כ״א בתשרי ה׳תשע״ז (October 23, 2016)

Bava Metzia 27a-b: Distinguishing Marks

What lost objects must be announced in an attempt to locate the owner and return it? The Mishna on our daf reiterates the principle that we have seen – just like a garment (see 22:3) is something that has simanim – unique characteristics that can be used to prove ownership – all things that have simanim and whose owners will come to claim them, must be announced and returned.

Our Gemara asks whether the use of simanim is Biblical or of Rabbinic origin. The Gemara explains that while even a Rabbinic ordinance would obligate someone to return an ordinary object based on simanim, whether or not the simanim can be relied upon to return a geṭ for example, would depend on whether simanim are Biblical. If they are only Rabbinic, then we could not rely on them to allow a married woman to be considered divorced.

The rishonim explain that there are three different levels of simanim:

  1. Simanim muvhakim – clear, well established simanim, e.g. “there is a hole next to a certain letter on the document”
  2. Simanim emtza’iyim – middle level simanim, e.g. the length or weight of an object
  3. Simanim klaliyim – general simanim, e.g. the color, or that something is “long” or “heavy”

According to most opinions, the halakha is that Simanim muvhakim are considered clear proof of an object’s ownership, even on a Biblical level, while Simanim klaliyim are not considered to be reliable at all. The question in our Gemara is whether the Simanim emtza’iyim – the middle-level simanim – can also be relied upon on a Biblical level or only as a Rabbinic enactment, in which case they could be relied upon for most things, but not for questions of establishing personal status.

Previous
Next