything that the shepherd sells that the owner would notice can be purchased.

One rule that the baraita mentions is that milk or cheese can be purchased in the desert, but not in a settled area. Rashi explains that since it is difficult to transport these back to the owner, there must be an agreement between the owner and the shepherd allowing the shepherd to keep them; The Bartenura suggests that there may even be an agreement that the shepherd should sell them and give the proceeds to the owner. The Rambam had a different reading, which allowed for purchase of milk and cheese in settled areas and forbidding it in the desert. The explanation for this position is that only in the city will the owner be able to see what the shepherd is doing. In the desert, where the owner cannot properly supervise the shepherd’s activities, we must be more careful about purchasing stolen goods.

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