Talmud Study - Lesson 4

The Invisible Acquisition

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Talmud Study - Lesson 4: The Invisible Acquisition

In this class, we will encounter a compelling challenge to the Mishnah’s ruling, and discover a brilliantly crafted resolution. We will also explore the following questions: Can one acquire an item that doesn’t yet exist? Can past events be retroactively reinterpreted?
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Bava Metzia, Talmud

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Martha Radzimirska Toronto August 10, 2022

I'm wondering about the case of email documents? I friend agreed to do a favor for me, to review a document. But then we got into a bit of a tiff, she said her time was valuable, and she usually wants payment. I thought by agreeing to the favor and having it in her posession as an emailed document, that was our agreement aquisition no? So im wondering now that her agreement changed, that she will deliver the favor or not? How does that pan out according to jewish talmudic law? Is she liable to deliver on the initial agreement, when the document was not yet in her possession? And after she recieved it, it was in her ownership. So how does that pan out? does she have to honor the initial agreement of the favor? Reply

Rabbi Mendel Adelman for Chabad.org August 12, 2022
in response to Martha Radzimirska:

There is an obligation on all people to keep their word. This is found in Deuteronomy 23:24, where it says "You must fulfill what has passed your lips" (see Mishneh Torah Laws of Vows 1:4). Since your friend agreed to review the document, she should, even if she later got upset at you.

However, on your end, you should also see where she is coming from. It is very difficult to do a favor for someone that you are upset at. If you push her to do it, that will only damage the relationship further. Is all of that really worth it over the review of a document?

To me, it seems that the best solution is to give her time to calm down or to withdraw the favor so as not to make her even more upset. Reply

Martha Radzimirska Toronto August 14, 2022
in response to Rabbi Mendel Adelman for Chabad.org:

Oh yes totally, I apolagized that I upset her, she says she needs time. So that's what I'm doing.

I hope she doesn't hate me.

Thank you for the response. :) Reply

Ross March 1, 2020

So even after you find the thief and he has no possessions and he refuses to pay or work for the debt? Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for Chabad.org June 9, 2020
in response to Ross:

There are mechanisms in place to force him to pay or work to pay it off. Reply

Len White Plains February 4, 2020

Throughout my life, I have dedicated much time to Torah and the Mitzvos. When I came across this online class of Talmud study, I committed to learning even more. Rabbi Wolf, your lectures are so enjoyable and educational, it is a pleasure to "study" with you. I look forward to each lesson. Thank you. Reply

Robert VanDyke Kelowna August 10, 2019

very good lesson Reply

todd greenberg February 12, 2019

Owner not to convey future rights Perhaps this is covered another time: Is the O (owner) able ever to - not - convey future rights to guardian (G)? For example, the G offers reimbursement for watch. Can the O forgive the debt in the effort to not give future rights? Or, even more complex, if the G does swear, can the O not convey rights? Reply

Rabbi EK for Chabad.org February 21, 2019
in response to todd:

In answer to your first question, since the guardian is unpaid, there is no real debt here to forgive. The Mishna is dealing with a case where the G went beyond the letter of the law and chose to pay. Thus, the O may tell him to go home and when the thief is caught the double portion will be awarded to the O.
If the G chose to swear then he is absolved and also has no rights to the futures.

Rick Puig London, UK November 1, 2018

One cannot convey that which doesn't exist... It's interesting that the secular world has made entire industries out of acquisitions of things that don't currently exist (i.e. futures, CDO's etc) to the detriment of the economy, perhaps if we kept to G-d's laws, we'd avoided the 2008 crash?

Additionally does this mean that promising a future behaviour for a current benefit falls short of G-d's listening? (i.e., I'll behave tomorrow if you get me out of trouble today...) Thank you for these classes, very interesting. Reply

Susan Hirshorn Boca Raton FL February 9, 2018

When a thief "confesses" Question re: the thief foregoing the "fine" part if he confesses (per Exodus 22:8). This seems a bit illogical. Let's say a person is a professional thief (G-d forbid). If he knows he can reduce his risk if he gets caught simply by confessing (thus having to return the item, animal or sum stolen without the fine) where is the element of deterrent? It's not so bad to return an item that didn't belong to you anyway (what do you lose?). But it is a deterrent if you have to pay a fine on top of it. Please explain? Reply

Michael Miami Beach May 4, 2018
in response to Susan Hirshorn:

It occurs to me that a person who admits a thief would thereafter be known to be a criminal and the community would act accordingly. I don't know what the halacha says about beating people up if you catch them burglarizing your place but it seems that once you'd been caught, confessed and returned the goods you were fair game, within the bounds of taste (ha!) for a sound thrashing if you gave reason. Also, there are other ways communities deal with undesirables. There's shunning and exclusion of various kinds. The thief would probably be watched pretty closely and I could see someone either leaving town or spending a lot of energy making amends and getting some return of trust. Reputation is terribly important. It's my impression that Jewish philosophy is centrally concerned with not causing harm and suffering and the legalists knew what they were doing. Also, if the thief is a jew then there is still a responsibility to help a fellow Jew even though a thief. Reply

Susan Hirshorn Boca Raton November 1, 2018
in response to Michael:

You make some good points, Michael - but I would still like an answer from a Talmudic expert. <g> Reply

Jon London April 30, 2019
in response to Susan Hirshorn:

While we wait for an expert, can I share an insight from Bava Kamma? Halacha distinguishes between a surreptitious thief, the ganev, and an open robber, the gazlan. The ganev fears his victim's retribution and hides his identity: a pickpocket, a burglar by night. The gazlan doesn't care: a mugger by day, a bully stealing lunch money. The thief's penalty only applies to a ganev, supporting Michael's point that a known thief is treated differently.

My view is the fine discourages pretence rather than theft. It's Hashem's displeasure thieves should fear, which falls on ganev and gazlan alike. But a ganev who still pretends can't repent or make good. R. Yochanan says the ganev fears man above Hashem, BK. 79b.

There are debates on this need for openness, eg. BK. 118: can stolen goods be returned surreptitiously as a proper penitence? R, Yishmael says yes. R. Akiva says no, the ganev must tell. Many rabbis embellish.

Michael: halacha lets you kill burglars, but only at night. Ex. 22:2. Reply

Susan Hirshorn Boca Raton, FL June 9, 2020
in response to Jon:

Thanks for the insights, Jon - and we still haven't heard from a Talmudic expert (a year later!) I wonder if the laws refer only to those within the Jewish community back in the day. I think they probably do. If that's the case shunning, shaming, fear of G-d displeasure would all be deterrents. But in today's secular courts where thieves hail from all kinds of backgrounds and communities and typically have no fear or love of G-d or any particular fear of being shamed/shunned (unless they are a big time white collar thief who's a member of the country club) we need deterrents. Secular society sees prison as a deterrent but I gather that Judaism does not and has a different approach towards rehabilitating criminals. Reply

Michael Marko Miami Beach, FL November 7, 2017

I love this. Reply

Luis Funza, Colombia August 7, 2017

If I am studying a portion of the Torah, how can I relate it with the Talmud? Reply

Rick Puig London, UK November 1, 2018
in response to Luis:

The start for me was reading the commentaries, if you look at the torah on chabad, you can "show" Rashi's commentary. Within the commentaries there's often a reference to where in the talmud the verse is being discussed. Hope this helps! Reply

Jenifer Nech Houston, TX March 5, 2017

Thank you Rabbi Wolf for making studying the Talmud possible for me. I am a regular visitor to the Torah teachings with Rabbi Gordon. I am also in the process of converting to Judaism which called to me while I was studying history. I was taking a course in the Bible (The Great Courses on Audible). This led me to Judaism as I studied the first 5 books of the bible. Thank you. Reply


Getting to know my Jewish Brothers Greetings - as a Christian it has been delightful to study and learn the Jewish faith. From the Torah, to the Mishnah, to the Talmud to the Gemara (God's revealed Word). I really appreciate the fine work of this class and the quality of the delivery. Thank You!!! Reply

Rachel Colorado December 29, 2013

Wonderful class... I love this class and look forward to each one. I have been a secular Jew for many years and with this teach, this class I find myself wondering back to Hashem. What a righteous teacher, Eliezer, you are! I am fortunate to have found you.
Shalom Reply

Rena Cats Belp, Switzerland April 7, 2013

Brilliant Rav Wolf, thank you for making studying the Talmud possible. I have no possibilities to do so here in Switzerland, at least not for women. Thank you so much. Reply

jerry weil palo alto ca December 5, 2012

For a secular reform Jew who is 72 years old your teachings are bringing light to my life. Reply

Anonymous April 16, 2012

Thank you Thank you so much for facilitating this series for us who do not have a jeshiva in our town or a possibility to study with someone! G-d bless you! Reply

W Segal Yorktown Heights, NY/USA December 11, 2011

Thank you so much I can't tell you how much I enjoy learning through your lectures. What a wise teacher you are to take such complex material and make it so accessible, so understandable. What a blessing this series is! Reply

Chaiya Sheffe Barrie, Canada November 26, 2011

Brilliant! It is only when we take that tiny first step; (a step that seems insurmountably enormous at the time) it is then that true transformation can take place, Baruch HaShem! Observance is NOT enough! Passion for His presence must be all-consuming . . . . Reply

Ben Arlington, VA October 27, 2011

A Most Excellent Class Thanks again for a thoughtful and thought provoking class! I can't imagine how tricky it is to teach to a video camera -- and yet, you do it in such a way that makes me feel like I'm right there in the room. Thanks! Reply

Jason london, england March 22, 2011

shearing milking etc Of course if you are a guardian, you are obligated to ensure the health of the animal is preserved,
i.e. if a cow is not milked, or a sheep is not sheared, then the animal will come to harm and suffering, which the guardian is obligated to ensure does not happen.

this lesson teaches us once again, that viewed in the right way, the cloth can be cut whichever way you choose!
for every river has and follows its own riverbed! Reply

kameo October 29, 2010

Negligence As far as i got it right, the guardian is due to not perform negligence, so to not use, touch or make production of the animal or product in him/her possession.

So in that respect i think, it is also not appropriate to do sheerings or offsprings with what is guarded.

So for me becoming an owner minutes before the theft makes more sense, cause until then you may not make use of the thing you are guarding and you can not be made guilty of negligence.

by the way: how must the owner proof that he did an act of acquisition? does he has to make oath for that? 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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