1

Whenever landed property is known to have belonged to a person, we presume that he is the owner even though the property is now in the possession of another person.

What is implied? Reuven was using a courtyard as a person would commonly use his own property, living in it, renting it to others, building and tearing down structures. After a while, Shimon came and lodged a claim against him, saying: "The courtyard that is in your possession belongs to me. I rented it to you," or "... I lent it to you."

Reuven replied: "It was yours, but you sold it to me," or "You gave it to me as a present."

If Shimon does not bring witnesses who testify that it was known to belong to him, Reuven is required to take a sh'vu'at hesset, and he is allowed to retain possession of the courtyard. If, however, Shimon brings witnesses who testify that this field belonged to him, our presumption is that Shimon is the owner. We tell Reuven: "Bring proof that he sold it to you or gave it to you." If he does not bring proof, we force him to leave and establish Shimon as the owner. This law applies even when Reuven does not admit that the field ever belonged to Shimon, because there are witnesses who support Shimon's claim.

א

כָּל הַקַּרְקָעוֹת הַיְדוּעוֹת לבַעְלֵיהֶן אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהֵן עַתָּה תַּחַת יַד אֲחֵרִים הֲרֵי הֵן בְּחֶזְקַת בַּעְלֵיהֶן. כֵּיצַד. רְאוּבֵן שֶׁהָיָה מִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בֶּחָצֵר כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁהָעָם מִשְׁתַּמְּשִׁין בְּחַצְרוֹתֵיהֶן. דָּר בָּהּ וּמַשְׂכִּירָהּ לַאֲחֵרִים וּבוֹנֶה וְסוֹתֵר. וְאַחַר זְמַן בָּא שִׁמְעוֹן וְטָעַן עָלָיו וְאָמַר לוֹ חָצֵר זוֹ שֶׁתַּחַת יָדְךָ שֶׁלִּי הִיא וּשְׂכוּרָה הִיא בְּיָדְךָ אוֹ שְׁאוּלָה. וֶהֱשִׁיבוֹ רְאוּבֵן שֶׁלְּךָ הָיְתָה וְאַתָּה מְכַרְתָּהּ לִי אוֹ נְתַתָּהּ לִי בְּמַתָּנָה. אִם אֵין עֵדִים לְשִׁמְעוֹן שֶׁהָיְתָה יְדוּעָה לוֹ נִשְׁבָּע רְאוּבֵן הֶסֵּת וְיַעֲמֹד בִּמְקוֹמוֹ. אֲבָל אִם הֵבִיא שִׁמְעוֹן עֵדִים שֶׁחָצֵר זוֹ שֶׁלּוֹ הָיְתָה הֲרֵי הִיא בְּחֶזְקַת שִׁמְעוֹן וְאוֹמְרִין לִרְאוּבֵן הָבֵא רְאָיָה שֶׁמְּכָרָהּ לְךָ אוֹ נְתָנָהּ לְךָ. וְאִם לֹא הֵבִיא רְאָיָה מְסַלְּקִין אוֹתוֹ מִמֶּנָּה וּמַחֲזִיקִין אוֹתָהּ לְשִׁמְעוֹן אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵין רְאוּבֵן מוֹדֶה לְשִׁמְעוֹן שֶׁהִיא הָיְתָה שֶׁלּוֹ שֶׁהֲרֵי יֵשׁ עֵדִים לְשִׁמְעוֹן:

2

When do we require Reuven to bring proof that he acquired the field or to depart? When he did not use the property for an extended time. If, however, Reuven brings witnesses who testify that he partook of the produce of this field for three consecutive years and benefited from it in its entirety in the manner in which any person would benefit from that field, we allow Reuven to maintain possession. This applies provided that it was possible for the original owners to know that this person had taken possession of the field, and they did not lodge a protest against him. Reuven must take a sh'vu'at hesset that Shimon sold him the field or gave it to him, and then he is released of all obligation.

The rationale for this decision is that we tell Shimon: "If your claim that you did not sell or give him the property is true, why is this person using your land year after year, when you do not have a legal document stating that it was rented to him or given to him as security for a loan, and yet you have not lodged a protest against him?"

If the plaintiff responds to this by claiming that the news that the other person was using his property did not reach him because he was in a distant country, we tell him: "It is impossible that the information did not reach you in three years. And when the information reached you, you should have lodged a protest in the presence of witnesses, telling them that 'So-and-so stole property from me, and in the future I will lodge a claim against him in court.' Since you did not issue a protest, you caused yourself a loss."

Therefore, if there was a war or a disruption of travel routes between the place where Reuven was located and the place where Shimon was located, we expropriate the property from Reuven even if he benefited from its produce for ten years. We return it to Shimon, because he could say: "I did not know that this person was using my property."

ב

בַּמֶּה דְּבָרִים אֲמוּרִים שֶׁמַּצְרִיכִין רְאוּבֵן לְהָבִיא רְאָיָה אוֹ יִסְתַּלֵּק בְּשֶׁלֹּא נִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בָּהּ זְמַן מְרֻבֶּה. אֲבָל אִם הֵבִיא עֵדִים שֶׁאָכַל פֵּרוֹת קַרְקַע שָׁלֹשׁ שָׁנִים רְצוּפוֹת וְנֶהֱנָה בְּכֻלָּהּ כְּדֶרֶךְ שֶׁנֶּהֱנִין כָּל אָדָם בְּאוֹתָהּ קַרְקַע. וְהוּא שֶׁיִּהְיֶה אֶפְשָׁר לַבְּעָלִים הָרִאשׁוֹנִים שֶׁיֵּדְעוּ בָּזֶה שֶׁהֶחְזִיק וְלֹא מִחוּ בּוֹ. מַעֲמִידִין אוֹתָהּ בְּיַד רְאוּבֵן וְיִשָּׁבַע רְאוּבֵן הֶסֵּת שֶׁמְּכָרָהּ לוֹ שִׁמְעוֹן אוֹ נְתָנָהּ לוֹ וְיִפָּטֵר. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאוֹמְרִים לוֹ לְשִׁמְעוֹן אִם אֱמֶת אַתָּה טוֹעֵן שֶׁלֹּא מָכַרְתָּ וְלֹא נָתַתָּ לָמָּה הָיָה זֶה מִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ שָׁנָה אַחַר שָׁנָה בְּקַרְקָעֲךָ וְאֵין לְךָ עָלָיו לֹא שְׁטַר שְׂכִירוּת וְלֹא שְׁטַר מַשְׁכּוֹנָהּ וְלֹא מָחִיתָ בּוֹ. טָעַן וְאָמַר מִפְּנֵי שֶׁלֹּא הִגִּיעַ אֵלַי הַדָּבָר שֶׁהֲרֵי הָיִיתִי בִּמְדִינָה רְחוֹקָה אוֹמְרִים אִי אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁלֹּא יַגִּיעַ לְיָדְךָ הַדָּבָר בְּשָׁלֹשׁ שָׁנִים וְכֵיוָן שֶׁהִגִּיעַ לְךָ הָיָה לְךָ לִמְחוֹת בִּפְנֵי עֵדִים וְתוֹדִיעַ אוֹתָם שֶׁפְּלוֹנִי גָּזַל אוֹתִי לְמָחָר אֶתְבָּעֶנּוּ בְּדִין. הוֹאִיל וְלֹא מָחִיתָ אַתָּה הִפְסַדְתָּ עַל עַצְמְךָ. לְפִיכָךְ אִם הָיְתָה מִלְחָמָה וְשִׁבּוּשׁ דְּרָכִים בֵּין הַמָּקוֹם שֶׁהָיָה בּוֹ רְאוּבֵן וּבֵין הַמָּקוֹם שֶׁהָיָה בּוֹ שִׁמְעוֹן אֲפִלּוּ אֲכָלָהּ רְאוּבֵן עֶשֶׂר שָׁנִים מוֹצִיאִין אוֹתָהּ תַּחַת יָדוֹ וְחוֹזֶרֶת לְשִׁמְעוֹן מִפְּנֵי שֶׁיָּכוֹל לוֹמַר לֹא יָדַעְתִּי שֶׁזֶּה מִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בְּקַרְקָעִי:

3

Even in a situation where there was a war and a breakdown in communication, if Reuven brought witnesses who testify that each year Shimon came and stayed in this place" for 30 days or less, we tell Shimon: "Why didn't you protest when you came? You have lost your rights."

If Shimon claims: "I was very much occupied at the business fair and I did not know that so-and-so was in my courtyard," his claim is respected. For it is possible that a person will be occupied at a business fair for 30 days. If he stayed for more than 30 days and did not protest, he loses his rights.

It appears to me that this law applies only in the villages, for the people there are very much occupied with their business fairs.

ג

הֵבִיא רְאוּבֵן עֵדִים שֶׁהָיָה שִׁמְעוֹן בָּא בְּכָל שָׁנָה וְעוֹמֵד בְּמָקוֹם זֶה שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם אוֹ פָּחוֹת. אוֹמְרִים לְשִׁמְעוֹן מִפְּנֵי מָה לֹא מָחִיתָ כְּשֶׁבָּאתָ אִבַּדְתָּ זְכוּתְךָ. טָעַן שִׁמְעוֹן וְאָמַר טָרוּד הָיִיתִי בַּשּׁוּק וְלֹא יָדַעְתִּי שֶׁזֶּה בְּתוֹךְ חֲצֵרִי הֲרֵי זוֹ טַעֲנָה. שֶׁכָּל שְׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם יִהְיֶה אָדָם טָרוּד בַּשּׁוּק. וְאִם עָמַד יוֹתֵר מִשְּׁלֹשִׁים יוֹם וְלֹא מִחָה אִבֵּד אֶת זְכוּתוֹ. וְיֵרָאֶה לִי שֶׁהַדִּין זֶה אֵינוֹ אֶלָּא בַּכְּפָרִים שֶׁהָעָם טְרוּדִין בַּשְּׁוָקִים שֶׁלָּהֶן:

4

Why do we not tell Reuven: "If it is true that he sold the property to you or gave it to you as a present, why did you not take care of your deed of acquisition?" Because a person does not take care of his legal documents for his entire life, and it is an established presumption that a person will not take care of a legal document for more than three years. If by that time, he sees that no one is protesting his ownership, he will not take care of it any longer.

ד

וּמִפְּנֵי מָה אֵין אוֹמְרִין לִרְאוּבֵן אִם אֱמֶת הַדָּבָר שֶׁמָּכַר לְךָ אוֹ נָתַן לְךָ בְּמַתָּנָה לָמָּה לֹא נִזְהַרְתָּ בַּשְּׁטָר שֶׁלְּךָ. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין אָדָם נִזְהָר בִּשְׁטָרוֹ וְהוֹלֵךְ כָּל יָמָיו וַחֲזָקָה שֶׁאֵין אָדָם נִזְהָר בִּשְׁטָר אֶלָּא עַד שָׁלֹשׁ שָׁנִים. וְכֵיוָן שֶׁרוֹאֶה שֶׁאֵין אָדָם מְמַחֶה בּוֹ שׁוּב אֵינוֹ נִזְהָר:

5

If Shimon issued a protest in a distant country, why can Reuven not claim: "I did not hear that he lodged a protest against me so that I felt it necessary to safeguard my deed of acquisition"?

Because we tell him: "Your friend has a friend, and his friend has a friend. And it is an established presumption that word of the protest reached you. Hence, since you know that he lodged a protest against you within the three years, if it is true that you had a deed of acquisition and you did not safeguard it, you caused yourself a loss."

ה

הֲרֵי שֶׁמִּחָה שִׁמְעוֹן בִּמְדִינָה רְחוֹקָה מִפְּנֵי מָה לֹא יִטְעֹן רְאוּבֵן וְיֹאמַר לֹא שָׁמַעְתִּי שֶׁמִּחָה בִּי כְּדֵי שֶׁאֶזָּהֵר בַּשְּׁטָר. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאוֹמֵר לוֹ חֲבֵרְךָ יֵשׁ לוֹ חָבֵר וַחֲבֵרוֹ יֵשׁ לוֹ חָבֵר וַחֲזָקָה שֶׁהִגִּיעַ אֵלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר וְכֵיוָן שֶׁיָּדַעְתָּ שֶׁמִּחָה בְּךָ בְּתוֹךְ שָׁלֹשׁ שָׁנִים בֶּאֱמֶת הָיָה לְךָ שְׁטָר וְלֹא נִזְהַרְתָּ בּוֹ אַתָּה הִפְסַדְתָּ עַל עַצְמְךָ:

6

Therefore, if Shimon lodged a protest in the presence of witnesses, but told them: "Do not utter a word about this protest," the protest is of no consequence. If, however, the witnesses said on their own volition: "We will not utter a word about this," the protest is significant. For a person will ultimately speak of a matter that he was not charged to keep private.

Similarly, if the original owner told the witnesses: "Don't tell the person who took possession of the property about my protest," or the witnesses said on their own volition: "We will not notify him," the protest is of consequence. For even though they will not notify him, they will notify others, and ultimately the information will reach him.

ו

לְפִיכָךְ אִם מִחָה שִׁמְעוֹן בִּפְנֵי עֵדִים וְאָמַר לָהֶם אַל תּוֹצִיאוּ דָּבָר זֶה מִפִּיכֶם אֵין זֶה מְחָאָה. אֲבָל אִם אָמְרוּ הָעֵדִים מֵעַצְמָן אֵין דָּבָר זֶה יוֹצֵא מִפִּינוּ הֲרֵי גַּם זוֹ מְחָאָה. שֶׁהַדָּבָר שֶׁאֵין אָדָם מְצֻוֶּה עָלָיו אוֹמְרוֹ שֶׁלֹּא בְּכַוָּנָה. וְכֵן אִם צִוָּה לְעֵדִים וְאָמַר לָהֶם אַל תּוֹדִיעוּהוּ אוֹ שֶׁאָמְרוּ הֵן מֵעַצְמָן אֵין אָנוּ מוֹדִיעִין אוֹתוֹ גַּם זוֹ מְחָאָה הִיא. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינָן מוֹדִיעִין אוֹתוֹ מוֹדִיעִין הֵם לַאֲחֵרִים וְדָבָר זֶה יַגִּיעַ אֵלָיו:

7

What constitutes a protest? That the owner says in the presence of two witnesses: "So-and-so who is using my field is a robber. In the future, I will call him to court." Similarly, if he says: "The property is rented out to him or it was given to him as security for a loan. If he claims that I sold it to him or gave it to him as a present, I will lodge a claim against him in court." Similarly, if he makes other analogous statements, the protest is of consequence even though he did not issue it in the country where the person in possession of the land is located.

If, however, he told them merely: "So-and-so who is using my field is a robber," that is not a valid protest, for Reuven will say: "When I heard this, I said to myself: 'Maybe he was merely slandering me.' Therefore, I was not careful about keeping my deed of acquisition."

ז

כֵּיצַד הַמְּחָאָה. אוֹמֵר בִּפְנֵי שְׁנַיִם פְּלוֹנִי שֶׁהוּא מִשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בַּחֲצֵרִי אוֹ בְּשָׂדִי גַּזְלָן הוּא וּלְעָתִיד אֲנִי תּוֹבֵעַ אוֹתוֹ בְּדִין. וְכֵן אִם אָמַר לָהֶם שְׂכוּרָה הִיא בְּיָדוֹ אוֹ מַשְׁכּוֹנָה וְאִם יִטְעֹן עָלַי שֶׁמָּכַרְתִּי אוֹ נָתַתִּי אֲנִי תּוֹבֵעַ אוֹתוֹ בְּדִין. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה הֲרֵי זוֹ מְחָאָה. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא מִחָה בִּמְדִינָה זוֹ שֶׁהֶחְזִיק בָּהּ זֶה. אֲבָל אִם אָמַר לָהֶן פְּלוֹנִי שֶׁמִּשְׁתַּמֵּשׁ בַּחֲצֵרִי גַּזְלָן הוּא אֵין זוֹ מְחָאָה. שֶׁהֲרֵי רְאוּבֵן אוֹמֵר כְּשֶׁשָּׁמַעְתִּי אָמַרְתִּי שֶׁמָּא חֵרֵף אוֹתִי בִּלְבַד וּלְפִיכָךְ לֹא נִזְהַרְתִּי בִּשְׁטָרִי:

8

A protest made in the presence of two witnesses is of consequence. They may compose a legal record of it, even if the owner does not tell them to compose it.

Once the owner issued a protest in the first year, he does not have to issue another protest each year. There must not, however, be three full years between each protest. He must, therefore, issue a protest at the end of each three-year period. If he protested, delayed for three full years and protested afterwards, the protest is of no consequence.

ח

מְחָאָה בִּפְנֵי שְׁנַיִם מְחָאָה וְכוֹתְבִין אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא אָמַר לָהֶם כְּתֹבוּ. וְכֵיוָן שֶׁמִּחָה בְּשָׁנָה רִאשׁוֹנָה אֵינוֹ צָרִיךְ לַחְזֹר וְלִמְחוֹת בְּכָל שָׁנָה וְשָׁנָה. אֲבָל צָרִיךְ שֶׁלֹּא יִהְיֶה בֵּין מְחָאָה לִמְחָאָה שָׁלֹשׁ שָׁנִים גְּמוּרוֹת. לְפִיכָךְ צָרִיךְ לִמְחוֹת בְּסוֹף כָּל שָׁלֹשׁ שָׁנִים. וְאִם מִחָה וְעָמַד שָׁלֹשׁ שָׁנִים גְּמוּרוֹת וְאַחַר כָּךְ מִחָה אֵינָהּ מְחָאָה:

9

If Reuven brought witnesses who testify that Shimon, the owner of the field, gathered the produce of the field together and gave it to Reuven, he is allowed to retain possession of the field. This applies even if Reuven claims that Shimon sold him or gave him the field that day. The rationale is that if he did not give him or sell him the field, he would not have helped Reuven in the field and given him its produce.

ט

הֵבִיא רְאוּבֵן עֵדִים שֶׁזֶּה שִׁמְעוֹן בַּעַל הַשָּׂדֶה קִבֵּץ פֵּרוֹת שָׂדֶה זוֹ וּנְתָנָם לִי תַּעֲמֹד הַשָּׂדֶה בְּיַד רְאוּבֵן וַאֲפִלּוּ טָעַן שֶׁשִּׁמְעוֹן מְכָרָהּ לוֹ אוֹ נָתַן לוֹ הַיּוֹם שֶׁאִלּוּ לֹא מָכַר אוֹ נָתַן לֹא הָיָה מְשַׁמֵּשׁ אֶת רְאוּבֵן בְּשָׂדֶה זוֹ וְנוֹתֵן לוֹ פֵּרוֹתֶיהָ:

10

If Shimon responds, claiming: "It's true; that event transpired. I sold him the rights to the field's produce and it belonged to him, but I never sold him the field itself," his word is accepted and the field should be returned to Shimon. There is, however, an exception: when Reuven partook of the produce for three years with Shimon's knowledge and Shimon did not protest against him, as explained.

י

טָעַן שִׁמְעוֹן וְאָמַר אֱמֶת הָיָה הַדָּבָר וּלְפֵרוֹת הוֹרַדְתִּיו וְשֶׁלּוֹ הָיוּ הַפֵּרוֹת אֲבָל הַגּוּף לֹא מָכַרְתִּי נֶאֱמָן וְחוֹזֵר לְשִׁמְעוֹן אֶלָּא אִם כֵּן אֲכָלָהּ רְאוּבֵן בְּפָנָיו שָׁלֹשׁ שָׁנִים וְלֹא מִחָה בּוֹ כְּמוֹ שֶׁבֵּאַרְנוּ: