ו׳ במרחשון ה׳תשע״ז (November 7, 2016)

Bava Metzia 42a-b: Safeguarding One’s Money

Some financial advice from of the Talmud –

According to Rabbi Yitzhak, it is advisable for a person to divide his wealth into three parts:

  1. shelish be-karka – one-third in land
  2. shelish bifrakmatya – one-third in business investments
  3. shelish tahat yado – one-third readily available “in hand”

A biblical hint to these recommendations can be found in Sefer Devarim (28:8) where we find that God promises to bless the individual in his granary (understood to mean something that is “in hand”), in his business and in the land.

From the context of the Gemara it appears that the suggestion that money should be kept in land means that it should be hidden by burying it. The Maharsha suggests that this can also be understood to be a recommendation that a person should have part of his wealth invested in real estate, which is seen as a particularly safe investment.

Shmuel rules that the only effective way to safeguard money – coins – is to bury it in the ground. The Rosh explains that the reason money needs a higher level of care to protect it from robbers than do other moveable objects is because robbers prefer to steal money more than any other item, since they will not have to sell it or dispose of it in some other way. Furthermore, unlike other objects, coins will not become ruined by being buried underground.

Shmuel’s ruling notwithstanding, many of the commentaries accept the position presented in the Talmud Yerushalmi that someone who is entrusted to watch someone else’s money is obligated to guard it in the way that is accepted practice in that community. The Meiri suggests that Shmuel only suggested this with regard to money that needed to be watched closely because there was reason to believe that it might be taken (e.g. by the tax collectors).

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