Tomorrow the Daf Yomi brigade will finish Bava Batra (I'm ahead right now, and finished already). At 176 double pages Bava Batra is the longest of all tractates; actually, it's the third segment of a mega-tractate called Nezikim, which contains 414 double pages. So even at the breakneck speed of a double page a day, we've been in Nezikim for well over a year. Coming up is Sanhedrin, which deals with courts (and lots of other things, this being the Talmud).
By way of farewell from Nezikim, here's a story we passed a few weeks ago. The Gemara has spent many pages on the laws of shchiv merah - a person who is approaching death. There are various ways in which a shchiv merah differs from a healthy person when it comes to transfer of property. First, since they may have but little time left, the procedures of transferring property are mostly waived. There's no need for a contract, for example. Second, unlike a healthy person who gives someone property but then can't take it back since ownership has passed to the recipient - if a shchiv merah heals, he or she can claim the property back, since the presenting of it was predicated on approaching death which fortunately didn't happen. The way to gauge if a shchiv merah intended to give a present (irrevocable) or hand out property soon not to be needed anymore (revocable) is to see how much property was handed out. If the shchiv merah handed out all his or her property, clearly it was in the expectation of death and thus revocable.
There, I summarized the whole thing in one paragraph. Cool.
So here's the story, which I'll try to tell in a mildly accurate rendition of the original, minimal wording and all:
The sister of Rav Dimi ben Yosef owned a small orchard. Each time she was weak she'd give it too him, and take it back when she felt better. One time she was weak and sent for him:
- come, take.
- I don't want.
- come and craft it however you wish.
He came and wrote a contract which left her with part of it.
When she got up, she wanted it back.
[Rav Dimi apparently refused]
She went to Rav Nachman [perhaps the greatest judge of the period]. Rav Nachman sent to Rav Dimi: Come.
- No. What for. I left her part of it, and she signed a contract. [My case is waterproof].
- If you don't come I'll beat you with a whip that draws no blood [I'll excommunicate you].
[Rav Dimi apparently came]
[Rav Nachman to the witnesses]: What did she do?
- She cried vey I'm dying and I won't see my brother! [who was refusing to be bothered]
- In that case, she really felt she was dying, and giving presents right before death can be revoked [if death doesn't happen].
Bava Batra 151 a-b.
As I've often said, this thread starts and is explained here.