ז׳ במרחשון ה׳תשע״ז (November 8, 2016)

Bava Metzia 43a-b: Misappropriation of a Deposit

The Mishna on today’s daf deals with a case of shole’ah yad be-fikadon – a shomer (a watchman) who misappropriates a deposit – takes an object that he was entrusted to guard, and makes use of it for his own purposes. Such a person is considered to be a gazlan – a robber – and is now responsible for anything that happens to the object. Should he have to make restitution to the owner, we find a disagreement in the Mishna regarding the question of how much he will have to pay.

  • Beit Shammai rules that he will pay the greater amount, whether it has gone up or down in value
  • Beit Hillel rules that he will pay the amount it was worth when he received it from the owner
  • Rabbi Akiva rules that he will pay the amount that it was worth at the time the owner demanded its return from the shomer.

Our Gemara discusses Rabbi Akiva’s ruling, and whether it will make any difference if there are witnesses who testify that they saw the shomer be shole’ah yad be-fikadon. Unable to determine conclusively Rabbi Akiva’s position, Rabbi Zeira instructed Rabbi Abba bar Pappa that the next time he traveled to Israel, he should detour past Sulama d’Tzur and ask Rabbi Ya’akov bar Idi if he had a tradition in this matter. Upon doing so, Rabbi Ya’akov reported that Rabbi Yohanan ruled like Rabbi Akiva in all cases, whether or not there were witnesses.

There were two main routes from Bavel to his destination – Tiberias in Israel. The Southern route would have taken Rabbi Abba from Damascus directly to the Lower Galilee via the Golan Heights. A lengthier route would take him along the Mediterranean coast, from there to Akko and on to Tiberias. To visit Rabbi Ya’akov bar Idi, the longer route was the only option.

The southernmost part of Sulama d’Tzur (Ladder of Tyre) is known today as Rosh HaNikra, where there are high cliffs that stand on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. The cliffs act as a wall on the western side of the Land of Israel.

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