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How many different interpretations can a single word have? When can we apply the same rules of linguistics to the teachings of different sages? What is it that makes the borrower's pledge so unreliable?

Talmud Study - Lesson 6

Talmud Study - Lesson 6

Why is a Borrower Held to a Stricter Standard?

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Talmud Study - Lesson 6: Why is a Borrower Held to a Stricter Standard?

How many different interpretations can a single word have? When can we apply the same rules of linguistics to the teachings of different sages? What is it that makes the borrower's pledge so unreliable?
Lesson 6 Handout, Lesson 6: Talmud Text, Lesson 6: Talmud Text in English
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Talmud, Tractate Bava Metziah
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Shaul Wolf February 28, 2014

Re: renter vs borrower This point is indeed the discussion of the Gemarah. Rav Zvid's reasoning to differentiate between a borrower and a renter is precisely the point you have made, that the borrower has not paid anything for the item and reaps full benefit.
However, according to the second version of Rav Papa, even a borrower receives rights to the profit of an animal by merely pledging to pay. Apparently Rav Papa did not regard Rav Zvid's reasoning enough to exempt him of such a privilege. Rather Rav Papa asserted, that because even the borrower had an avenue to exempt himself, were he to claim that the animal died as a result of it's labor, he is rewarded the profits of the item he borrowed.
The beraisa brought further in the discussion ultimately serves to prove Rav Zvid's ruling, that a borrower is indeed different from a renter, and does not earn the profits of the item he borrowed by merely pledging to pay. Reply

Jerome S. Medowar Merrick February 19, 2014

Renter vs. Borrower Glad to see my comment.. Hope to see discussion! Thank you Reply

Jerome S. Medowar Merrick, New York February 6, 2014

Borrower vs. Renter Dear Rabbi, I am enjoying these lessons and have completed No. 6. I respectfully and humbley disagree with your interpretation of Braisa (1) and Braisa (2). I thought you were about agree with my thoughts at point 35:35 on the video when you pointed out that the RENTER pays for the privilege of borrowing vs. the BORROWER who pays nothing for the privilege. Therefore if a RENTER says to an owner: "I will pay you in full right now if you would lend me an item....and in addition if I lose it, or it is stolen...I will pay you in full for the value of ther item!"...in this case he would be entitled to recover profits if recovered. A mere BORROWER who has paid nothing....his pledge is worth nothing....and he must pay full value before he is entiled to profits. Reply

W Segal Yorktown Heights, NY/USA December 12, 2011

Lesson 6 question I have what is, I fear, a rather naive question about the existence of 2 contrary statements by Rav Papa. Did Rav Papa really say two contrary statements, or are there merely some who said he said (a), and some others who remember it differently - that he said (b) instead? If Rav Papa said two contrary statements, why did the Talmud not try to reconcile them rather than trying to determine which was correct? Reply

Wise SC, U.S.A November 23, 2010

Talmud, lesson six my thinking is that G_d actually put down this law to deter the thief from stealing regardless of his condition, hoping the thief would fear to pay double if he's caught, thereby fear to steal a portion of the potential stolen item.
So in my opinion, i think God intended the double payments to always come to the principle owner, regardless of whether or not he's been paid back by any of the guardians.
In my infantile opinion, i don't think the owner's rights transfer to any of the guardians, except voluntarily, is that exactly what u r teaching, or am i not understanding the lessons properly?
BTW, i love your lessons :) Reply

E Einschlag November 2, 2010

Two Questions Rabbi Wolf,

I have two questions:

First, Reb Zvid claims that the borrower does not gain the rights to the thief's fine "until he pays," but the braisa he quotes does not use that wording. It only says what happens if he does pay. How can we be sure of what will happen if he hasn't yet paid? The braisa does not mention this situation.

Second, the Gemara has two accountings of Rav Papa's speech, as if we do not know which one he actually said. But then, Rav Papa comes back and defends his second version. How is this possible?

Thank you so much for your class. Reply

kameo the netherlands October 30, 2010

rich thinking I was wondering is this rich and creative and profound thinking also taught in Law schools all over the world?

I mean do Law schools also teach like this?
It wonders me that this way of law i like so much! Reply

Richard Raff BonneyLake, WA May 30, 2010

Lesson 6 i am sure glad that you provided handouts for these lessons. i am ordering some books on the Talmud as well. i even take the handouts and study them while waiting for pizza. Look... to my right on this page, there happens to be the lesson on mp3. Could it be free? i can not believe this wow just greatness. Reply

Rabbi Eliezer Wolf June 2, 2010

To Tony The calf may indeed be similar to the fruits, in that both of them can be assumed to eventually 'emerge' from the cow/tree.

But in our Talmud, the point in discussion is a different one: The owner is attempting to convey to the guardian the rights to the thief's fine (and not other things, like calves and shearings etc). But how likely are those fines to ever 'emerge'? Not very.

So the Talmud devised a formula through which the guardian can essentially become the owner of the cow itself, and as a result automatically claim the thief's fine.

Upon the result of this formula, in which the guardian became the owner, the Talmud queried that if this be the case, then all ownership rights should belong to the current owner (who was the guardian), including calves etc? And as you probably can recall, 2 answers were given. Reply

Tony Brown albuquerque, NM USA May 29, 2010

aquisition of sheringsl, cavles, etc. It is sort of like "futures" you are making a bet that the corn or pork bellies will actually happen. So why isn't the calf the same as the tree bearing fruit? Or is it because the guardian bought the tree but not the cow? (I'm a little slow at these things.) Reply

Rabbi Eliezer Wolf June 2, 2010

To Anonymous That's an interesting point.

However, it's very difficult to set a legal parameter based upon evaluation of the individual - we try to regulate standards that pretty much are applicable to everyone.

Moreover, and this is quite unfortunate, but life teaches us that sometimes, when it comes to this sign '$', even the most trustworthy people are challenged. I'm not suggesting that there are no honest people around - I'm sure there are plenty, and you are probably amongst them! But what I am saying is that to trust every person who seemingly seem trustworthy in monetary issues is unfortunately very risky.

And so the Sages want to get to the bottom of the story and create standardised laws about people within their respective categories. Reply

Anonymous Pembroke , NC May 28, 2010

Lesson 6 It looks like the difference between Rav Papa (a) and Rav Papa (b) is dependant on the honesty of the Borrower. If the Borrower is an honest man, then (b) can apply. If he is not, or we do not know, then (a) should apply. Reply

Maria Martinez Monte Vista, Colorado May 27, 2010

LESSON 6 Thank you again Rabbi Wolf for your lecture. I am looking forward to the next. Reply

Susan Oklahoma City, Ok May 27, 2010

Lesson 6 Would Adam be considered a negligent unpaid guardian? Ty for the class Reply

Anonymous May 26, 2010

Above the Law So very true this is a message to those who think they are above the letter of the law. Do not lie about you dealings take accountability for your responsibility to take care of property that was loaned in your care. Trying to slip out the back door as you throw money over your shoulder is not legal.Good lesson Rabbi Wolf Reply

These Talmud classes will be studying and analyzing the third chapter of tractate Bava Metzia, which presents the Jewish approach in many matters of civil law, particularly vis-à-vis the different degrees of liability assumed by guardians, renters and borrowers.
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