י״ז בתשרי ה׳תשע״ז (October 19, 2016)

Bava Metzia 23a-b: Finding a Sealed Jug

As we noted in the Mishna (daf 21a ) lost objects that have a siman – some identifying mark that will allow the object to be claimed by its rightful owner – must be announced and returned. Things that do not have identifying marks can be claimed by the individual who found them. Our Gemara works at determining what might be considered a siman. Would the weight of an object be a siman? How about its placement?

In an attempt to clarify some of these questions, the Gemara points out an apparent contradiction between two statements of tanna’im. In the first, a baraita teaches that someone who finds haviyot – barrels or jugs – of wine, oil, grain, olives, etc. can keep them. Our Mishna, however, rules that jugs of wine and of oil that are found must be announced and returned. In response to this seeming inconsistency, Rabbi Zeira quotes Rav as saying that the Mishna must be talking about a case where there is a siman, specifically that the jugs were rashum – they were sealed.

A havit was a large earthenware utensil that was used to hold a variety or things – usually liquids, and most often wine. It was closed with a megufa, a type of plug or stopper that was made from clay. The megufa could not fully seal the opening of the havit, which was made to be opened and closed easily. In order to close the havit totally, it was customary to seal the stopper with soft clay or mud – an activity referred to as roshmim. It was not unusual for the owner of the havit to place a sign or signature in this clay. Thus, as opposed to the havit itself, which was a commercial, standardized object, the rishum was a unique signature, done by every person differently.

 

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