Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Death and Transactions

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.


Anonymous said...

what a marvel - pure delight

more - more - more - please!!!


PS: is there a book on sale with these stories and elaborations?

Soccer Dad said...

The midrashim or should I call them the extra-halachic sections of the Talmud are compiled in a work called Ein Yaakov, which, I believe has been translated into English.

If you're interested in Hebrew, there's Sefer Ha-agadah by Bialik and (?).


Mazel Tov. But I thought that we're about 10 days away from finishing Bava Batra. Isn't your group also a bit ahead of schedule?


Yaacov said...

Well, Soccer, my relationship to Daf, alas, is a bit Kepplerian. Sometimes I'm behind the rest of you, sometimes I'm ahead. Right now I'm ahead, enjoying the quibbles about how may judges are three judges (Sanhedrin 2-3), and if we read sections like it says, or like we read (Mikra-masoret). The last time I did Sanhedrin was almost 40 years ago, but I remember it fondly.

Soccer Dad said...

I know that you're ahead ... but your group is also ahead by week.

I didn't learn Sanhedrin that long ago. It remains the only major Massechet that I completed before starting Daf Yomi. But I remember the Shiur we had from Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein. He kept saying "Zabla," and no one knew what he meant. I guess if we'd thought about it we'd have figured it out.

Good Shabbos.

Yaacov said...

Git Woch.

Don't tell anyone, but about a year ago, having wandered from shiur to shiur, none of which was perfect, I decided to see if I could do Daf with the Brookliner, i.e the Hebrew version of Reb Schottenstein. Yep, I actually can. So that's how I'm off schedule. It's not perfect, but it seems to work well enough for me.

Shabbos afternoons I participate in a shiur given by Sefi Elon. The group has been at it for almost 25 year; I joined when we moved into this neighborhood in 2006. It's magnificent. Also, obviously, a lot slower than daf. Right now we're nearing the end of Bava Batra; I expect we'll get there in about a year, give or take.