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Bava Metzia 101

Our Gemara on amud beis relates a story of a woman who was duped and how her vigilante justice was vindicated by the rabbis. The Gemara relates:

There was a certain man who purchased a boat laden with wine. He was unable to find a place to store it. He said to a certain woman: Do you have place to rent to me? She said to him: No. He was aware that she did own a suitable place, so he went and betrothed her, and then she gave him a lease on the place for him to bring his wine there. He went back to his home and wrote a bill of divorce for her which he then sent to her. Upon receiving the bill of divorce and realizing that the betrothal had been nothing more than a ruse, she went and hired porters, paying them from the wine itself, and instructed them to take the wine out of her place and put it on the street. Upon being presented with this case, Rav Huna, son of Rav Yehoshua, said, paraphrasing Obadiah 1:15: Like he did, so shall be done to him – his repayment shall come back on his head; she was entitled to do as she did.


The Rama (CM 312:9), based on a Nimukei Yosef from our Gemara, derives a practical halacha:

A person who rents a house to his friend and later they become enemies cannot evict him from the house on that basis. But if he initiated the rental with a clearly stated understanding that he is only renting because he is a friend, then a newly developed enmity is grounds for eviction.

Shalah (Vavei HaAmudim, Chapter 26) uses this halacha to explain the exhortative verses in Devarim (34:26 and 37):

I call heaven and earth this day to witness against you that you shall soon perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess; you shall not long endure in it, but shall be utterly wiped out.

And having loved your ancestors, [G-d] chose their heirs after them; [G-d] personally – in great divine might – led you out of Egypt.

Hashem is warning, “You might believe that once I gave you the Land of Israel, I would have no right to evict you. However, since I made it clear from the beginning that you are granted this land because of my love, if you fall out of favor you may lose it.”

The sobering fact is that our tenancy on this Earth is completely subject to G-d’s will and, if we do not engender good relations with the landlord, we can be suddenly evicted.


Original Sin

Bava Metzia 102

Our Gemara on amud beis discusses how to evaluate a phrase that is part of a contractual agreement and mildly contradicts another part of the contract. For example, if a contract states: “Twelve gold coins a year, one gold coin per month,” what is the annual rent during a Hebrew leap year – 12 or 13 gold coins?

The lomdus revolves around whether the second clause clarifies and overrides the import of the first clause, or if the first clause indicates the main intention because it is primary, in which case the second clause is not considered as precise. In Gemara terms, “tfos l’shon rishon” or “tfos l’shon acharon.”

The Divrei Dovid in Bereishis relates this to an interesting Midrash regarding the fruit-bearing trees at the dawn of Creation. The verse (Bereishis 1:11) describes G-d’s directive to the fruit trees in a seemingly redundant manner: “fruit trees that bear fruit.”


Well, obviously, fruit trees bear fruit, so why the repetition? The Midrash tells us:

The taste of the wood of the tree was to be exactly the same as that of the fruit. It did not, however, do this, but (v. 12) “the earth brought forth a tree yielding fruit” and the tree itself was not a fruit” (Bereishis Rabbah and Rashi on Bereishis 1.11).

The implication is of a tree that is the fruit itself, literally “fruit trees,” but that ultimately, the actual trees merely produced fruit, i.e., “that bear fruit.” Divrei Dovid says the trees made an error in tfos l’shon acharon, treating the final clause as primary, while the halacha is that we actually are tfos l’shon rishon, and the first clause is primary. The trees should have made their branches also with the flavor of the fruit.

It is important to reflect on the symbolism and allegorical content of this beautiful midrash. There is an idea of an original sin, even before humans arrived on the scene. G-d had grand plans for the world. There would be nothing wasted. Even the wood itself would be a part of the fruit. That’s potentially true, but in reality there will be losses. Not every part of the process will yield fruit.

In the end, everything is G-d’s plan. If so, why did this happen? And if it had to happen, why do we need to know? What’s done is done.

Sometimes we need to know the ideal in order to inspire and aspire. This is similar to the tradition that, as a fetus, we are taught the entire Torah (Niddah 30b), and then an angel taps us at birth causing us to forget it all. If so, why does it matter and why do we need to know about it? We need to know that though the potential is perfect, the actual never goes according to plan. Still, knowing we have the potential latent within inspires us to continually improve.

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