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Bava Basra, 22

BAVA BASRA 20-25 - sponsored by Harav Ari Bergmann of Lawrence, N.Y., out of love for the Torah and for those who study it.


QUESTION: The Gemara relates that Rav Dimi of Neharde'a came to town and brought along his merchandise of dried figs in a boat. The Reish Galusa asked Rava to determine whether or not Rav Dimi is a Talmid Chacham. If he is a Talmid Chacham, then he should be granted the right to sell his figs in the city before anyone else sells figs there.

Rav Dimi was examined with a difficult question regarding the Halachos of Tum'ah and Taharah. He did not answer the question adequately and was thus not granted the monopoly rights to sell his figs.

RAV ELCHANAN WASSERMAN in KOVETZ SHI'URIM (#73) quotes the ROSH (1:26) who writes that when the Gemara earlier says that Talmidei Chachamim are exempt from paying taxes, that exemption applies only to Talmidei Chachamim "whose sole occupation is Torah study." Nevertheless, even if a Talmid Chacham has a trade or business from which he earns his livelihood, he is still entitled to the exemption from taxes as long as he uses all of his extra time to learn Torah and to review his studies, and on condition that his business provides him only with his basic necessities and does not make him wealthy.

According to the Rosh's ruling, why was it necessary to test Rav Dimi with a difficult examination? Rav Dimi surely used every spare moment to learn Torah, and even though he was not an expert in every aspect of the Torah, he still should have qualified for the monopoly of rights in marketing his figs!

ANSWER: The KOVETZ SHI'URIM distinguishes between the level of scholarship necessary to gain an exemption from paying taxes, and the level of scholarship necessary to obtain a monopoly on trade. In order to obtain exclusive rights to marketing one's merchandise, a higher, more advanced level of knowledge is necessary, because such rights involve depriving the other salesmen of the right to sell their merchandise in the market, causing them a financial loss.

However, this distinction is questionable. Exempting a Talmid Chacham from the obligation to pay taxes also causes a financial loss to others, because it places an additional burden on the rest of the community who will have to compensate for what the Talmid Chacham does not pay!

The answer to this question lies in the statement of the Gemara earlier (8a), "Misfortune comes to the world only because of the unlearned." Accordingly, had all of the members of the community been Talmidei Chachamim, the king would never have imposed the tax on the public. Thus, it is not the Talmid Chacham's exemption from the tax that causes an additional burden on the rest of the people, but rather it is their own lack of merit of Torah study.

However, to be exempt from taxes, it suffices for a Talmid Chacham to spend all of his spare time learning -- the very act of learning prevents misfortune from coming to the world. He does not have to be an expert in all parts of Torah in order to be exempt from taxes. In contrast, a Talmid Chacham merits a trade monopoly only when he has attained a mastery of the entire Torah. (Y. Marcus)


QUESTION: The Mishnah teaches that when Reuven has a dovecote that is adjacent to the property of his neighbor Shimon, and Shimon wants to lean a ladder near the dovecote, Shimon must distance the ladder at least four Amos from the dovecote. He must distance his ladder away from the dovecote so that an animal (such as a marten) will not be able to climb the ladder and jump from the ladder into the dovecote and eat the doves.

The Gemara initially assumes that the Mishnah cannot be following the view of Rebbi Yosi, who maintains that one *is* permitted to do an act in one's own domain that might later cause damage to his neighbor's property. The Gemara refutes this assumption and concludes that the Mishnah is also consistent with the view of Rebbi Yosi, because Rebbi Yosi agrees that it is prohibited to "fire arrows from one's house into a neighbor's domain" ("Girei Didei") -- that is, one may not do an act in his own domain that *directly causes damage* to his neighbor's property. In the case of the Mishnah, at the exact moment at which Shimon places his ladder next to the dovecote, simultaneously the marten might jump from the ladder into the dovecote. RASHI stresses that we are concerned that while Shimon is still holding the ladder, the marten might jump into the dovecote, and thus the damage will be directly caused by Shimon's act, and it will be considered as though Shimon fired arrows and damaged Reuven's property.

The CHAZON ISH (Bava Basra 10:1, DH v'Ha) asks why, in this case, would it be considered "Girei Didei?" Just because Shimon happens to be holding the ladder at the moment that the marten jumps from the ladder into the dovecote does not make Shimon's act an act of directly damaging his neighbor's property! It is not comparable to shooting arrows into his neighbor's property, because, after all, Shimon is not actively throwing the marten into the dovecote, but rather he is merely holding the ladder from which the marten jumps. What difference does it make whether the marten jumped from the ladder into the dovecote while Shimon was holding the ladder, or whether the marten jumped from the ladder after Shimon placed the ladder down on the ground? In either case, Shimon is not actively throwing the marten into the dovecote!

ANSWER: The CHAZON ISH suggests three answers to his question. In his third answer, he explains that the case in the Gemara is where the marten jumps onto the ladder while Shimon is holding it, and Shimon brings the ladder near the dovecote and places it down next to the dovecote. By doing so, Shimon has actively brought the marten closer to the dovecote. Only in such a case does Rebbi Yosi agree that Shimon's action is prohibited because of "Girei Didei," because Shimon is actively bringing the damaging agent closer to the object being damaged. Therefore, even though Shimon's action is confined to his own domain, everyone agrees that it is prohibited, because it is considered equivalent to Shimon shooting arrows from his own house into Reuven's property. (Y. Marcus)

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