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Shabbat Parashat Tazria Metzora | 5769

Hemdat Hadaf Hayomi: We Will Return to you Masechet Baba Kama

Baba Kama 112-118


This coming Sunday, B"H, we will complete Masechet Baba Kama. At the completion of a Masechet it is customary to say "Hadran Alach Masechet…"- we will return to you Masechet… It is also customary to say a Dvar Torah on the last passage of the Masechet, and this Dvar Torah is called "Hadran." There are even "Hadran" books containing Divrei Torah on the last passage of many Masechtot. We will follow this custom and write about the last passage in Baba Kama.

The last Halacha in Baba Kama (119b) is "Rav Yehudah said: There is no prohibition of stealing in taking Keshut and Chaziz, and in a place where owners are interested in them, there is a prohibition of stealing." The previous passage in the Gemara deals with things that were given to a craftsman to work on or to fix, and as a result of the work there are some leftovers from the material that were not used or removed. The question is whether the craftsman is allowed to keep these leftovers for himself or must he return them to the owner. The basic rule is that if these leftovers are things that the owner would be interested in them then he must return them, but if not, he may keep them for himself. Rav Yehudah adds that Keshut and Chaziz are things that people are normally not interested in and one may take them from someone else's field, unless this is a place where people are interested in them.

Keshut is a type of weed that grows by attaching itself to another plant, and can thus cause damage to agriculture. Thus, it is understandable why Rav Yehudah defines it as something that one may take. However, Chaziz, Rashi explains this as grain which is not yet fully grown and is still green. It is more difficult to understand why one should be permitted to take unripe grain. The Maharshal (Yam Shel Shlomo Baba Kama 10, 61) suggests that this refers only to grain that grew wildly.   

The Maharshal also learns from the general statement of the Gemara that there is no prohibition of stealing, that not only is a worker in the field permitted to take them, but also that any person may take them, since the owner is not interested in them. We find a similar Halacha in the Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 359, 2): "It is prohibited to rob even a small amount either from a Jew or from a gentile. However, if it is something that no one is concerned about such as taking as splinter from a package or a fence to pick one's teeth, it is permitted, although the Yerushalmi condemns this as not being exemplary behaviour (Midat Chasidut)." The reasoning of the Yerushalmi (Demai 3, 2) is that if everyone were to take only a splinter from the fence, in the end there would be no fence left, but by Keshut and Chaziz, it appears that even if people will take all the Keshut and Chaziz the owners wouldn't mind and therefore it appears that even the Yerushalmi would not prohibit.

The Masechet ends: "Ravina said: Mata Mechasia is a place where people are concerned." Meaning, in Mata Mechasia people are interested in Keshut and Chaziz and therefore one may not take them from someone else's field. In Mata Mechasia was one of the great Yeshivot of Babel, the Sura Yeshiva which was founded by Rav. The last of the Amoraim, Ravina and Rav Ashi, taught in this Yeshiva, and the yeshiva thrived until the end of the period of the Geonim. We need to try to understand why the people of Mata Mechasia were concerned with these weeds. Rashi explains that the people of Mata Mechasia needed them for grazing their animals. However, from another statement of Ravina it appears that in general the people of Mata Mechasia were concerned about their property.

The Gemara in Yuma (86a) states that it is a Chillul Hashem to take meat from a butcher without paying, on the promise of paying, but in a place where the butchers make sure to follow up and demand their payment this is not Chillul Hashem. Ravina states there that Mata Mechasia is such a place where the butchers make sure to demand payment. Seeing together these two statements of Ravina we can reach the conclusion that the people of Mata Mechasia were concerned with their money and property.

Based on this understanding, we can explain another difficult Gemara. The Gemara in Brachot (17b) claims that the verse in Yeshayahu (46, 12) "Listen to me you stout-hearted, that are far from generosity (Tzedakah)" is referring to the gentiles of Mata Mechasia. The Gemara refers to them as stout-hearted since they see the greatness of Torah learning twice a year (in the months of Adar and Elul there were the great assemblies for Torah learning) but they nevertheless do not convert. This Gemara is confounding at first glance. What is this demand from these gentiles? My Rebbi, Rav Nachum Rabbinowitz, explained that the Gemara is actually coming to criticize the Jews of Mata Mechasia. How is it, that despite having this great center of Torah learning, they do not influence the surrounding gentiles? The answer is in the conclusion of the verse - "far from generosity." Because the people of Mata Mechasia were concerned with their money and did not do enough Tzedakah, even though the Torah learning was in full capacity, since they did not apply the Torah to the realms of charity and generosity, it was not able to radiate and impress the surrounding gentiles.

Let us pray that our Torah learning will be one of Torat-Chesed and will shine also to people who are still far from Torah.

We will return to you Masechet Baba Kama.

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This edition of Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of

R ' Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga  Brachfeld



Hemdat Yamim is
endowed by
Les & Ethel Sutker
of Chicago, Illinois
in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker


Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.

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