י״ח באייר ה׳תשע״ה (May 7, 2015)

Ketubot 94a-b: The Discretion of the Judges

What should be done if a field is sold, or given as a gift, to two people?

The Gemara describes a case where two people claim ownership of a piece of land, and each has a signed contract with the same date of sale on it. In such a case we find a disagreement between Rav, who says that the field should be divided between them, and Shmuel, who says shuda d’dayni – it is left to the judges to decide as they see fit.

In discussing the ruling, the Gemara tells the story of Rami bar Hama’s mother, who wrote a contract giving all of her possessions to Rami. Later that day she wrote another contract, and in this one she gave all of her possessions to another son, Mar Ukva bar Hama. Rami bar Hama took the case to Rav Sheshet, who ruled that Rami was the owner of the property; Mar Ukva went to Rav Nahman, who ruled that it all belonged to Mar Ukva. When these two Sages met, Rav Sheshet explained that he ruled in favor of Rami, who received his contract first. Rav Nahman rejected that ruling, arguing that the contracts were written on the same date and the time of day they were written was not apparent. He followed Shmuel’s ruling of shuda d’dayni and felt that the mother’s true intention was to give her possessions to Mar Ukba. When Rav Sheshet argued that his ruling, too, should be considered shuda d’dayni, Rav Nahman rejected it on two counts:
Rav Sheshet’s original reasoning was not shuda d’dayni but an issue of time. Only judges – dayyanim – can decide shuda d’dayni.

This last statement of Rav Nahman is questioned by many of the rishonim. Rav Sheshet was known to be one of the great scholars during the time of the amoraim. Why should he be excluded from performing shuda d’dayni? Rashi explains that it is a technical matter. Only official dayyanim can rule on shuda d’dayni, and for all of his knowledge, Rav Sheshet never received that title. According to the Re’ah, specifically in the area of money matters, Rav Nahman was the acknowledged expert. The Meiri points out that Rav Sheshet was blind, and a blind person cannot play the role of judge, except in cases where both parties agree to accept his ruling.

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