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Bava Basra, 155

BAVA BASRA 155 (14 Elul) - This Daf has been dedicated in honor of the Yahrzeit of Yisrael (son of Chazkel and Miryam) Rosenbaum by his son and daughter and families, and in memory of Sheina Basha (daughter of Yakov and Dora) Zuckerman, who passed away on 10 Elul, by her children and sons in law.


QUESTIONS: The Gemara records a Machlokes regarding the age at which a person is qualified to sell land that he inherited. Rava says in the name of Rav Nachman that he must be 18, and Rav Huna bar Chinena says in the name of Rav Nachman that he must be 20.
(a) Does this restriction on the age at which a person may sell apply only to inherited land, or even to land that the person received as a gift from someone else, or land which he purchased himself?

(b) Does this age restriction apply only to *selling* land, or also to *buying* land?

(a) There are two approaches in the Rishonim regarding this question.
1. The RIF, RASHBAM (156a, DH v'Hilchesa), and other Rishonim explain that the Gemara here is referring only to inherited land, and not to land that the young person personally acquired or received as a gift. He is permitted to sell land which he received as a gift or land which he purchased himself, even before he reaches the age of 20. The Rif reasons that if he was able to obtain land for himself, then we have nothing to worry about if we permit him to sell it as well.

The Rishonim explain that the reason why we do not permit him to sell land that he inherited is either because he will not be careful to receive a fair price for the land (since he received it for free), or because we are concerned for the honor of his family and we do not want them to lose the family land.

2. RABEINU TAM argues and maintains that the Gemara is teaching that a person under the age of 20 may not sell any land, whether he inherited it or acquired it on his own. He quotes the Gemara later which states that young adults (under the age of 20, and certainly children who have not yet reached the age of 12 (girls) or 13 (boys))) always want to acquire cash, and thus they will undersell their property in order to obtain it. Therefore, we do not allow them to sell land until they are older.

(According to Rabeinu Tam, this restriction applies only to selling land, and not Metaltelin, because the value of land is difficult to evaluate and thus we are afraid that the young person will be persuaded to undersell it in order to receive cash. The value of Metaltelin, on the other hand, is easy to evaluate, and it is difficult to convince a young person to sell it just for the cash, and thus if he indeed sells Metaltelin the sale is valid because we assume that he had full intent to sell it.

HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (CM 235:9) follows the opinion of the Rashbam and Rif. He adds, however, that the restriction against selling inherited land applies not only to land inherited from one's father, but also to land inherited from any other benefactor. Even though the Gemara only mentions land inherited from one's father, the BA'AL HA'ITUR and MAGID MISHNAH explain that this law applies to all inherited land. This is the way the Shulchan Aruch rules. Moreover, he includes in this law land that was received as a gift from a Shechiv Mera, because the mechanism of such a gift works through inheritance as well. (Y. Montrose)

(b) There are also two approaches in the Rishonim regarding this question.
1. The ROSH explains that the Gemara's restriction applies only to *selling* land, and not to *buying* land. As the Gemara explains later, the concern is that because a young person has an obsession for cash, he will indiscriminately undersell his land, the value of which is difficult to accurately assess. In contrast, when a young person wants to *buy* land, he shows that he is not interested in amassing cash because he is willing to give his cash away in exchange for land (a long-term investment). Since he is permitted to purchase land because we have no concern that he will be cheated, he is also permitted to sell the land that he purchased.

2. The RASHBA quotes the RI MI'GASH who says that just as a person under the age of 20 may not sell land, he also may not *buy* land (unless it is determined that he is knowledgeable in business transactions). The SHITAH MEKUBETZES explains that the reason for the Ri mi'Gash's opinion is that once the Chachamim decreed that the young person's *sale* of land is not valid (because he loves cash and might undersell), they also decreed that he may not buy land in order that people not make a mistake when they see him buying land and think that he is also able to sell land. (Y. Montrose)


QUESTION: Rav Huna brei d'Rav Yehoshua ruled that as long as a male has reached the age of Halachic adulthood (i.e. 13), he is a valid witness, even though he cannot sell land until he reaches the age of 20. Mar Zutra explained that Rav Huna's ruling applies only when testifying for matters involving movable objects; a young man may *not* testify for matters involving land until he reaches the age at which he is permitted to sell land. Since he is not permitted to sell land until he reaches the age of 20, he is not permitted to testify in cases involving land.

What does the restriction on his selling have to do with testifying in a case involving land? The Gemara itself explains that the reason he may not sell land until he reaches the age of 20 is because youngsters tend to have an obsession with cash (since they need immediate gratification for their desires, and they do not have the cognitive wherewithal to delay gratification) and thus they might undersell the land in order to obtain cash quickly. When he testifies, though, he is not receiving any money nor giving any land, so why should he not be a valid witness to testify about someone else's transaction?


(a) TOSFOS explains that when Mar Zutra says that until the age of 20 a person may not testify for matters involving land, he is not referring to *all* cases involving land. He certainly may testify that he witnesses one person sell a field to another person. Rather, Mar Zutra is saying that he may not testify in cases of land *evaluation*, where he testifies about the *value* of a piece of land. Tosfos explains that since the person under the age of 20 is infatuated with money, he will estimate the property at *more* than its actual value. In contrast, he will not mistakenly assess the value of movable objects, since he is as infatuated with movable objects as he is with the money, and thus he will ascribe its actual value to it. Furthermore, he knows that movable objects deteriorate more easily than land, and thus he will not evaluate it with a higher value than what it is actually worth.

This explanation of Tosfos is not clear, though. Why exactly will the young man over-assess the value of land because he is infatuated with money? On the contrary, it would seem that one who loves money would assess an entity at *less* than its actual value! Indeed, in a marginal note of our edition of the Gemara there appears a suggested emendation of the text in Tosfos, changing the phrase, "He will assess it to be worth *more* than its value," to, "He will assess it to be worth *less* than its value." How, though, are we to understand Tosfos' explanation according to our Girsa?

The BACH (Hagahos ha'Bach #4) explains the meaning of the words of Tosfos as they appear in our text. The Bach explains that the primary intention of Tosfos is that the young man -- because of his infatuation with money -- will assess the value of the land inaccurately, either less than its actual value or more than its actual value. Tosfos writes that he will assess it more than its actual value because he knows that land does not deteriorate like movable objects do, and thus he thinks that land must be worth a lot of money.

The MAHARSHA also writes that in all of the old editions of Tosfos the Girsa is the way that it appears in our texts ("He will assess it to be worth *more* than its value").The Maharsha explains that Tosfos, when he says that Mar Zutra is discussing testimony about the value of land, is referring to a case in which two heirs inherit an estate that includes a sum of cash and one field. They must split the inheritance evenly. One heir is to receive the cash, and the other heir is to receive the field in the value of the cash. If, however, the field is worth more than the cash, then the additional land (above the value of the cash) must be divided among the two heirs. Since we do not know the value of the field, we ask a young adult, under the age of 20, who is familiar with the field, to testify about its value. When he hears that the other person is receiving a sum of cash in the amount of 100 Zuz, for example, he will testify that the field is also worth that much, a 100 Zuz, when, in reality, it is worth more than that. Due to his infatuation with money, though, he will carelessly underestimate the field's value, causing one heir to get more than his rightful share of the land.

(According to the Maharsha, when Tosfos says that the young man "will assess it to be worth *more* than its value," Tosfos means that the young man will assess the land in such a way that one heir will receive *more* land than he is supposed to receive, because the young man will assess it to be worth *less* than its actual value.)

(b) The BEIS YOSEF and BACH (CM 35) infer from the words of the RAMBAM that he does not agree with the explanation of Tosfos. Rather, the Rambam learns that the Gemara is invalidating the young man's testimony in all land-related cases. Even though he is not receiving any money as a result of his testimony, we do not let him testify because -- due to his infatuation with money -- he is not careful to note the real value of property. This is also the opinion of the Beis Yosef as recorded in the SHULCHAN ARUCH.

The SHACH, however, differs with this inference from the words of the Rambam and argues that the Rambam indeed agrees with the explanation of Tosfos. He rules, therefore, that only in cases of evaluation of land's worth is a young man, under the age of 20, ineligible to testify. (Y. Montrose)

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