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Tuesday, 2 Av 5774 / July 29, 2014
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Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

Rambam - 1 Chapter a Day

She'elah uFikkadon - Chapter 5

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She'elah uFikkadon - Chapter 5

Halacha 1

If money designated to be given to the poor or to be used for the redemption of captives was given to a person, he was negligent in guarding it and it was stolen, the watchman is not liable. This is derived from Exodus 22:6, which states: "If a man gives money or articles to his colleague to watch...." The wording implies that obligations determined by the verse apply when the money or the article was given to watch, but not when it was given to divide among the poor. This decision is rendered, because there is no one to claim the money as his own.

Even if the thieves attacked the person and he saved himself by giving them the money designated for the redemption of captives, he is not liable. There is no greater redemption of captives than this.

When does the above apply? When the money was not entrusted to him for the sake of the poor people of a particular place or a designated group of captives. If, however, the money was designated for a particular group of poor people or captives, and is thus set aside for them, it is considered to be money that people can claim. Therefore, the watchman must pay if he was negligent, or take an oath that he was not negligent, as is required of all watchmen.

Halacha 2

The following rules apply when a person entrusts money or valuable articles to a colleague, thieves come and attack him and he gives them the entrusted article before offering any of his other property to save himself. If the person has the reputation of being wealthy, he is liable. The rationale is that we may presume that the thieves came because of the watchman. Thus, he is saving himself with money belonging to a colleague. If the watchman does not have the reputation of being wealthy, we presume that the thieves came only because of the entrusted article. Hence, the watchman is not liable. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.

Halacha 3

The following rules apply when a person entrusts articles or fruit to a colleague. If thieves come and steal the entrusted article in his presence and he remains silent, he may be held liable. If people would have come and rescued the entrusted article had he called out, he is considered negligent for remaining silent and he is obligated to make restitution. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.

Halacha 4

The following laws apply when two people entrusted money to a colleague, one 100 zuz and the other 200 zuz, both claim to have entrusted the 200 zuz, and the watchman does not recall which one deposited 200, and which one 100. Each of the claimants must take an oath that he was the one who deposited the 200 zuz He may then collect the money he claims,14 as is the law with regard to any person who takes an oath and collects his due. The watchman must pay each claimant 200, losing 100 zuz from his own resources. The rationale is that he was negligent, for he should have written down the name of each person on the packet that he entrusted.

Therefore, if the two people together brought him the 300 zuz in a single packet, and afterwards each claims that the 200 belongs to him, the watchman is not considered negligent if he does not remember who brought the larger sum. He should give each one a maneh, and the balance should remain in the watchman's possession forever, or until one of them acknowledges the other's claim.21 The rationale is that the watchman can explain: "I saw that you two were not precise with each other, as indicated by the fact that you brought the money to me in a single packet. Therefore, I did not trouble myself to know and continuously remember who owned 100 and who owned 200."

Similar laws apply if two people entrusted one watchman with two utensils, one large and one small, each one claimed to be the owner of the larger utensil, and the watchman did not remember to whom it belonged. Each of the claimants must take an oath supporting his claim. The watchman must then give one of them the larger utensil, and the value of the larger one to the other. The smaller utensil remains his.If the two brought the two in a single container, he should give the smaller utensil to one and the worth of that utensil to the other. He may keep the remainder in his possession until one claimant acknowledges the other's claim or until eternity.

Similar laws apply if only one article was entrusted, and two people claim it as their own and the watchman says, "One of you is the owner, but I do not know which one." He must pay both of them. Similarly, when two people each entrust an animal to a shepherd, and one animal dies, if the watchman does not know whose animal died, he must make restitution to both of them. If they placed them in his herd without informing him, he may place one animal between them and depart. That animal shall remain until one acknowledges the other's claim or until they desire to divide it.

Halacha 5

When a person entrusts produce to a colleague, the watchman should not mix it together with his own produce. The following rules apply if the watchman transgressed and mixed the produce together. He should calculate the quantity of produce entrusted to him, see how much produce was lacking from the entire amount and estimate the amount of loss suffered by the entrusted produce. He should return this amount to the owner after he takes an oath.

If the watchman made use of the combined quantity of produce and did not know how much he used, he should subtract the standard norm before returning the produce. For example, for wheat and for shelled rice, he should subtract four and a half kabbin for every kor; for barley and for millet, he should subtract nine kabbin for each kor; and for buckwheat, flax seeds in their stalks and unshelled rice, he should subtract three se'ah for each kor.

When does the above apply? When the original measurement of the produce was made at harvest time, and it was returned during the harvest time. If, however, the watchman returns the produce in the rainy season, he should not make a deduction because of spoilage, for the produce swells.

Similarly, a watchman may deduct a sixth of a quantity of wine entrusted to him and three lugin for every 100 lugin of oil entrusted to him, one and half lugin for dregs and one and a half lugin for absorption. If the oil was refined, the watchman should not make a deduction for dregs. If the containers are old, he should not make a deduction for absorption.

Halacha 6

When a person entrusts produce that has not been measured to a watchman, and the watchman mixes it together with his own produce without measuring it, the watchman is considered negligent.

If the owner of the fruit says, "There was this and this amount of produce entrusted," and the watchman says, "I don't know how much there was," he is liable. For he is obligated to take an oath and yet cannot take the oath. My teachers, Rav Yosef HaLevi and his teacher, ruled in this manner.

Similarly, whenever a watchman is obligated to pay, but does not know how much he is obligated to pay, if the owners say: "It was worth such and such," they may collect this amount without taking an oath. This law applies provided the owner claims a sum or an object that he can be presumed to possess. The watchman may have a ban of ostracism issued against anyone who expropriates more than his due.

What is the rationale for this law? Consider: The owner entrusted a purse full of gold coins to the watchman, and the watchman was negligent. The owner says, "It contained 200 dinarim, and the watchman says, "It certainly contained dinarim, but I do not know how much it contained." Thus, a claim is being issued for 200. The watchman admits a portion of the claim, and does not know about the remainder of the claim. He is thus obligated to take an oath, but cannot. Hence, he is required to pay, as will be explained.

Halacha 7

The following rules apply when a person's father died, leaving him a closed sack. The heir entrusted it to a colleague for safekeeping, the colleague was negligent in its care, and it was destroyed. The depositor says, "I don't know what it contained. Maybe it contained pearls." Similarly, the watchman states: "I don't know how much I am obligated to pay. Maybe it was filled with pieces of glass."

I maintain that the ruling in this instance is that, as our Sages required, the watchman should take an oath that the entrusted object is no longer in his domain. He should include in this oath that he does not know whether it was worth more than a specific amount. He must then pay the amount that he admits that it was worth. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.

An incident occurred concerning a person who entrusted a closed sack to his colleague. The latter was negligent in its care, and it was lost. The owner said, "It contained gold jewelry, pearls and the like." The watchman replied: "I don't know. Perhaps all it contained were pieces of scrap metal or sand."

Our Sages ruled: "The owner of the entrusted article may take an oath supporting his claim, and then collect the sum he claims, provided he claims a sum that he could be presumed to have entrusted to him.

Why must the owner of the entrusted article take an oath in this instance?Because in this instance, the watchman is not obligated to take an oath. For even if the watchman were to admit and say: "I am definitely certain that it contained scrap metal," and the owner claimed: "It contained pearls," the watchman could take a sh'vuat hesset and be freed of obligation. This resembles a case where the plaintiff demands wheat and the defendant admits owing barley. The same laws apply in all analogous situations. The fundamental principles upon which these laws revolve will be explained in Hilchot To'en V'Nit'an.

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